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Bravium Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011
This bottling will pair with duck and other game birds, casseroles, and beef bourguignon.
Bravium translates from Latin as "reward, prize, or gift." Derek Rohlffs - Bravium’s Proprietor & Winemaker - founded the winery in 2007. Derek always had a mysterious pull to nature. To hear him tell it, the vineyard is his destiny. Derek does not view his path to winemaking as a conscious choice, but more of an undercurrent that quietly ushered him to where he belongs.
Today, Derek welcomes the sight of hawks circling over the vineyards and swooping down to the earth around him. A single hawk’s feather fittingly graces the Bravium label, echoing the power, elegance, and vitality of the wines- and of Derek’s Cherokee roots. According to Derek, “A great wine will draw you into the people, the place, and the story behind it.”
Bravium produces single vineyard, traditionally-crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in hillside and mountaintop vineyards. Bravium’s vineyards are located in the relatively cool growing regions of Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Carneros, Mendocino Ridge and Santa Lucia Highlands. Derek employs simple winemaking techniques - gravity-moving wines and bottling his red wines unfined and unfiltered - allowing the vineyards and vintages to remain at the forefront. "The longer I make wine, the more I subscribe to a 'less is more' approach," Derek has said. Critics are growing increasingly excited about Bravium's wines, placing it alongside benchmark "producers such as Rhys, Kalin Cellars, Porter Creek, Joseph Swan, Copain and Littorai," while calling out its "deft integration of oak, judicious use of whole cluster fermentation, pleasant aromatics, flavor without weight, and bright acidity for refreshing drinking."
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs all the way from the Mendocino County border, south to the San Pablo Bay. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the actual coastal vineyards, marked by marine soils, cool temperatures and saline ocean breezes—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, which are still heavily influenced by the Pacific but not quite with same intensity.
Contained within the appellation are the much smaller Fort Ross-Seaview and Petaluma Gap AVAs.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.