lunes, 4 de marzo de 2013

Flowers Vineyard Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2009


Flowers Vineyard was purchased in 1989 by Walt and Joan Flowers and comprises 321 acres on the northern Sonoma Coast, high above the Pacific Ocean. Their intention was to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a place they believed uniquely suited to growing these varities. The are located in the extreme Sonoma Coast, actually on the coast (most of the Sonoma Coast appellation isn’t, hence the Flowerses insistence on the “True Sonoma Coast”). Flowers’ first winemaker, Greg La Follette describes it as “where God meant for Pinot Noir to be grown”. Initially 21 acres were planted on a narrow ridge known as Camp Meeting Ridge, a warm site in a cool climate largely above the fogs but still cooled by the ocean breeze. This vineyard still represents the heart and soul of the winery. With elevations ranging from 1150 to 1375 feet it is just two miles from the Pacific. A new site was planted in 2001: two distinct vineyards which make up the Flowers Ranch: the Frances Thompson Vineyard and Sea View Ridge Vineyard. Elevations range from 1400 to 1875 feet, again well above the summer fog which cools the site from below. Like Camp Meeting Ridge, Flowers Ranch is an ideal site in a cool climate. Views from the ridgetop vineyards are unobstructed, offering a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains, valleys and coastline. The first vintages from Camp Meeting Ridge were made at Kistler but by 1997 the Flowerses had completed their own winery. Ross Cobb arrived in 2000 as assistant winemaker to Hugh Chapelle and took the lead role when Chapelle left in 2004. The farming practice he and Flowers’ viticulturalist have implemented is designed to achieve ripeness without high alcohol levels. The wines are characterized by saturation of flavour but also by racy aromatics and acidities, elegance and finesse.

"Flowers Vineyard Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir is a deep vibrant red color. It has delicate floral notes of rose petal and lilac which give way to rich aromas of raspberry compote. Flavours emerge on the palate with pomegranate, cranberry and hints of graphite and other minerals. The wine's texture is elegant and smooth across the palate with an enduring finish. Ready to drink upon release or cellar through 2016". farehamwinecellar

"Selected from Flowers' most recent planting, 43 acres rising from 1,400 to 1,875 feet above the Pacific, with views of the fog and the ocean below. The best wines from this vineyard have shown glimmers of grand cru sophistication and this 2009 develops in a way that parallels a great Burgundy. It starts off meaty, seemingly simple in its directness, until it begins to deepen, the tannins going through an adolescent moment with a character like spiced tea and cheese rind. By the next day, those tannins have turned toward a ferrous minerality and the wine is racy, dense, floral, as red as persimmon, powerful in an oceanic sense. If you don't believe there is terroir character in California pinot noir, spend some time at this vineyard, then go home and taste this wine." 94 Points, Wine and Spirits Magazine.

Price: £59


Pinot Noir is the red wine grape of Burgundy, now adopted (and feverishly studied) in wine regions all over the world. The variety's elusive charm has carried it to all manner of vineyards, from western Germany and northern Italy to Chile, South Africa, Australia, and perhaps most notably California and New Zealand. It is the patriarch of the 'Pinot' family of grape varieties - so called because their bunches are similar in shape to pine cone (pinot in French). Other members of this family are Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Aligote, Chardonnay and Gouais Blanc.

Pinot Noir causes more discussion and dispute in the wine world than any other grape variety, most of which centers around the wine style which best represents the 'true' Pinot Noir. Examples from Central Otago are so different from those grown in Santenay that even an untrained palate can tell them apart. Yet both are unmistakably, unquestionably Pinot Noir. It is this strength of character which has made Pinot Noir such an internationally successful and desirable grape variety. The same is true of Cabernet Sauvignon, its opposite number from Bordeaux, although Cabernet vines are much less choosy about the environment in which they are grown. While Cabernet can be relied on to give good yields and make acceptable quality wine, 'Pinot' is decidedly fussier, and varies wildly from watery, acidic candy water to some of the richest, most intensely perfumed wines on earth.

