Gregory Graham Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013
The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Roberts Road vineyard south of the town of Cotati in the Petaluma Gap, which has a tempered climate from Pacific air currents. The vineyard is owned and managed by the Sangiacomo Family. They have been farming for three generations, providing quality grapes for numerous wineries since the late 1960s. The vineyard is planted with the newer clones 115 and 777.
With its clean air and ideal climate and soils, Lake County proved to be the best choice for producing high quality wine grapes. The area’s warm days and cool nights, as well as freedom from fog in the summer allows the grapes to receive sun all day. Soils in the Red Hills appellation are red, rocky, and well-drained – ideal characteristics for the wine grapes Greg wanted to grow. Noticing too that there were only a few wineries in Lake County at the time, Greg and Marianne saw an opportunity to make a mark in an increasingly expanding wine region.
The Grahams live in their home upon a hill overlooking the span of vineyards, the estate winery and tasting room. Following the purchase of the property near Lower Lake, Greg replanted seven acres of the Zinfandel to pursue his dream of producing Syrah and Grenache, two varietals the Grahams had enjoyed during their honeymoon in Gigondas, France. First production from the vines occurred in 2004, and in February of the same year, the Grahams expanded operations by purchasing the adjacent property including a 13-acre Cabernet vineyard.
Gregory Graham’s winery sitting at the base of the vineyard-covered hills was constructed in 2006. The on-site facility (solar-powered since 2011) with its proximity to the vines allows the winemaker to harvest his grapes at the perfect time and engage in the winemaking immediately. As the grower and winemaker, Greg believes that grape selection, well-timed harvest, and careful production are critical to making great wine.
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, 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.