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J. Davies Nobles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014
Among their accomplishments: The first production use of Chardonnay in American champagnes, as well as the first American Blanc de Noirs using Pinot Noir in the classic way. Then a Reserve, with over four years of aging. This was followed by Crémant Demi-Sec using the Flora grape (a hybrid of Semillon and Gewurztraminer), and introductions of late-disgorged cuvées. Jamie and Jack even revived tunnel construction in America for wine aging. Their philosophy for winemaking is to draw on the best of the past, building on the foundation of experience to improve the quality of their wines.
A vast appellation covering Sonoma County’s Pacific coastline, the Sonoma Coast AVA runs from the Mendocino County border to the San Pablo Bay. The region can actually be divided into two sections—the “true” Sonoma Coast, marked by marine soils, cool temperatures and saline ocean breezes, from which one can actually see the ocean—and the warmer, drier vineyards further inland, which are heavily influenced by the Pacific but remain warmer. Contained within the appellation is the much smaller and more focused Fort Ross-Seaview AVA.
Sonoma Coast is highly regarded for elegant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, increasingly, cool-climate Syrah. The wines have high acidity, moderate alcohol, firm tannin, and balanced ripeness. One of the most favorable sites within the region is the Petaluma Gap, where a break in the coastal mountain range allows Pacific winds and fog to funnel through and cool the vineyards.
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.