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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 difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.