A breathtaking journey featuring delicious wines
We will start our journey just to the North of Los Angeles and end up in Oregon, and the connection will be that the vineyards will all have climates cooled by fog and cold air from the Pacific Ocean.
We are talking about ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir as they allow it to ripen slowly, or what we call in the trade “a long hang time” on the vine.
The Pali Wine Company was started in 2005 by two entrepreneurs with a passion to found a winery dedicated to producing small lots of artisanal Pinot Noir. We have their 2014 Huntington Pinot Noir that sources its fruit from the Santa Rita Hills that rise about the coastal town of Santa Barbara. The Wine Enthusiast magazine designated it an “Editor’s Choice” wine with a score of 91/100. This was their description: “Dark garnet in colour, this wine showcases bright red fruits on the nose with hints of thyme, tea and caramel. The tea flavours carry through to the palate along with notes of earth and iron that come together into a long spicy finish.” $29.45
Now we drive north on the amazingly scenic, coastal Highway #1 until we get to Monterey, that is situated about halfway between LA and San Francisco. Here we visit the winery of Laely Heron, who believes that delicious wines should be an unalienable right that does not come at a huge price.
The grapes for her Heron 2013 Monterey County Pinot Noir come from tiny Arroyo Seco that is blasted with maritime influences, driving winds and saturated fog from the deep hyper-cold waters off Monterey Bay. Some also come from the Santa Lucia Highlands, an elevated mountain perch. This Pinot Noir has ripe, inviting aromas of black cherry, plum, violets and accents of gentle oak. You will also notice strawberry, spice cake and a touch of anise. $25.60.
Next stop is over that magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and to an area called Carneros that runs along the bottom of Napa and Sonoma Valleys as it forms the northern shores of San Francisco Bay. Carneros is Spanish for sheep and if you want a woolly sheep, the animal has to shiver a bit; ideal for Pinot Noir.
I have fond memories of early morning walks through vineyards in the Carneros District when we stayed at the Cuvaison Winery. Their 2013 Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir captures in body and bouquet the wonderful sun-kissed season that they enjoyed in 2013. The wine is brimming with bright strawberry, raspberry and fresh cherry flavours made more intriguing with a subtle hint of allspice, persimmon and violet. The wine shimmers on the palate with vibrant acidity and round, graceful tannins. $39.30.
And, now, farther north and over towards the coast, as we come to the Russian River Valley, a place named after the Russian fur traders that hunted there in the 1800s for animals with thick, healthy pelts. I have to confess that our Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley is always one of my favourites as it is so consistently yummy. Their 2013 has lovely aromas of cherry and rose petals. You will detect pomegranate, floral notes, baking spices, hints of toasty vanilla and a soft, warm intensity making it ideal with roasted chicken or pork or even mushrooms over polenta. $26.50.
Now for a long trek up to Oregon and whether you take the coastal highway or Highway #5 right up the middle and through Grants Pass, both are quite breathtaking with their views. I am thinking of a visit to Drouhin of Oregon in the Dundee Hills of Willamette (remember will-am-it, damn it) Valley. This family from Burgundy was the first from France to start a venture in Oregon as they realised that this land, on a similar parallel to their family lands in Burgundy, is ideal for Pinot Noir. As in France, they farm their vineyards biodynamically.
Domaine Drouhin 2014 Pinot Noir scored an impressive 94/100 with James Suckling, who commented: “There is focus and precision with refined tannins and beautiful fruit.” Their winemaker comments: “Sweet, red fruit, boysenberry, black cherry, rose petal, mint, spices refined with a hint of rusticity and earth. On the palate one can find layers of spice, white pepper, dark cherry and blackberry with youthful tannins and excellent depth.” $40.00.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this breathtaking drive of a little less than one thousand miles and enjoyed a few very fine wines on the journey.
• 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.