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2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

Bobby Fetzer managed the vineyards and bought grapes for his family’s Fetzer Vineyards,[1] founded in 1968, until the business was sold to Brown-Forman in 1992. Four years later, he bought 1,500 acres of rugged land adjacent to his old “home ranch.” The following year, he and his sons, Jake and Ben, began planting Pinot Noir on the new site which he named “Masút Ranch.” [Masút means “dark, rich earth” in the language of the Pomo, a local indigenous people.]

Bobby died in a rafting accident back in 2006, but Ben and Jake moved forward with his dream and tradition of responsible agriculture. They built a winery in one of their dad’s old redwood barns, constructed from reclaimed timber. They tend all the vines by hand. The ranch is home to a wide range of native flora and fauna. And, when he’s not busy with grapes and wine, Ben also wrangles the organic Black Angus cattle on his family’s ranch in Covelo.

The original 23-acre Masut was divided into 13 blocks with a total of 20,506 vines. Three Dijon clones (113, 115 and 777) are represented. Now there are an additional ten acres (5 blocks) with a little UCD 23 Pinot, but mostly Sangiovese. The vineyard has been certified organic from the first planting. 2009 was the first vintage for their estate Pinot Noir.

This particular pocket of land in the Russian River headlands is unique. It receives cool ocean breezes but the sloping vineyard faces away from the searing setting sun. Pinot Noir isn’t a recommended variety in the neighboring Redwood Valley AVA which is too warm. Masút Ranch, though, could be considered cool climate and resulting Pinot Noir wines are graceful, hence the well-merited Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA proposal.

The 2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir shows aromas of black cherry, tangy red cherry and pie spice. It’s medium-bodied on the palate which opens with a slightly creamy texture and flavors of elegant brown spice and macerated cherry. Moving toward the finish, lightly grainy tannins appear along with saline minerality. The 2012 Masút Estate is a very enjoyable Pinot Noir: balanced, supple and easy-to-drink. Best now through 2018. Highly Recommended

12-estate 22012 Masút Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2018

Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $40.00

Winemaker: Ben & Jake Fetzer
Blend: Pinot Noir (Dijon clones: 115 - 73%, 777 - 18% and 113 - 9%)

Origin: Masút Estate Vineyard, Mendocino County (Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA pending), certified organic
Fermentation: Whole berry, destemmed, open top fermenters for 14 - 18 days
Aging: 10 months in French oak, 33% new
Alcohol: 13.9%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 54º - 58º F

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


  1. Concha y Toro purchased Fetzer Vineyards from Brown-Forman for about $238 million in early 2011.  ↩

2011 Jekel Riesling Monterey and 2011 Jekel Pinot Noir Santa Barbara

userfiles-file-Jekel-Riesling-2011Riesling is one of the wine world’s best values. Whether the bottle comes from Germany, Australia, Alsace, Washington State, New York or a cool region in California, you can consistently get more flavor and energy for your dollar with Riesling than any other grape. Given that Riesling is both moderate in alcohol and a tremendously versatile partner for food, it’s a wonder people aren’t more enamored with it. Why is it that, when many of us began to reject oaky, buttery Chardonnay, we turned to oft-boring and green, no-oak, no-ML California Chardonnay rather than make the jump to Riesling? Face palm.

As my diet has become less steak, steak, steak, I’m drinking more Riesling myself and I’m bringing it to dinners with friends. Their first sip is often a literal eye-opener. Bam! Flavor that sings. Acidity, and sometimes a touch of sweetness, that compliments sauerkraut or curry, steamed bass or braised pork, hot dogs or haute cuisine.

I’ll admit that most of the Riesling I drink comes from either Germany or Australia. However, I recently received a Monterey County Riesling from Jekel Vineyards as a sample and found it both well-made and a good value ($15.99). The nose is a charming mix of apricot, lime and white flowers. The palate is off-dry yet retains juiciness while a very finely textured mouthfeel adds interest. The attractive flavors of apricot, peach, lime and grapefruit pith were fresh and nicely balanced with the sweetness and acid. The 2011 Jekel Vineyards Riesling Monterey—just 12.5% alcohol—goes down very easily with our without food. Tasting it though, I was struck by how nicely a well-chilled bottle would go with a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Drink through 2014. Recommended.

Pinot Noir is usually the opposite of Riesling with respect to value. Pinot Noir is finicky, doesn’t take well to large crop loads and usually benefits from some time in oak. Oak aging is one cost that Riesling producers don’t face. I usually find inexpensive Pinot to be unexciting at best and sometimes flat-out unpalatable. Sometimes there are heavy-handed oak flavors that come from using wood staves in a steel tank rather than actual barrels. Sometimes the fruit is confected or tastes artificial. Sometimes the fruit isn’t ripe, or it’s way too ripe. Nuance? Hah!

However, in the same shipment from Jekel, I received the affordable 2011 Jekel Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County (14.1% alcohol) which I’d be happy to drink. I was surprised by its complexity, impressed by it’s restraint and refreshed by it’s dry, juicy palate. The nose offers dusty black cherry, cola spice, charcoal and dark berries. The medium-bodied palate serves up even more than the nose: black cherry, cola, berry fruit leather, day-old campfire, dry herb and cracked pepper—all held in check by moderate, drying tannins. That’s a lot of Pinot Noir for $17.99. Recommended.

