Virtually everyone that has ever bought a bottle of American wine has heard of California’s most famous grape growing area — Napa Valley.
This rather warm, fertile region produces some of the world’s most rich and ripe (and most expensive) full-bodied cabernet sauvignons alongside many plush, buttery full-throttled chardonnays. Additionally, you will even find a nice array of red zinfandel, merlot and sauvignon blanc vines enjoying the sunshine and generally carefree climate.
What is rare is pinot noir. Even harder to find is great pinot noir under $50 a bottle. If you avoid the more northern areas of Napa and stay toward the San Francisco side of southern Napa, you will find a variety of uncommon grapes and climatic variations from the hotter, tourist-laden towns a few miles up the road.
There is a vineyard area that straddles counties of Napa and Sonoma called Los Carneros. Within this expansive region is a small swatch of vines on the northern shores of San Pablo Bay that is perfect for growing a handful of grapes that simply can’t stand the heat in the warmer Napa climates to the north. The mornings here begin with a receding fog that regularly returns in the mid-afternoon. The area receives sparse rainfall and the moisture from the fog is kept at bay by a nearly constant ocean breeze. The grapes are blessed with a long, cool growing season that enhances their gentle nature and allow them to quietly express their elegance, subtle nuances and more reserved personality.
Pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and even a small amount of the often unmentioned sparkling-wine blending grape pinot meniuer are found in the hilly vineyards along the shores of San Pablo Bay.
The introverted character found in the wines created from these vineyards are indeed a direct contrast to the more famous heavy-handed, robust wines from the towns of Calistoga, St. Helena and Rutherford bearing the iconic names such as Mondavi, Montelena, Rombauer or Frank Family.
One of the most stunning examples of the San Pablo Bay-style of delicate, well-made pinot noir is found in the 2009 Napa Cellars Pinot Noir. This luscious and thoroughly satisfying gem is dramatically understated and yet amazingly seductive. Delicate and modest in tannins with an amazing array of subtle notes of strawberry, baking spice, cola, sweet leaf tobacco wrapped in a bed of semi-tart purple and blue fruits that effortlessly evolves into a touch of tar and licorice on the precise, yet angular, finish. A beautiful version and rare version of California pinot that should not be missed and should be savored.
2009 NAPA CELLARS PINOT NOIR
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