2008 Pinot Noir - Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Reserve / V.Sattui Henry Ranch Carneros

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals. But way too often this grape is treated poorly. Sometimes the problem starts at birth so to speak. Some folks plant Pinot in the wrong place. Thankfully we know a lot more today about where Pinot should be planted than we did even a decade or so ago. Some of the other potential Pinot problems are when Pinot is overburdened with new oak as well as when it’s blended with other varietals. Today I’ll look at Pinot’s from two of the best spots in California to grow this fickle grape; Russian River Valley and Carneros. The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced using fruit from Russian River Valley. This wine is 100% varietal and three clones (Clone 115 46%, Clone 777 46%, Clone 114 8%) of Pinot Noir were used. This offering under went 10 months of barrel aging in 100% French oak. This Pinot Noir has a suggested retail price of $40.

Red cherry, clove and strawberry aromas are all on display in the nose of thus Russian River Pinot. Rhubarb flavors are joined by red and black cherry notes to form the core of the palate; their underscored by a host of spice notes such as nutmeg and white pepper. Sour cherry, black raspberry and brown sugar notes all emerge in the lengthy finish of this wine. Firm but yielding tannins and rock solid acidity provide good structure here.

This is a deep, dark, full-bodied Pinot Noir. It’s leans toward the bigger side of Pinot but it gets that expression right. Some air really softens this wine up and I recommend decanting it for about an hour if you drink it now. Otherwise you could hold this for the next 4-6 years. A great wine to pair with lamb.

The V.Sattui Winery 2008 Henry Ranch Pinot Noir was produced entirely from Carneros fruit. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. Fermentation took place in open top stainless steel tanks. All of this wine was aged in barrel. 951 cases of this selection were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $36.

Aromas of black raspberry, tobacco leaf and a touch of thyme fill the nose of this 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir. Wild strawberry, pomegranate and a host of spices are all in abundance throughout the palate of this wine. Mushroom, earth and graham cracker notes all emerge in the finish which has good length. This wine is marked by solid acidity and soft, lush tannins.

This offering from V.Sattui is the style of Pinot I enjoy drinking on it’s own as I sit in the corner or on my deck contemplating life and the bottom of the bottle, which seems to arrive too soon.

Both of these lovely Pinot Noir's are made by dependable producers who have been making excellent wines in California for many years. If you enjoy California Pinot Noir, either of these selections offers lots of drinking pleasure and true varietal expression.