The last of the five consecutive drought years in California, 2016 continued the pattern of ever-increasing levels of stress on the vines and the vineyard ecosystem. The fungal trunk diseases, which we started noticing the previous year, accelerated their spread throughout our vineyards, and made us realize the scale and severity of this phenomenon.
The resulting wine, however, is a yet again a testament to the quality of our terroir, which keeps producing delicious, well balanced wines under increasingly challenging vintage conditions.
At the time of release (January 2021), the wine is showing considerable concentration and structure, dark color, medium-full body, excellent density, acidity, and texture, and deep layered fruit (mainly black, but also red and blue). It has good complexity and grip, all expressive with wild-funky-earthy, mineral, savory/spicy hints.
Aging notes: As a general rule, our Pinots tend to take their time in the cellar, slowly making their way towards their ultimate fully-expanded older phase. Sometimes (2007, 2008) they show well throughout the whole process; some vintages (2010, 2013) seem all smily and cheerful early on, then proceed to tighten up again after a few years, while others (2001, 03, 12) are just grumpy and unyielding for the first few (occasionally, many) years of their lives. They all eventually come to their own at some point at 8-12 years of age. To reach the stage that in our view would be called “real” full maturity, you would have to be a bit more patient, as they mostly take 15-20 year to get there. This 2016 does not fall neatly into any of these three groups; rather, it scrambles together various elements of the three: it shows clean, vibrant fruit, together with a tight structure and a rustic, youthful side. The balance and concentration are there to ensure good evolution in time, provided proper cellaring conditions.
About the terroir: Our 2-1/2 acre “Home Vineyard” is north-east facing, at 1530-1600 ft altitude. The top soil is alluvial clay-loam on volcanic ash, fractured granite, and quartz sub layers. Untypically to this area, which tends to be steep and extremely rocky, this site is gently sloped and with few rocks to be found. It is also unusually cool in the context of the Sierra Foothills AVA, providing the required climatic conditions for successful Pinot production. The vineyard was planted (own-rooted, 3×6′ spacing) in 1979/80 and 1999, using as many clones – known and unknown – as we could lay our hands on, plus a handful of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay vines just for fun. Irrigation is used sparingly (as needed) in the newer blocks, while the older block is dry farmed.
2016 Vintage specifics: An early season was triggered by a warm, dry February, that brought about an early bud-break in the 3rd week of March (of course followed by the inevitable frosty nights). March was normal in temperatures but did not make up for the lack of precipitation that lasted all winter long. Then the heat was dialed up in April, bringing about a very early bloom in mid-May. June was mainly sane, but ended with very high temperatures, that soared into uncharted territory by the end of July. Harvest started on August 18th – 3 days later than in 2015 – and continued in consecutive passes through the vines until September 6th, with sugars at 23 Brix in average. The grapes were whole-cluster stomped in open-top fermenters, where un-inoculated, sulfite-free fermentations took place on 100% of the stems. Pressed after 7-9 day macerations into 9 to 26 year old barrels. Aged on the primary lees for 15 months, bottled by gravity unfined/unfiltered on December 15, 2017, with one sulfur addition of 35ppm. Production: 1222 bottles (~102 cases). Alcohol: 13.4%.