Ziata Green Valley Pinot Noir 2014
The growing season harvest was one of the earliest on record—one to two weeks earlier than average. Nonetheless, moderate summer temperatures, coupled with morning fog and afternoon sun, helped the grapes mature and ripen at an optimal pace. Despite the drought conditions, the quality of fruit this vintage was a superior representation of the Green Valley AVA. The Pinot Noir wine was fermented and then aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, 35% of which were new, which lent beautiful spice notes to the finished wine.
Karen Cakebread launched ZIATA Wines in 2008, after marketing Napa Valley and its wines for 20 years. Karen started the brand with two goals in mind: “to create beautifully structured wines that reflect the vineyards they come from, and to be involved in every aspect of making wine.” Named after her beloved mother Mary Annunziata Webb, ZIATA’s collection of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Mia Madre Red Blend and Chardonnay allows Karen to have an outlet for all of her passions. “Choosing where we source our fruit, working closely with our growers and our winemaker, building strong connections with our customers—I love being able to put my personal touch on all of it,” she says. Jennifer Williams joined the ZIATA team as head winemaker in 2015 after working at many reputable wineries since the early 2000s.
Situated on the foggier and colder western edge of the Russian River Valley, almost abutting the Sonoma Coast appellation, Green Valley is one of California’s most reputable Chardonnay and Pinot noir producing regions. It is also a wonderful source of sparkling wines made from these varieties.
Goldridge soils abound throughout the Green Valley appellation. This fine, dark, sandy loam and fractured sandstone is derived from the remains of ancient inland seabeds dating back three to five million years. It is valuable for high quality grape growing because of its excellent drainage and low fertility.
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.