Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, North Coast, California, U.S.
100% pinot noir
Purchased: 7 April 2017 – $19.99
Opened: 19 April 2018
James Suckling: 93
Wilfred Wong: 92
Cellar Tracker: 87
The US, when first discovered by the Vikings, was covered in vines and they named the area Vineland. Unfortunately the early settlers discovered that those vines produced a terrible wine. The effort to find a suitable vine for the US began in earnest in the 1600s with the introduction of the Mission grape to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and Vitis vinifera to Virginia. America’s first commercial winery was not established until 1798, finding its home in Kentucky. Today the US is the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, behind Spain and ahead of Argentina, accounting for 8% of the world’s wine production. There are 89 regions in the country planting 129 prime varieties of grape. The country has almost 8000 wineries that produced 800 million gallons of wine in 2016.
The California wine industry was initially established by Spanish in the 18th century, planting the Mexican sourced “black grape” around their Catholic missions to be used for religious ceremonies and enjoying Californian sunsets. The “black grape” or the Mission grape, was originally brought to the new world buy Hernan Cortes in the 16th century. It did nothing of note for the Aztecs but it dominated the state’s industry for almost 200 years.
California is far and away the largest grower and producer of wine in the country accounting for about 85% of US production. The state still ranks as the 4th largest producer in the world just behind France, Italy, and Spain; without including the rest of country. There are over 600,000 acres of vines, 5900 growers and just shy of 4700 wineries in the state producing 285 million cases of wine in 2016. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most common wine varieties, accounting for about 90,000 and 85,000 acres planted, respectively. In 2016 the state had about 44,600 acres planted in Pinot Noir grapes.
The state has 5 main growing regions: Central Coast, Inland Valleys, North Coast, Sierra Foothills, and South Coast. Within these 5 regions are upwards to 200 AVAs. The AVAs are defined by geography only; counties are automatically classified as an AVA without further registration with the federal government. 85% of the grapes used on an AVA that’s smaller than a county, must be grown there but there are no restrictions on what grapes or amounts that can be used. If it is a county labeled AVA only 75% of the grapes need to come from that area.
The North Coast region, just north of San Francisco, includes the counties of Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. The area stretches 100 miles, north to south, and about 50 miles east to west. From Clear Lake on the eastern boundary to the Pacific Ocean on the western edge, the area includes the valleys just north of the San Francisco Bay to the North Coast Mountains in the northern part of the region. The North Coast contains almost half of all the state’s wineries spread over 3 million acres with more than 130,000 acres dedicated to vineyards within 50 smaller AVAs. The predominate grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Sonoma County wine history dates back to the early 1800s when a Catholic priest established a vineyard around the San Francisco Solano Mission which is now in the city of Sonoma. By the early 1920s the county boasted 20,000 acres of vines and 250 plus wineries. Prohibition knocked Sonoma’s wine industry down to a shadow of its former glory and it took almost 60 years for the county to recover from that social experiment.
Sonoma County has a rich, heterogeneous geography of mountains and valleys that present a profusion of soils and climates that make the French landscape look like vanilla pudding. The area’s soils are heavily influenced by volcanism along the county’s eastern boundary in the Mayacamas Mountains. The volcanoes include the Plio-Pleistocene aged Mount St. Helena and Hood Mountain which, among others, spiked the surrounding soils with ash and other wine-loving volcanic ejecta. The climate of the area is a product of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean which has endowed the area with foggy mornings, warm days, not too hot, and cool nights.
Sonoma County is the North Coast’s largest AVA, about 50 miles on a side, containing more than third of North Coast region’s grape acreage, along with 1800 growers, and 400 wineries. The county grows 66 varieties of grapes on 60,000 acres but just 7 of these account for about 90% of all the wine produced. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the top 3 grapes grown. The area produces about 6% of California’s total wine production versus 4% for Napa.
The county is further subdivided into 3 large AVAs loosely based on geography: Northern Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley with each of these containing an additional 15 distinct AVAs within their borders. These include: Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Carneros Sonoma, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Fountaingrove District, Green Valley, Knights Valley, Moon Mountain District, Petuluma Gap, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Mountain. Petuluma Gap was granted AVA status in 2018.
Sonoma Coast, awarded AVA status in 1987, has about 2000 acres planted in vines and around 10 wineries. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most planted variety in the AVA with Syrah coming in third. The climate in this area is cooler and wetter than the rest of the county with lots of fog.
Pinot Noir, native to the Burgundy region of France, is a cool climate, thin-skinned, fussy grape. It is a popular drinking wine, ranking as number 10 in the world by acreage. France and the US are the largest growers of the vine, each with about 75,000 acres under cultivation out of 215,000 acres worldwide. The grape produces a garnet to ruby colored wine with low tannins and medium-body. The low tannins generally mean it does not age well but that property can be quite unpredictable. Young wines have aromas of cherries and raspberry but older wines tend to acquire more earthy smells.
Schug Carneros Estate Winery, a family operation, with strong wine-making roots in Germany has been making North Coast Schug wines since 1980. In 1989 the family purchased 50 acres in the Sonoma part of the Carneros Sonoma AVA from which winery has grown to its present form of old world tradition and new world wine-making techniques.
This Pinot Noir is sourced from several owned and non-owned vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA area including: 29% Ricci, 16% O Tirado, 13% Stage Gulch, 5% Schug Estate, 4% Sangiacomo, 15% Russian River, 14% Sonoma-Carneros. The grapes were harvested from 24 August through 19 September 2015.
After harvesting, the wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks with pump over occurring 2-4 times daily, followed by malolactic fermentation in neutral oak casks. Aging was in neutral French oak barrels. The wine was released for sale on 1 October 2016.
A dark garnet color with aromas nuts, chocolate, cherry and a hint of oak. A spicy medium-bodied wine with a medium finish.
We enjoy Pinot Noir as a sipping wine, indulging in them in the late afternoon, slightly chilled, with a plate of sliced fruits and chocolates nearby to provide some contrasting tastes to this fruity wine.
An outstanding wine at a fair to good price. It should last until 2019-2021. Decanting this wine did it a world of good.