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Cobb Wines Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing winegrapes.
After graduating with a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture, Ross embarked on a winemaking career, learning his craft from an array of pinot noir winemakers on two continents. At the same time, Ross and David began making small, homemade lots of non-commercial pinot noir from Coastlands fruit. “We dug a little cellar out under the deck of our house at Coastlands,” says Ross. “We would punch down the wines in little open-top fermentors on the deck and then gravity flow the wine into barrel. Even though it was all very primitive, the wines showed promise, and each year we learned more.”
Though David’s original plan for Coastlands Vineyard was simply to sell grapes to a few artisan vintners, Ross had a different vision for Coastlands’ exceptional fruit. After spending nearly a decade developing his winemaking skills, he approached his parents with the idea of founding Cobb Wines—a goal that would allow David, Diane and Ross to guide every step of the winemaking process, from the planting of the vineyard to the crafting of a sophisticated, cool-climate style of pinot noir. This goal was realized in 2001, when David and Ross crafted 130 cases of Cobb Wines’ inaugural Coastlands Vineyard pinot noir. The wine sold out almost immediately, and continued to do so with each new vintage.
Since then, the Cobb Wines vineyard program has evolved to include four other hand-tended, independently owned vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Though these vineyards share certain essential Sonoma Coast characteristics, they each have individual soil types, subtly different microclimates, and unique combinations of pinot noir selections. Not only does this diversity distinguish the Cobb Wines portfolio, it also ensures Ross and David access to excellent fruit every vintage.
In the winery, Ross focuses on a style of pinot noir that authentically reflects the terroir of each vineyard, striving for a more complex, aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of the varietal picked at lower Brix and aged with a modest amount of new French oak. By remaining true to this elegant and complex style, Cobb Wines has earned a reputation for crafting benchmark single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.
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 difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.