Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Out West, They Grow Them Big

A week or so back, when I was trolling wine stores looking for some Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, I had a most pleasant chat with a distributor who was pouring some fetching wines at Morrell Wine. I liked her opinions, so I pulled a Sonoma Coast Flowers Pinot off the shelf and asked her if she enjoyed the winery's products. "Not really," she said. "I've never really liked them." Why? Too big? "Yeah. Too big."

I then asked her what Pinots on the shelf she did like. She pulled down the Arcadian Pinot Noir 2004 from the Santa Rita Hills. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was one of her own wines. But she said, with seeming sincerity, that it was being underrated, was as good as any of the more touted west coast Pinots, and at $30 was a steal.

I was curious, so I took one home. Arcadian's winemaker is Joe Davis and the winery's credo appears to be low production and wines in the Burgundian model. OK so far. The wine's alcohol level of a whopping 15.8%, which didn't thrill me, but I liked the honesty of the back label description, which mentioned the many hot days the vintage endured and admitted "we find this wine to be much different in texture and balance from anything we have produced previously."

The wine was tight and meaty upon opening and needed a good hour to breath. Tons of concentrated blackberry-like jammy fruit was right there at the front but right under it was a carpet-thick layer of tannin. My tongue had to stand up to this boy with every sip. At times I liked the roughness of the wine, other times I felt like yelling "uncle." After a few hours, it really broadened out. I had to admit it had character to burn. But I also felt I would enjoy it more if I laid it down a few years and let it mellow and integrate itself.

I'll look for Arcadian again. But maybe not in such a hot year. Any of those coming up, I wonder?

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