Cinnabar Winery - 2007 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir / 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

cinnabarDay 4 finds The 12 Days of Pinot Noir making another stop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Cinnabar Winery has a history there that dates to 1983. The name of the winery comes from the belief of 14th century alchemists that they could use the mineral Cinnabar to transform everyday metals into gold. Cinnabar Winery founder Tom Mudd applied that magical thought to winemaking. In total Cinnabar Winery produces approximately 17,000 cases per year. Incorporated in that are three lines or tiers of wines. Today I'll look at two of their Pinot Noirs. The Cinnabar Winery 2007 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is 100% varietal. The fruit for this selection was sourced at Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. This vineyard sits 400 feet above sea level and was planted in 1973. This wine was aged in small French oak barrels for 11 months; 40% of them were new. The suggested retail price for this selection is $35.

Dark cherry, raspberry and violets are all part of the nose of this Pinot; saddle bag aromas underpin the nose. The palate is loaded with a cornucopia of dark berry fruit throughout. Cherry, raspberry, blackberry and hints of prune abound. These are joined by flourishes of smoked meat. The lengthy finish is highlighted by truffle, charred oak and lingering mineral notes. This Pinot has tremendous acidity and excellent overall structure. Mushroom based dishes and lighter stews will be a perfect match for this wine.

The Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot from Cinnabar really opens up with some time in the glass or better yet a decanter. Time really allows it to express some of the subtler charms and layers that are hidden at first. A delicious Pinot that I would drink over the next 6 or 7 years.

The 2006 Cinnabar Winery Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir is also 100% varietal. All the fruit which was hand harvested is from Dijon clones. Oak aging was accomplished over a year in French oak; 50% of the barrels were new. Only 400 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $36.

The first thing that was striking about the Santa Cruz Pinot is the nose being a bit brighter than the Santa Lucia Highlands selection. It's still loaded with dark fruit notes, but a bit of candied cherry wafts through and makes it presence known. Cedar aromas also come out relatively prominently. Cherry, plum, raspberry and wild mushroom are all part of the solid core of flavor that makes up this Pinots palate. Hints of graphite, flint and earth emerge on the finish along with lingering spice such as nutmeg and cinnamon. firm tannins and excellent acidity frame this Pinot. Grilled lamb kebabs and similar mediterranean cuisine would be an excellent match for this Pinot.

The Santa Cruz Pinot is a bit bigger and a touch bolder than the Santa Lucia selection. Each of them is marked by excellent varietal character and both have tremendous, racy acidity making them classic choices to pair with a wide array of foods. They do drink nicely on their own, but these are food wines. Both will also perform quite well for a number of years and they represent fine values in a category (Pinot Noir) that has a lot of misses. These however are hits.

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