Ojai Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2016
In 2016 the fruit ripened gradually, with cool onshore breezes giving a classic and deeply colored Santa Maria Valley expression.
That dark cherry core is powerful as ever here, while those more wild stem aromas swirl around as fine accents: blackberry leaf, bay and rubbed sage at first, then with some oxygen those pretty botanical notes melt and reveal a more exotically woodsy kind of landscape. So that said, this wine will benefit from some time, in bottle or a decanter for now. It’s less about levity and charm as it was in the past few warmer years—this is a structured and brooding pinot that’s just dazzling to watch unfurl in the glass.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
I suspect one of the finest wines I’ve tasted from this incredibly talented team, the 2016 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido offers heavenly notes of red currants, forest floor, flowers, and spices, with subtle marine-like salinity. A wine that just glides over the palate, with incredible elegance, especially from this more masculine site, it has ultra-fine tannins, perfectly integrated acidity, and a great, great finish. It’s a incredible Pinot Noir from a great winemaker and a great vineyard. Drink it over the coming decade or more.
Adam had planted a vineyard in Ojai to Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc and had begun producing wine from that fruit in 1983. When the collaboration with Clendenen ended he concentrated all his attention on The Ojai Vineyard to further explore the infinite details of his craft.
Looking back over the last 25 years, one can see the development of The Ojai Vineyard came in three distinct phases. In the beginning it was lots of fun discovering the budding Santa Barbara County, experimenting with new plantings, new areas, and a wide selection of varietals; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and other Rhone varietals. Back in 1983 the vines were grown without much care in what was called a California sprawl. It took years to get growers to move towards progressive practices like drip irrigation and vertical trellising to improved wine grape quality.
A lesser-known but elite AVA within the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley AVA runs precisely west to east starting near the coast. The valley funnels cool, Pacific Ocean air to the vineyards more inland, allowing grapes a longer hang time to ripen evenly and achieve their full potential by harvest time. Combined with minimal rainfall, consistent warm sunshine, and well-drained soils, it is an ideal environment for grape growing.
Many of the wineries here are small and highly respected, having established a reputation in the 1970s and 80s for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. More recently, Syrah has also proven quite successful in the region. Many vineyards are owned by growers who sell their grapes to other wineries, so it is common to see the same vineyard name on bottlings from different wineries. Bien Nacido Vineyard is perhaps the best-known and most prestigious.
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).
Tasting Notes for Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a dry red wine, typically diominated by red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles showing black plum and more delicate styles of Pinot giving citrus qualities. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age Pinot Noir can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice and dried fruit.
Perfect Food Pairings for Pinot Noir
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of salmon or texture of 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.
Sommelier Secrets for Pinot Noir
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.