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Clos Du Val Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 1998
Clos Du Val, French for “small vineyard estate of a small valley,” was founded in 1972, an era that wine writer Hugh Johnson referred to as “the turning point in modern wine history.” Two years before, the Goelet family tasked talented French-born winemaker Bernard Portet with finding vineyard land, anywhere in the world, capable of producing a world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clos Du Val’s legendary debut Cabernet Sauvignon was one of only six California Cabernets selected for the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting, where California defeated some of Bordeaux’s finest wines. Ten years later, Clos Du Val’s reputation for creating some of Napa Valley's most gracefully age-worthy wines was solidified, when its 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon took first place in the Judgment of Paris rematch.
Still family-owned today, Clos Du Val farms 350 acres of estate vineyards in the Stags Leap District, Carneros and Yountville appellations and continues to craft wines of balance and complexity, showcasing the fruit from the outstanding terroir on which the estate lies.
Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.
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.