2011 Hirsch Vineyards ‘San Andreas Fault’ Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($60)
First off: don’t buy this wine if you’re wanting to drink it now! Or anytime soon. Only buy this wine if you want to cellar it for 7-10 years, and only if you trust my judgment. The latter’s important, because this is NOT no-brainer cellar juice. Most critics look for clichés like powerful tannin and brawn as predictors; this wine ain’t got ’em. What it does have is the stuff I like best in making a positive prediction for the future of a red wine: concentration of extract (often in a subtle way), and, above all, sublime balance. Medium garnet in the glass with a touch of young ruby. Unstereotypical California Pinot nose: no geranium-like textbook New World Pinot Noir aromas here, nor cooked jam. Instead, you have a lovely spread of gentle red fruits, difficult to pin down, but apparent in a multi-layered way. No alcohol rising from the glass (it’s “only” 13.4 %, which is low by today’s West Coast standards). Ever so slightly sweet on entry, but very quickly you’re into the meat of it: quiet flavors, wonderfully implied concentration, which you can feel. Then the bright cranberry-like acid kicks in, along with a touch of structure in a mostly gentle finish. Ultimately, reminiscent of a young, closed, excellent Premier Cru Burgundy. The cool part is: this is California, not Burgundy! Hirsch, which has been bottling its own Pinot Noir only since 2002, is one of the leaders in Pinot-making on the Sonoma Coast, just a few miles from the ocean, one of the most promising Pinot spots in the New World. Hirsch makes four Pinot bottlings in every vintage; Hirsch Vineyards “San Andreas Fault” Estate Pinot Noir combines 30 different parcels from their 68-acre vineyard.
Though this wine will only be worth in its price tag when it matures, it’d be graceful right now with roasted vegetables, well-roasted lamb, and hard cheese.
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