Happily, Pinot Noir has sparked more than just dispute; it is well known for causing near-obsession among collectors and connoisseurs. This Pinot 'fanaticism' has its roots in 1980s California but there are now devoted Pinot fans over the modem wine world. No other vine variety has come close to causing this level of interest. Interestingly, in Pinot Noir's homeland (the Cote d'Or and particularly the Cote de Nuits), the traditional vigneron has focused not on the intrinsic qualities of the grape itself, but the nature of the soil and climate in which it grows. After all, Burgundy is the home of terroir. Although many find it hard to believe, there are consistent, perceptible differences between Pinot Noirs from Volnay and Pommard - two Burgundian villages separated by less than one mile. For decades New World wine regions held red Burgundy up as their target style, but the early 21st century has seen the western United States and New Zeland (first Martinborough, then Central Otago) findind their own individual expression of Pinot.

Although typically used to make single-variety wines, in Champagne Pinot Noir is blended with Its cousins Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier to the region's famous sparkling wines. In the cool northern French climate the berries rarely attain optimal ripeness, so only very rarely is dry, still red Pinot Noir produced in Champagne. The highly successful Pinot-Chardonnay partnership has been adopted for sparkling wine production in wine regions across the world, from Alsace to Tasmania.

The identifying characteristic of Pinot Noir wine is found in its strawberry and cherry aromas (fresh red cherries in lighter wines and deeper-colored stewed black cherries in weightier examples) often complemented by hints of undergrowth - sous-bois in French. Well-built Pinot Noirs, particularly from warmer harvests, also exhibit notes of leather and violets, sometimes approaching the flavor spectrum of Syrah.

The question oak in Pinot Noir winemaking is frequently raised, as are the length of fermentation and the option of a pre-ferment maceration (cold soak). Cooler temperatures lead to fresher fruit flavors, while longer, warmer fermentations and Dioeage result in more extracted, wines with greater tannic structure. In order to retain as much 'Pinot' character as possible, many producers have now turned to biodynamic viticulture, avoiding the use of commercial fertilizers which may disrupt the variety's sensitive chemical balance.

In Stellenbosch. Pinot Noir was crossed with Cinsaut to create South Africa's signature grape, Pinotage.

Synonyms include: Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.

Popular blends include: Champagne Blend. Chardonnay - Pinot Noir. Gamay - Pinot Noir.

Related grape varieties include: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Aligote, Gouais Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage.


The Sonoma Coast AVA covers (as its name implies) the coastline of Sonoma County, California. What is not apparent from the AVA's title, however, is that its boundaries veer sharply inland just east of Bodega Bay, and spread out southwards and eastwards into the Petaluma Watershed. Where it meets the northern tip of Sonoma Valley just outside Santa Rosa, the edge of the AVA is more than 20 miles (35km) east of the coastline proper, and even further from the inland bays east of San Francisco.

The Sonoma Coast title covers more than 500,000 acres (200,000ha) of western and southern Sonoma County, of which about 2% is under vine. Far from contiguous, this 2% is scattered around the area in various terroirs, typically capitalizing on the cooling influences of the Pacific Ocean.

The AVA was created in 1987, primarily for political and commercial reasons, which sets Sonoma Coast apart from the other northern coast AVAs, whose creation and delineation have been driven largely by geological and climatological considerations. The process began when the legal US definition of 'estate bottled' was tightened in the mid-1980s, restricting use of the term to wines 'grown' and vinified within a single AVA. This led a number of wine companies whose vineyards were scattered all along the coastline of Sonoma County to propose an over-arching AVA, affording them continued use of the phrase. Despite protests from smaller producers and AVA purists, the end result was the know today.

