A few years ago my wife and I packed up our kids and took a trip to Washington and Oregon. Being a bit of a wine geek I knew Oregon was well known for its wine production and while there I wanted to do some sampling. Admittedly I was not fond of Pinot Noir but soon found it to be Oregon’s claim to wine fame. Reluctantly I made my way through several winery tasting rooms sampling different takes on Pinot Noir and found they all had an certain elegance about them. They didn’t come with the “hit you in the face” up-front fruitiness that, for instance, some California wines have but instead more of a laid-back earthiness. Needless to say by the end of the trip I was hooked.
As I’ve written in previous posts, the smaller the area on a wine bottle generally the higher quality wine it will be because the grapes are sourced from individual carefully taken care of vineyards. While obviously from California, this label also says Russian River Valley. This smaller region is within the greater area of Sonoma, a name probably more recognizable to most people. From reading done in the past I knew this area was well known for its Pinot Noir and combined with the fact that these grapes are 100% from this one region, I was excited to find it in store and try it out.
Ever since our trip to Oregon I’ve been in search of elegant Pinot Noir and this wine comes very close to this elusive elegance:
See: The wine has a slightly dull earthy red colour to it, kind of like a brownish red but not from age I’d say. Typically a wine maker extracts colour and density from the grape skin, so the thicker the skin the more dense a wine looks. Pinot Noir is a light skinned grape so a wine maker has the choice to make it dense by a prolonged exposure or make it lighter with less time on the skins. I have had some really extracted dense Pinot Noir, but this was lighter in comparison, especially near the rim where it really thins out.
Smell: This wine is not powerfully aromatic and requires more attention to pin point aromas, especially when the bottle is first open. If you let it sit open, or even better, decant for 30 minutes the aromas become easier to find. The fruit aromas are slightly tart, almost of under ripened fruit, but not unpleasant. I find aromas of red cherry, and strawberry, along with some herbs and subdued earthy “forest floor” elements. A lot of wine critics will talk about a “forest floor” aroma and I think this is descriptor that turns people off. But think of it this way. While walking through a damp forest you get smells of moss, wet dirt, and an overall feeling of freshness.
Taste: From previous experience I was bracing myself for a strong fruity California wine but was surprised to find this wine quite pulled back. The subtle aromas should have been a clue but I’ve been caught off guard in the past. It has a medium body and is very smooth to drink, with fine silky tannins and enough acidity to balance it off. There definitely is red fruit again but almost immediately also a stronger flavour of dark cherries and chocolate, along with toffee and baking spice like clove. The flavours linger a long time with a dry minerally taste and more baking spices.
Conclusion: MacMurray sources grapes for this wine 100% from the Russian River Valley and I think this gives them the control to make a balanced wine with lots of character. I quite like this wine, and not just because it fits in with my elegant Pinot Noir search criteria. It is a change from the typical warm climate Pinot Noir being produced. Sometimes it is nice to have a lighter wine that still has a lot of character. For me this wine is right between a 9.5/10 and a 9.0/10 but for the sake of a proper rating I’ll give it a 9.0/10, definitely worth a try if you are looking for something with a lot of character and won’t knock you over with boldness.
- Pinot Noir
- California, Russian River Valley
- 2013 – 14.2%
- MacMurray Estate Vineyards
- $21.75 at Chateau Wine and Spirits
- Real cork
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