Friday, May 14, 2010

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat

The Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the greatest in California. It’s situated on a long west facing slope in the northeastern part of Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County. There are no estate wines made from this vineyard, which is owned by the Miller family. Instead they farm approximately 365 hectares of vines here, predominately Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to sell the grapes to more than 50 wine producers all over California. Some of them, like Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat who built his warehouse looking winery in the northwestern corner of the vineyard, farm their own contracted blocks. Jim works mostly with K Block in the inner parts of the vineyard, planted to Chardonnay, but he also buy Pinot Noir of both Dijon clones and old Californian clones from different blocks in the vineyard.
Jim Clendenen is one of the pioneers for pinot wines in California, and his philosophy is strict and based on old school burgundian techniques. Hi insists that the his grapes, whites or reds, should not be harvested at higher maturation levels than 24.5 Brix, which results in wines with a moderate alcohol level (normally around 13 percent) and a lively natural acidity. Grapes are fully destemmed, and after a few days of cold soak, the juice starts to ferment with its natural yeast, and he utilizes remontage in the early stage of the fermentation and pigeage to the end to allow a more gentle extraction from the skins. Fermentation temperature reaches 35 or even 37 degress Celsius, which is relatively high, but not unusual in Burgundy. The wine is then transferred into French oak barrels of 228 liters, and only from the cooper François Frères, for malolactic fermentation and 12-20 months of ageing.

2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir / 91 p
As all pinots of Au Bon Climat, this wine has a classic structure and aroma profile. Still young, it’s a bit closed on the nose, yet lovely with a fine perfume of both sweet and sour red berries, as well as a more earthy and complex note. Oak is never, or at least rarely, found in the wines from this winery, and there is no exception from that rule in this wine. On the palate, it’s young and intensely fruit forward, still dry and with the typical elegance, fresh acidity and silky body that is so significant for Jim’s wines. The structure is quite burgundian like, and even if the tannins are silky and very elegant, the lively acidity and (and not overripe fruit) will make the wine keep, and even develop into gracefulness over the coming years.
As we decanted this wine a few minutes before serving it, and also used a typical large Burgundy styled glass, it really opened up after just ten minutes. Serving temperature should be at 15-16 degress Celsius to capture the finesse of the wine.
Drink it 2010-2018.

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