Climatically speaking, the Sonoma Coast is decidedly maritime - cooler and wetter than the rest of Sonoma County. This is, perhaps obviously, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, and the cooling fog that creeps into the coastal valleys throughout the summer months. The coastline here is so reliably foggy that the area has been used as the setting for several iconic horror movies, including John Carpenter's The Fog, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Stephen King's Sleepwalkers.

As a result of the cool climate, the distribution of grape varieties differs noticeably from that found in the drier, warmer climes inland. The Pinot family are out in force here, most noticeably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (which together account for more than 75% of the AVA's wines), but also Pinot Gris and Meunier. Tiny plantings of Zinfandel. Syrah and Gewurztraminer can also be found in Sonoma Coast vineyards, but remain the dear exception.


Sonoma County, California, is one of the most important wine-growing regions in the whole of the United States. Vines have been planted here since the 1850s, and apart from the inevitable hiatus brought about by Prohibition, the county's relationship with wine has been prolific and unbroken.

Viticulturally speaking, Sonoma County is divided into three distinct sections: Sonoma Valley, Northern Sonoma and Sonoma Coast. Each of these has its own AVA title and encompasses several sub-AVAs within its boundaries.

Sonoma Valley is located in the county's southeastern corner, and effectively mirrors the shape and orientation of Napa Valley just across the Mayacamas Mountains. It encompasses Bennett Valley. Sonoma Mountain and the western half of Carneros - arguably California's finest 'cool- climate' terroir. The Sonoma Valley climate is famously blessed with cooling fog, which rolls in from San Pablo Bay in the summer months.

Trapped between the Sonoma and Mayacamas mountains, the fog here is noticeably denser and more persistent than in the broader valleys to the north. When combined with cooling ocean breezes, this means that Sonoma Valley is sufficiently cool to rate as Region I (>2,500 degree days) on the Amerine-Winkler climate scale, yet sufficiently sunny to produce bright, intensely flavored wines.

Northern Sonoma is much larger and more complex than Sonoma Valley, both geologically and viticulturally speaking. It encompasses no fewer than ten AVAs, including the famous and substantial Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. It effectively covers the northern two-thirds of Sonoma County, omitting only Sonoma Valley and the coastal strip covered by the Sonoma Coast AVA (which also stretches inland to cover the Petaluma River Watershed). The southern limits of Northern Sonoma are marked by the towns of Sebastapol and Santa Rosa, which, along with Healdsburg, are the county's main centers of commercial and winemaking activity. From here, the AVA follows the Russian river northwards all the way to the Mendocino County border, bulging eastwards briefly to take in the Knight's Valley.

Sonoma Coast is not so much a contiguous viticultural area as a work-around title to circumnavigate US wine labeling laws. In the 1980s, the US government tightened up the legal definition of the phrase ’Estate Bottled’, restricting the term to wines grown and bottled within the boundaries of a single AVA. The catch-all Sonoma Coast title makes complying with this law significantly easier for wineries whose vineyards are scattered around various AVAs. The majority of the Sonoma Coast is indeed near the county’s coast, but a considerable proportion of its southern half lies more than 15 miles (25km) inland, and plugs the gap between Northern Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.

The portfolio of grape varieties used in Sonoma County barely deviates from that used in California as a whole. Cabernet Sauvianon is unquestionably the dominant red variety, while an occasional patch of Cabernet Franc is also to be found on the county’s cooler mountainside sites. The cabernets’ Bordeaux stablemate Merlot remains significant, even if plantings are far from what they were in the 1980s and 1990s. The United States’ icon red wine grape Zinfandel is planted in Sonoma’s warmer, drier spots, while Chardonnay and Pinot Noir take advantage of cooler mesoclimates. White Sauvianon Blanc provides a lighter, more refreshing alternative to Chardonnay, and although far from prolific, Rhone valley stalwarts Syrah and Viognier are steadily gaining vineyard acreage.

References: farehamwinecellar and wine-searcher 

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