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2006 Alpen Cellars Pinot Noir Trinity County


If Heidi moved to the U.S. to work in a tasting room, she’d probably apply for work at Alpen Cellars. Founded in 1984, the winery and tasting room are nestled in a high mountain valley deep in California’s Shasta National Forest. It’s located close to... well, nothing but trees and mountain lakes. It should be a beautiful place to taste some wine. (I’ve not been there, but know the area.) Alpen Cellars encourages visitors and is open seven days a week Memorial Day through Labor day and by appointment off-season. Be forewarned though, it’s a 2-hour drive from Redding and some of the roads are virtually impassable during the winter.

Fortunately, the wine can also come to you directly from the winery or from some stores. I bought a bottle of their 2006 Pinot Noir at KL Wines quite some time ago and opened it just the other day. Alpen is now on offering their 2008 vintage, $10.99.

Alpen Cellars’ Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1986. The three acres of vines lie at an elevation of 2,600 feet. To give you a frame of reference with regard to altitude, the Veeder Summit Vineyard of The Hess Collection, which is at the top of Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder, and Pride’s vineyards at the top of Spring Mountain both top out at around 2000 feet. It’s also higher than most of the vineyards in the El Dorado AVA, though a few of those vineyards are as high as 3,500 feet. Altitude aside, the Alpen Cellars Pinot Noir is less likely to get you high than most of its fellow California Pinots, the stated alcohol percentage is just 13%. [Note to the curious: According to Jancis Robinson, the highest vineyards in mainland Europe are probably those of the Aosta region in northwest Italy at nearly 5,000 feet. But, the vines most likely to cause vertigo and nosebleeds belong to Donald Hess, owner of the The Hess Collection. His Bodega Colomé in Argentina includes a small vineyard he planted at 9,982 feet.]

In my glass, the wine was bright ruby with medium plus intensity, a rosy rim and colorless legs. The nose and flavors may strike you as being more typical of red Burgundy than your favorite wines from California or even Oregon. The first thing I got on the nose was tobacco, then stewed cherry, mild brown spice, dry twigs and slightly sweaty leather. The body is just north of medium with silky medium-plus tannins that become powdery in the mid-palate. Flavors include cocoa, slightly sweet spice and delicate oak all framing the raspberry and strawberry fruit which are in balance with the acidity and alcohol.

This is the first Alpen Cellars wine I’ve tried. I’m looking forward to trying the new vintage to see how it compares and how the wines show at release. Their best-selling wine is Chardonnay and I’ll be trying one of those shortly too. As for the 2006 Pinot Noir, I found it to be a good food wine and an interesting contrast to the lush California Pinot Noir with which we are more accustomed. Try it with quail or duck breast. Drink now through 2012. Recommended (and an excellent bargain if you like the style).

2006 Alpen Cellars Pinot Noir Trinity County
Rating: Recommended

Drink: Now through 2012
Retail Price: $10.99
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir

Aging: ~ 18 months in oak, 70% French, ~ 50% new

Alcohol: 13%

Closure: Cork

This wine was purchased for review. It was not tasted blind.

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This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. The illustration of Heidi and a Goat appeared on the cover of a 1922 publication of the book and is in the public domain.