Brittan Basalt Block Pinot Noir 2015
The 2015 Gestalt Block Pinot noir is the tenth vintage of this block-specific wine. On the nose, the 2015 Gestalt showcases beautiful aromas of blueberry, cassis and leather, underpinned with hints of tarragon and bay leaf. The rich palate rolls with dark cherry, cranberry and orange zest, with hints of cardamom and cinnamon. The finish is persistent and elegant, alluding to a very long and graceful aging period.
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Robert Brittan left Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa after 16 years as Winemaker and Estate Manager to fulfill his dream of making Pinot Noir and Syrah from unique sites in cooler climates. His winemaking career began in his dorm room at Oregon State University, where he was a physics and philosophy major.
Being both geeky and broke, he soon realized that alcohol was an attractant to co-eds, so he began his career in fermentation sciences in order to get a date. He ultimately completed his education at UC Davis and moved to Napa Valley, where he made wines for Far Niente, Saint Andrews and Stags’ Leap Winery.
With over 40 years of experience growing grapes and making wine, he brings a significant amount of viticultural and winemaking knowledge to Brittan Vineyards. He has always had a passion for Pinot Noir, and hopes that with the fruit from the Brittan estate vineyard in the foothills of the Coastal Range, he can bring a new voice to the McMinnville AVA, and help form the style and definition of Pinot Noir from this recently designated winegrowing region.
In addition to his own wines, Robert is also the winemaker for several other brands, to include: Blakeslee, deLancellotti, Fairsing, Noble Pig, Winderlea and Youngberg Hill. As a result, Robert is now making wines from all six of the sub-AVA’s of the Willamette Valley and has learned first hand that Pinot Noir lends itself to many wonderful interpretations, depending on the soils and microclimates where it is grown.
Stretching southwest from the city of McMinnville, the AVA with the same name covers about 40,000 acres across 20 miles until it meets the Van Duzer Corridor. This corridor is the only break in the Coast Range whose gap allows the cool Pacific Ocean air to flow eastward into the Willamette Valley.
The Pacific's moderating winds hit McMinnville’s south and southeast facing slopes where cool-climate varieties—namely Pinot noir and Pinot blanc thrive on ridges at between 200 to 1,000 feet in elevation.
Soils here are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loam and silt, with alluvial formations; McMinnville receives less rainfall than its neighbors to the east because it is situated in the rain shadow of the Coast Range.
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, not Pinot noir. 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 Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.