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2011 Testarossa Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

Yesterday I highlighted a Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir from 2009, a fairly ripe year. Today I’m offering a look at the same venue from a much cooler year. 2011 challenged grape growers up and down California. The Santa Lucia Highlands came through pretty well—that area seems almost immune to bad weather. However, today’s Pinot Noir exhibits red fruit rather than black due in large part to the cold growing season.

Testarossa makes wine—primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—from nearly 20 different California vineyards. The winery is located in the old Novitiate Winery building, long owned and operated by Jesuits to fund their seminary, on a hilltop in Los Gatos. Testarossa moved to the site in 1997. It’s open for tasting visits daily from 11am to 5pm. There’s also a wine bar there, Wine Bar 107, which stays open later (Wednesday through Sunday only).

The 2011 Testarossa Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir befriends with inviting aromas of caramel, brown and dark spices, red cherry, raspberry and vanilla. Those flavors, particularly the cherry, raspberry and brown spice, carry through on the palate where they’re joined by tart strawberry. The wine starts soft in the mouth but gains backbone steadily for a lengthy, flavorful finish with medium, talc-like tannins. Medium-plus body (as opposed to full) and marked freshness underscore the vintage. Drink now through 2019. Highly Recommended.

2011 Testarossa Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
full 22-11PinNoirGarysFr 1Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2019
Release Date: June 29, 2013

Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $60.00

Winemaker: Bill Brosseau
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir

Origin: Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
Aging: 11 months French oak, 34% new
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 54º - 58º F

Food Pairings: Roast chicken with buttery spaetzle


Interpreting my wine ratings

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 Lucia Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

2009 was a good year for Santa Lucia Highlands AVA Pinot Noir. Achieving ripeness was not a challenge. At the same time, the area’s generally moderate temperatures allowed producers to offer balancing acidity and structure. The best of the wines will age for quite some time. The challenge is exercising the discipline to let them do so.

I failed in that respect a couple of days ago. In the mood for a succulent and satisfying Pinot Noir that wouldn’t require food alongside, I reached into my personal cellar and pulled out a 2009 Lucia Pinot Noir from Garys’ Vineyard. That vineyard is one of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA’s most coveted sites, producing concentrated wines of dark fruit and spice virtually every year.

Lucia is the brand the Pisoni family uses for their non-estate wines. The winemaking is handled by Jeff Pisoni who, coincidentally, celebrates his birthday today. [Happy Birthday, Jeff!] The wines are made at the Pisoni family’s winery in Santa Rosa.

In my glass the '09 Lucia was medium-plus ruby in color. Aromas of tangy black berry, black cherry and spice rise eagerly above the rim, accented by notes of oak. In the mouth, body is a generous medium-plus with mocha-flavored, medium-plus chalky tannins and off-setting acidity. The 2009 Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir is rich on the palate with flavors of delicious black fruit, spice and a long finish. Enjoy it now through at least 2019. Very Highly Recommended.

2009 Lucia Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
lucia-garys-2009
Rating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2019+
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $50.00

Winemaker: Jeff Pisoni
Blend: Pinot Noir

Origin: Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 54º - 58º F

Food Pairings: This wine’s just fine on it’s own, but will be great with Chinese roast duck.

Interpreting my wine ratings

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

2009 Laetitia Pinot Noir Single Vineyard La Colline Arroyo Grande Valley

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery primarily produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wine from its estate vineyards in the Arroyo Grande Valley AVA. Their site is about 5 miles southeast of the town of Arroyo Grande and stretches from Highway 101 east up into the hills. From the higher vineyards you can easily see the Pacific Ocean just 3 miles away. Its tremendous cooling effect allows for very long growing seasons but excellent acidity in the grapes. Depending on where you stand, the soil is either alluvial, deep piles of volcanic rock or limestone.

The La Colline vineyard is at the forefront of the cooling. It’s among Laetitia’s closest to the ocean and situated at the end of a small canyon that funnels the cold air straight onto the vines. If not for the south facing of the sloping vineyard getting adequate ripeness could be an issue. This particular soil is a blend of volcanic and ancient sea floor washed down from the hill tops.

 resources-picture-inst87-b61f1309f3439b7a98a5c9c2ea01ac20

The 2009 Laetitia La Colline Pinot Noir has a classic nose of mixed red fruit, darker cherry, spice, sarsaparilla and dark floral notes. The body is on the generous side of medium with moderate talc-like tannins. In the mouth, the cherry and berry fruit is balanced by medium-plus acidity and enhanced with more spice and sarsaparilla. This is a very good wine, properly ripe but taut and disciplined. Drink now through 2017. Highly Recommended.

laetitia la colline2009 Laetitia Pinot Noir Single Vineyard La Colline Arroyo Grande Valley

Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2017
Closure: Cork
Production: 220 cases
Retail Price: $60.00

Winemaker: Eric Hickey
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir

Origin: La Colline Vineyard, Laetitia Estate,
Fermentation: Whole berry fermentation, open top
Aging: 12 months in French oak, 30% new
Alcohol: 13.3%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 56º - 60º F

Food Pairings: Pan-roasted quail with mushroom duxelle

 

Interpreting my wine ratings

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid adds off as personal recommendations or who getting samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews directly from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. Photos courtesy of Laetitia. All rights reserved.