MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004
-Wine Enthusiast Editor's Choice 95/100
The grapes for this Pinot Noir came exclusively from MacRostie's Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, owned by Steve MacRostie and his partners Nancy and Tony Lilly. Here the vines dig into the sparse volcanic soil and stand firm against the brisk winds that race in off the Pacific Ocean most afternoons. This foggy mountaintop vineyard is Carneros at its coolest and most challenging, but the vines produce fruit of great distinction.
Dark ruby color, with aromas of black raspberry, clove, and coffee. In the mouth there's loads of ripe raspberry, plus a hint of cinnamon-laced cocoa, like good Mexican chocolate. Very full-bodied, weighty and rich, but still light on its feet. The finish turns slightly toward cedar, but the fruit goes on and on.
Over the past three decades, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards has established itself as one of the Sonoma Coast’s defining wineries, and a leader in a bright, balanced and age-worthy style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Today, MacRostie is guided by Sonoma County visionary and winery founder Steve MacRostie, and talented winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen, who together are making the finest wines in the winery’s storied history.
Using grapes farmed by legendary winegrowing families including the Duttons, Sangiacomos, Martinellis and Bacigalupis, and from Steve’s own Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, MacRostie’s Sonoma Coast wines have established themselves as benchmarks, offering a rare intersection between labor-intensive small-lot winemaking, fair pricing and the complexity that can only be achieved by working with the finest vineyards.
Though founded in 1987, the seeds for MacRostie Winery and Vineyards go back to 1974—to the early days of Sonoma County winemaking—when Steve began his career at Hacienda Winery. At a time when most California winemakers were fixated on Bordeaux varieties and Napa Valley, Steve and a handful of other pioneers took a different path, embracing the fog-shrouded vineyards of Sonoma County and their untapped potential for producing some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the world. Steve quickly gained renown as a winemaker capable of making exceptional Burgundian-variety wines. He also began to develop his own style, favoring crispness, complexity and vineyard character, as opposed to overt opulence.
In 1987, Steve established MacRostie. To make his earliest wines, he reached out to growers he knew and respected—leaders of Sonoma County winegrowing, like the Sangiacomo family. MacRostie’s wines were soon widely hailed for their unique balance of cool-climate structure and vibrant fruit. In 1992, years before the modern Pinot Noir boom, MacRostie added Pinot Noir to its portfolio, and quickly developed a devoted following for the pure and elegant style of these wines.
Several years later, inspired by a desire to cultivate his own great piece of land, Steve discovered an amazing mountainside ranch in the Petaluma Gap region on the borderlands of the Sonoma Coast. Planted to Steve’s specifications, this windswept site has become Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, and the cornerstone of the winery’s vineyard program. At the same time, in its drive to represent the entirety of the Sonoma Coast, MacRostie has continued to explore ever-farther west, to sites like Dutton Ranch and Goldrock Ridge, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. To capture the rich expressiveness of the entire appellation, MacRostie works with more than 30 Chardonnay vineyards and over 15 Pinot Noir sites—a remarkable level of diversity for a small winery.
In 2015, MacRostie unveiled its new state-of-the-art Pinot-focused winery and MacRostie Estate House on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley, which is also the home to Thale’s Vineyard, named after Steve’s wife. "I have always wanted a home for MacRostie that expresses who we are as a winery and what we believe in as clearly as our wines do," says Steve. "Our new home in the Russian River Valley is a culmination of everything we have learned over our first quarter century, and a statement about who we plan to be over the next 25 years."
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, 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.