July 25, 2009 by Mannie Berk

Since this spring, we’ve been thinking a lot about California Pinot Noir: what’s good about it and what’s not. In the five years since the movie SIDEWAYS, we’ve had to pick through the mountain of mediocre Pinot Noirs to find the few that really taste like Pinot Noir.

As for the rest of what's reaching the market, each bottle seems less expressive and more alcoholic than the one that came before it.

But what has got us thinking far more positively (and even excitedly) about Pinot's potential in California was our work in preparation for our Evening Land offering in early May. And to be more specific, we are increasingly fascinated with the potential for extreme western Sonoma County to produce some of the greatest Pinot Noirs this country has ever seen.

More and more, this area is being referred to as The True, which is short for The True Sonoma Coast, as distinguished from the vast, amorphous, and misnamed Sonoma Coast AVA that appears on hundreds of thousands of bottles of Pinot Noir these days. The True is actually within sight of the Cold Pacific and exists on a series of ridgetops that rise above the fog.

The weather is cool and occasionally wet, but it's usually sunny on the ridgetops. Such conditionscombined with rocky, mineral and naturally low-yielding soilshas the ability to produce Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) of marvelous perfume and texture, yet with no excess weight and the structure to age.

We've spent much of the past three months meeting with growers in The True and tasting their upcoming 2007s, a potentially legendary vintage. And we have a number of exciting offerings already lined up for the rest of this year.

But the offer that's the next in line (in next week's newsletter) is particularly amazing: Thomas Brown's Rivers-Marie 2007s. Ever since Burghound's Allen Meadows called Thomas' 2004 Summa Vineyard Pinot “Perhaps the finest California pinot I have ever had the pleasure of tasting,” Rivers-Marie has been on fire among Pinot cultists. Our Rivers-Marie offering is sure to cause a stir, as it's the first time Thomas has ever honored a retailer with a direct allocation.

These are looking to be exciting times for Pinot lovers.

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