pinot noir


Uzi and I were in the Russian River Valley this weekend trying to finalize a third Pinot Noir vineyard for 2009.  The weather was a cool 75 degrees when we arrived at the first vineyard just off River Road at 10:30. The owner walked us through his vines of Pommard, 115 and 777 clones.  These are the Pinot clones we prefer, the clones that will hopefully give us the well-balanced, yet complex Pinot Noir we prefer.  At just under 8 acres, the Pinot vineyard is nicely farmed by a very well-known farmer/viticulturist who keeps the yield to about 2 tons/acre–this is the type of low-yield vineyard we are looking for.  The grapes here have just barely begun to change color.  This process during which the grapes turn from green to purple is called verasion.  The owner speculated harvest will occur mid-September.

verasion begins

verasion begins

We tasted several samples of the 2008 vintage as well as a 2006 and 2004.  All were very impressive, in particular the 2004.  We enjoyed sharing winemaking stories with the owner and then went on our way to mull the opportunity to buy grapes from this vineyard.  This year we have been lucky to have unprecedented opportunities to some excellent Pinot fruit.  We stopped just down the hill to taste at Martinelli Winery and have a working picnic under their beautiful arbor with the single biggest cluster of grapes I have ever seen.  Get a load of this cluster:

grapecluster

working lunch

working lunch

The temperature quickly rose as we reached our second stop.  It made for an uncomfortable walk in the 92 degree heat.  Here in these vineyards, just to the northeast where it is warmer, verasion had reached almost 30%, according to the helpful viticulturist who took us through the vineyards.  She mentioned that harvest may very well come by the end of August.  In the picture below you can see how much farther verasion has progressed at this vineyard than in the preceeding one.

verasion progressing

verasion progressing

Here they have several blocks of Pinot Noir containing an array of clones–114, 115, 459, 667, 777, 828…So many, that I am not kidding when I say I had these numbers dancing in my head that night as I slept.  A very well-maintained vineyard with an incredible range to choose from. During this trip it was easy to see how the microclimates within the Russian River Valley make a big difference.  In just a 2-mile radius there can be more than a month difference in harvest date for the same varietal.  In fact, records we compared for these two vineyards show about 1 month difference in harvest dates.

Blue cheese walnut spread     

Blue cheese walnut spread

We kept the food at our recent Stomping Girl barrel tasting event super simple and Pinot Noir-friendly. We didn’t want to overpower the wine but did want to serve something–seems prudent to offer a bite to eat when people are drinking wine, even if it is small pours.  I served two spreads–my favorite go-to blue cheese spread and a new smoked salmon spread recipe–and water crackers.  They are both very simple, tasty and can be prepared ahead of time.

My blue cheese spread is, roughly:

  • 2 oz. Pt. Reyes Original Blue Cheese (or other quality blue cheese)
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. butter, softened
  • handful chopped walnuts

Mix together cheeses and butter with hand mixer.  Toast walnuts in dry skillet over medium heat.  Stir cooled nuts into cheese mixture.  Transfer to small serving bowl.  Sprinkle a few walnuts on top and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.  Yum!  Many people have told me that although they are not blue cheese fans, they like this spread.  I myself can devour a crock of this mildly flavored spread in no time.

The smoked salmon spread was an Ina Garten recipe from Food Network.  I left out the horseradish–too strong for Pinot Noir–and slightly reduced the amount of sour cream.  The fresh dill was a nice touch and was not too much for the wine.

So next time you need a quick appetizer to impress your friends with, whip together one of these spreads (I recommend the blue cheese) and pop open a bottle of Stomping Girl Pinot Noir.  If you can’t wait until January 2010, our release date, I suppose another bottle of Pinot would work, too.  Cheers!

Stomping Girl Wines is happy to announce the addition of another stellar vineyard to our 2009 lineup, Corona Creek Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation.Corona Creek

Corona Creek is situated in the area known as the Petaluma Gap. Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap benefits from the cooling effect of the morning fog, coming in from the Pacific ocean. The cool fog moderates the area’s temperature and prolongs the growing season, giving the grapes time to slowly reach full physiological maturity and develop robust complex flavors.

Corona Creek vineyard owners, Janet Seddon and Chris Ritcey have a unique vineyard and  one which we are very lucky to secure fruit from.  Their vineyard is only one part of their 20 acre farm, actually a very diverse farm where they grow olive trees, fruit and vegetables renowned for their high quality in the Sonoma area. I heard the tomatoes are especially prized and I can’t wait to try some.

