Scherrer Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012
This is truly a fine vintage and represents what I think is the perfect expression of the Green Valley neighborhood: red (cranberry and red plums) and some black (black cherry and a hint of boysenberry) fruits, slightly herbal back note with a tiny earthy side note. All these voices are singing at the appropriate volume and are right in tune. The finish is very long and echoes the entry flavors nicely.
It has perfect acidity to pair nicely with grilled salmon yet enough of the dark side to work fantastic with lightly smoked pork sausage and herbs (as I tried recently in my ongoing dinner time research on such important matters). As with our rosés, I think the acidity is a great counterpoint to saltiness (both in the sausage as well as what the salmon often is touched with) and a light touch with oak still allows perfect harmony with lightly smoked foods. Interestingly, with salmon, the dark fruits show more prominently while with the pork sausage the red fruits in the form of red plums are on top. As you may have noticed, I am enjoying this important line of research and look forward to furthering that project in the near future.
Sometimes we bottle wines from single vineyards, or even blocks within a vineyard. Usually, these vineyard designates are the synthesis of multiple sub-sites within a given vineyard. Sometimes we bottle ‘Appellation wines’ that are also single vineyard sourced but happen not to have unusually specific geographic personality beyond being delicious examples of their appellation. These Appellation wines are the result of blending carefully selected vineyard sites to achieve balance and harmony. Occasionally, such as with our Zinfandoodle, we blend between two vintages to achieve this balance and harmony. If any parcels are left over that are not assets to these wines, they find a home in someone else’s program, rather than ours.”
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, the Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river that flows through it. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, farther from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
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.