2018 Poseidon Vineyard "Primo's Hill" Pinot Noir
The aging vines on Primo’s Hill give this Pinot Noir a special character. Unlike the fruity exuberance of young vines in full vigor, these plants carefully grow small, loose clusters of berries endowed with depth and wisdom—if such a thing can be found in fruit. This is a medium-dark Pinot, with aromas of black cherry, mocha, dark baker’s chocolate, anise, cola and rhubarb. With the wine freshly in bottle, it is shy and midweight, showing flavors of plum, black cherry, sage and baking spices. It’s not brooding, but the age of the vines speaks clearly and eloquently, with a balance that can only come from the experience and wisdom of age.
At our Poseidon Vineyard, originally planted in 1973, the maritime influence of the Carneros grape-growing season delivers cool, foggy mornings followed by warm days; ripening is nurtured slowly. At the center of our vineyard rises Primo’s Hill. Carneros soils began as the bed under San Pablo Bay; the silt of marine plants and animals, decomposing over time—and integrating with the finest particles of eroded rock—became clay. This darker and heavier soil comprises most of the vineyard land in Carneros, but as the Bay retreated and the drainage of Napa and Sonoma Valley cut through the clay, deposits of pebbles accumulated on the embankments. It is one such gravelly patch that is exposed on Primo’s Hill, allowing for better drainage and reduced soil compaction and resulting in deeper root penetration. The two-acre flanks of Primo’s Hill consistently produce our finest and most distinct Pinot Noir, which we capture in this reserve bottling.
As the impact of the 2011-2017 drought continued to fade, the growing season was characterized by moderate temperatures. Fruit development was gradual, without stress, and uniform. But as harvest got underway, temperatures varied dramatically, creating a nerve-wracking stop-start, wait-versus-race dynamic for the crews and cellar. Attention and experience in the vineyard proved critical during this stretch. While wildfires created havoc in other parts of the state, the Poseidon Vineyard was entirely unaffected. The harvest was one of the most generous and flavorful crops in recent memory.
The band of soil that transitions between the upper and lower parts of Primo’s Hill is a gentle, pebble-and-gravel slope. It is here that the fruit for this special wine is farmed. Flavors develop fast on this “skirt,” and the fruit is concentrated with the classic essences of Pinot Noir. Lower yields and the higher skin-to-seed ratio provide the tannin backbone of the wine. The grapes are destemmed, then fermented hot in small tanks for a quick extraction. While the juice is still warm and active, it is placed into new Kádár Medium Toast Plus barrels. These barrels are kept in the warmest part of the cellar to continue the fermentation process. This early transition to barrel is what distinguishes the flavor profile of this wine from its peers. The smoky, charry notes of the fresh oak barrels steep into the young wine and add to the savory, reductive aromas of this Pinot Noir. After 15 months in barrel, the wine is racked off the lees and bottled without fining or filtration.
Alex Beloz, Winemaker