They take a holistic approach to farming, which we appreciate. In the addition to the Owl boxes for gopher management, they have sheep for the purposes of weed control, the sheep are miniature and can’t reach the ‘yummy’ grapes above them. And of course, while the sheep are at it, they help fertilize the soil!  Cover crop between the rows provide for a natural way to introduce nitrogen to the vineyard.  Read more about Corona Creek  farming practices here.

Bees were buzzing by on one of my visits and Chris noted that they go from the cover crop in between the vine rows on to pollinating his Pluot orchard.  A complete farm.  I can’t wait to make wine out of Corona Creek’s grapes, from the Hillside Block.CKBabyBunches

Stomping Girl Barrel Tasting (click for slideshow)

Stomping Girl Wines had a great turn out for our first barrel tasting event featuring our ’08 Pinot Noirs–Lone Oak Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands and Split Rock, Sonoma Coast.  The wines are developing fantastically with cherry and spice flavors coming through and nicely balanced on the  palette.  We also pulled a barrel sample of our ’08 Las Brisas, Carneros, Pinot–it’s displaying nice cherry fruit flavors and a silky, velvety texture in the mouth.

Thanks to those who came, we had a great time.  And thank you to Maureen Sullivan for taking the photos!  Here is one review of the event.

 

Beresini Vineyard

Beresini Vineyard

We are very happy to announce the addition of Steve Beresini Carneros vineyard to our 2009 lineup.

Steve has a meticulously maintained small vineyard in Carneros that has been producing world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for many years by the likes of wineries such as MacRostie.  The vineyard was planted in 1989 making it one of the more mature Pinot vineyards around, even by Carneros standards.  Low yield and careful management of the vines produces superb wine. When Steve called to say he might have some fruit available for me I had to drive right over and see it. 

Stomping Girl will have three rows dedicated to us, two of the Pommard clone and one of the Calera clone. These 3 rows will give us only a tiny amount–maybe four barrels of wine.  And that is fine by us because we choose to produce small lots from grapes carefully grown by small family-owned vineyards.

Steve, who has been growing vines and making wine for more than thirty years, takes excellent care of his vineyard. He was the winemaker at one point at Niebaum-Coppola Winery and worked alongside the legendary André Tchelistchef, who consulted with Neibaum-Copola at the time.

While tasting his 2008 from the barrel, all Calera clone, we talked about his winemaking protocol. I tried to learn his winemaking secrets, what makes his wine so luscious and round, so aromatic and bright cherry red. He got a distant look on his face and reminisced about Andre, a mentor to him.  Then he said, “It’s really simple, it’s all starts in the vineyard, so when I walk around the vines and I’m suckering and pruning, I say to myself, ‘I am just walking around, making wine.'”

We are lucky to have this extra winemaker in the vineyard.Steve Beresini and his vineyard

Steve Beresini and his vineyard

bacon_and_eggsglass_of_wine

A few weeks ago I was making dinner for my parents. I was preparing pork tenderloin, brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes and they asked me what wine to serve…my Dad had referred to his Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book for some pairing ideas but Hugh didn’t specifically have a recommendation for pork tenderloin. He did have a great suggestion for Coq au Vin, however: “In an ideal world one bottle of Chambertin in the dish, two on the table.” One day I may be so lucky…but in the meantime, without Hugh’s blessing, I recommended Pinot Noir to go with the pork tenderloin. Pork and Pinot is usually a good match, plus I gotta plug Pinot Noir when I can.

So my brother brought over a couple of bottles of Pinot from his cellar and my Dad pulled one out, too. The Pinot worked lovely with the pork tenderloin. We drank 3 Oregon Pinot Noirs: Stoller Vineyards which was outstanding with the pork (and on its own for that matter;) Lachini Vineyards Estate which is an expensive bottle but unfortunately it had a slight, unintentional effervescent quality; and Erath, a commonly found and dependably good Pinot.

Back at my house we recently enjoyed a more unusual wine and food pairing. Bacon, eggs and Pinot. It was breakfast for dinner night at our house so we made mushroom and onion omelettes, bacon and French toast. There was an opened bottle of our house Pinot (Las Brisas Carneros) so I poured myself a glass. And surprise, surprise, what a match our Pinot was for the bacon! And the mushroom omelette too. In hindsight, the match is really not surprising. After all, a dish in the a la bourguignonne style incorporates lardons (bacon pieces,) onions and mushrooms cooked in a Burgundy red wine (Pinot Noir) sauce.

If you’ve had other food and Pinot Noir pairings–unusual or not–that have worked well for you, we’d love to hear them! And, by the way, if you find yourself in a bind not knowing what wine to serve with your food (or vice versa) Natalie MacLean has a great little Food & Wine Matcher gadget on her website.

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