Melville Estate Verna's Pinot Noir 2013
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1989, Melville Vineyards, a family owned and operated enterprise was founded in Sonoma County's Knights Valley, where Ron Melville grew high quality, much sought after Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1996, Ron's desire to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay brought Melville Vineyards to Lompoc's Sta. Rita Hills, located in the western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California.
The Sta. Rita Hills appellation is where Ron Melville and his sons Brent and Chad Melville decided to develop their estate vineyards and winery. Since then, they have also developed an interest in Rhone varietals, particularly Northern Rhone Syrah and Viognier. The Melville estate achieves quality through the integrity of its farming practice and its respect to the microclimate. The Melvilles believe that a fine wine begins in the terroir (teh-RWAHR) or microclimate of a vineyard. Terroir is the French term for soil. In the vineyard, it encompasses soil type and geographic factors which may influence the quality of wine. This is indicative of the Melvilles' decision to grow wine in the Sta. Rita Hills (AVA) appellation.
With a dry and mild climate cooled significantly by moist ocean fog and breezes, Santa Barbara County is a grape-grower’s dream. Part of the larger Central Coast appellation, Santa Barbara is home to Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. The conditions here provide an opportunity for nearly effortless production of high-quality cool-climate wines. This is also the site of the 2004 film Sideways, which caused Pinot Noir’s popularity to skyrocket and brought new acclaim to the region.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the stars of Santa Barbara, producing wines marked by racy acidity. Crisp Sauvignon Blanc and savory Syrah are also important. The region is home to many young and enthusiastic winemakers eager to experiment with less common varieties including Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Trousseau Gris, Gamay and Cabernet Franc, making it an exciting area to watch.
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.