California’s Anderson Valley is particularly well suited for growing Pinot Noir. This small region in Mendocino County has a number of different micro-climates within it which allows site specific wine-making to flourish. When the founders of Duckhorn Wine Company, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, decided to start a Pinot Noir program, more than 20 years ago, they targeted Anderson Valley as the right place to do it. In 1996 that they launched Goldeneye their Pinot Noir brand. Today Goldeneye has more than 200 acres under vine which are planted to 24 different clones of Pinot Noir. From those they craft a combination of single vineyard and cuvee style offerings.
I just tasted trough a range of their 2014 Pinot releases which do an excellent job showcasing the wide diversity Anderson Valley can achieve in Pinot Noir. In a sense the Goldeneye releases, with their site and style diversity are emblematic of Anderson Valley at large. Here’s a look at my 5 favorite Goldeneye Pinot’s from among the 2014’s I sampled.
Goldeneye 2014 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($56)
This cuvee style offering is made from fruit sourced at 4 of their Estate vineyards. It’s composed entirely of Pinot Noir. Barrel aging was accomplished entirely in French oak; 53% new and 47% 2nd year. Ripe wild strawberry leads the nose along with undercurrents of bay leaf and thyme. Black cherry and red raspberry notes are evident on the palate along with bits of cinnamon and clove. Earth, more spices and a dusting of cocoa are all part of the lengthy, layered finish. Firm acid and fine tannins provide a solid backbone here. This is a well-rounded and delicious Pinot Noir that represents Anderson Valley well.
Goldeneye 2014 The Narrows Vineyard Pinot Noir ($82)
The fruit for this wine came from just two blocks within the namesake vineyard. One is planted to Clone 828, the other to 667. Aging took place over 16 months in French oak, 59% were new the balance neutral. Earth and tobacco notes emerge from the nose here. The palate is studded with dark fruit flavors such as plum and black raspberry. Chicory, continued earth, porcini mushroom and wisps of savory herbs are all present on the long, complex finish. Bracing acid keeps things mouthwatering. This is a fascinating, delicious and truly singular Pinot Noir. It’s my favorite of the batch and it’s a great example of why people get really fired up about specific sites and clones with Pinot Noir.
Goldeneye 2014 Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir ($82)
This is entirely Pinot Noir from the namesake vineyard which is plated to 8 different clones. Aging took place over 16 months in French oak; 60% new, the balances neutral. Dark fruits rule the day here from the first whiff to the last sip. Dark plum and blackberry aromas are joined by bits of vanilla. The palate shows off those characteristics too along with raspberry and currant. Copious spices, leather and a parting blast of minerals mark the finish. Firm acid and somewhat hefty tannins provide structure. Delicious today this is the selection that will benefit the most from another few years of bottle age.
Goldeneye 2014 Split Rail Vineyard Pinot Noir ($82)
Split Rail Vineyard is made up of 16 blocks that are planted to 9 different clones. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced there. Aging took place over 16 months in French oak; 60% new, the balance neutral. Wild strawberry and black cherry notes on the nose are punctuated by significant savory herb characteristics. The palate here is rich and structured with lots of dark fruit, black pepper and bits of chicory. The finish is long, layered and earthy with blackberry, cherry and a ton of spices notes present. There’s an inherent freshness here that will draw you back to the glass for sip after sip.
Goldeneye 2014 Ten Degrees Estate Pinot Noir ($120)
This cuvee style offering represents their top 5% of Pinot Noir. It’s assembled from their best lots and barrels. This Estate wine is intended to reflect the diversity of the sites in Anderson Valley where Goldeneye grows Pinot Noir. Aging took place over 16 months in entirely new French oak. Black cherry and toast oak notes pop out from the nose here. The palate is a who’s who of characteristics and influences. Blueberry, leather, earth, spice and boysenberry are all present to varying degrees. The impressively long finish is deeply layered, complex and ultimately elegant in nature. Plum, cocoa, pepper and hints of vanilla are all evident. While Ten Degrees is certainly as age-worthy as The Gown Vineyard release I think it’s more likely to hold its current charms than evolve.