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Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir (1.5L) 1999
74% of the blend is from these younger, close planted, vertically trellised vines, 16% comes from the other two Saintsbury estate vineyards, and the balance comes from older, modest yielding vines planted on two wire trellises.
The Brown Ranch is on a combination of typical Carneros clay loams as well as some more volcanic soil types and steeper hillsides; the other ranches are on mostly clay loams. Yields ranged from 2.5 to 3.75 tons/acre.
Vinification is in mostly small stainless steel fermentors. About 40% of the wines were punched down in open top tanks. The balance was made in closed tanks, with frequent but gentle irrigation of the cap. The clusters are completely destemmed but with the crusher rollers all the way open, about 30% of the berries remain uncrushed.
The destemmed grapes get a cold maceration for two days and then are inoculated with small amounts of pure culture yeast or are allowed to ferment with native yeasts.
After two weeks on the skins, the free run wine is drained directly to barrel for M-L and aging. No press wine is incorporated into the Reserve blend. After M-L is finished each barrel has SO2 added and is then tight bunged. It is racked once to assemble the blend, then left undisturbed until it is bottled the following December.
The 99 Reserve Pinot Noir was aged for 14 months in 50% new Francois Freres barrels of Nevers and Alliers oak. The wine is not fined or filtered before bottling.
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.