“For all the toll the desert takes of a man, it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of stars.”
—Mary Austin, The land of little rain
In 2014, I secured one ton of outstanding Pinot Noir grapes from a vineyard in the "deep end" of Anderson Valley. The "deep end" of the valley is only a few miles from the ocean, and is graced with cool, foggy nights, and warm, sunny afternoons. In other words, an ideal location for growing varietally expressive Pinot Noir.
Beginning with the 2015 vintage, I started sourcing Pinot Noir from the majestic Monument Tree Vineyard. Monument Tree was planted in 1999, has north-eastern sloping exposure, and soils that are a mix of loamy clay and decomposed sandstone. It sits about 10 miles as the crow flies from the Mendocino coast. Altogether these factors yield the style of cool climate Pinot that I adore: earthy, almost herbaceous notes that complement a fruity core of bright, bing cherry and wild blackberry.
Current Release: 2016 Monument Tree Pinot Noir
The 2016 season started off with a slightly early budbreak, but the summer was even and moderate with a cool, foggy August. The cooler summer allowed for slow and steady development of flavors and tannins, and grapes were harvested between September 10th and 13th.
I chose a 50/50 mix of Clones 777 and 115. I like the fruit-forward and more robust character of the 777 combined with the nuanced and structural nature of the 115. Both lots were fermented in 1 ton bins, and this year I experimented with 10% whole cluster fermentation. Post fermentation, the wines spent 15 months aging in 20% new French oak, 20% stainless steel, and 60% once and twice used French oak barrels.
This wine shows a bit more power than the 2014 and 2015 vintages. The freshness and concentration of the 2016 vintage, combined with stem inclusion and a touch more new oak yielded a wine with more substance and structure. On the nose, this wine shows confectionary notes of black cherry and vanilla, with hints of dried sage and toasty barrel spice. The palate is juicy and precise at entry, with black plum and bing cherry flavors showing up front. A vibrant core of acidity balances the fine-grained tannin profile, and highlights the expressive, elegant finish.
"The 2016 Pinot Noir Monument Tree is laced with attractive scents of dark cherry, lavender and spice. A dollop of whole clusters enhances the wine's aromatics and overall freshness. The 2016 is a bit darker and more layered than the 2015 because of greater clonal diversity that winemaker Rebecca George had access to. I can't wait to taste it from bottle." -ANTONIO GALLONI, VINOUS, 90-93 Points.