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Saintsbury Brown Ranch Pinot Noir 1999
The first harvest at the Brown Ranch was 1995. As soon as we tasted the wines, we knew we had something remarkable on our hands. The Brown Ranch has turned out to be a wonderful site for both cultivars.
Because all of our vineyard lots are fermented and aged separately we are able to track their progress in the cellar as individual wine lots. From the Brown Ranch there are eight different lots: three different clones are grafted to different rootstocks on two different soil types.
The ranch has a combination of typical Carneros clay loams as well as some more volcanic soil types and steeper hillsides. Yields typically range from 3 to 4.5 tons/acre (45-65 hl/ha). Though each has unique character, overall, the eight lots from this ranch show more rich earthiness and black fruit than the more red fruit characters of other lots in our cellar.
Late in 1996, tasting through the barrels, we decided to blend and bottle by itself a small amount from the very best of these lots. This became our first bottling of the "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir. The wine is offered in six-bottle wooden cases, with a new package design that pays tribute to George Saintsbury.
We look forward to continuing the tradition of this bottling honoring both our namesake and the vineyard so integral to the future quality of Saintsbury wines.
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. 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 Villages or Cru level wines.