Davis Bynum: a heritage that lives on
This is a brand-new name for us at Burrows Lightbourn with the wines just arriving a few weeks ago. I often write about the Russian River Valley as it is such a perfect place for pinot noir to show off its complexity and excellence.
In the early 1800s, Russian fur trappers were the first non-indigenous people to enjoy the beauty of this place shaped millions of years ago by the collisions of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates.
It is a place where cool morning fog drifts in from the cold ocean only a few miles away.
In a way, it provides a gentle “wake-up call” for the grapes as they transition from the very chilly night and wait for sun to warm them and start the process of making sugar.
The first wineries started to move in during the latter part of the 19th century and in 1973 Davis Bynum was the first to produce a single-vineyard pinot noir from a plot of land that has gone on to become renowned in its own right.
Today, his heritage lives on through the handcrafted creation of single vineyard wines grown in the Russian River Valley, an area that did not become an official American viticultural area until 1983.
To give you an idea of how long he has been making wine, he started by selling mostly to the staff and graduate students of the University of California at Berkeley. They were charmed by the high quality and the affordable price of $4 a gallon!
Davis and his winemaker, Greg Morthole, believe very much in letting the land speak for itself and their philosophy of minimalist intervention is based on deep respect and understanding of the unique terroir for this valley.
One example is the gamble of using the wild native yeasts that exist in the vineyards and this takes away some of the control and predictability, but it adds a genuine expression of the land. You may find a slight haze as they do not filter their wines, preferring the natural, old-world style that yields more complex, aromatic and flavourful wine.
Our Davis Bynum Jane's Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir has a beautiful ruby hue with aromas of cherry, cranberry, tea leaves, dusty oak and earth.
On the palate, the dark cherries, red plums and vanilla characteristics shine through with balance, acidity and a lingering finish.
Warm, bright and full of flavour, this pinot noir is a wonderful combination of fruit, spice and earth.
To work with the various microclimates and soil conditions in this 132-acre vineyard, it is planted with nine clones and these clones do vary in their own right. For instance, the Dijon 667 is demure, polished and almost glamorous while the Dijon 115 is darker and more brooding, more forest floor and more earth than fruit. It would be as happy with a beef stew as it would be with salmon or anything with mushrooms, pork or wild game. $37.70.
The 87-acre River West Vineyard supplies the chardonnay grapes for Davis Bynum and the deep gravels offer little fertility, which in turn forces the roots systems to go deep in search of water. They find abundant mineral character along the way.
Our David Bynum 2014 River West Vineyard Chardonnay has a bright, citrusy acidity that is tempered by fermentation in French oak barrels. It goes through malolactic fermentation as well and this is where bacteria convert sharper malic (green apples) acid to softer lactic (milk) acid.
It is aged sur-lie with plenty of batonnage (stirring) and this is when the wine sits on dead yeast cells and other particles to add depth, complexity and even a toasty hazelnut component.
The taste profile of this chardonnay shows beautiful aromas of baked apples and pears, pineapple, lemon and white flowers.
It opens up on the palate with toasty brioche and baking spices.
The finish is lush with well-balanced acidity and a rich creaminess. $29.35.
Before I put pen to paper again, if I may use that expression, I suspect that I will have tasted about 400 wines as I am off this week to the New York Wine Experience, once again. The quest for knowledge continues unabated.
•This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm.