The Sonoma-Cutrer Owsley Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2016 is a single vineyard Pinot Noir grown in the southeastern corner of the Russian River AVA inside the Sonoma County AVA of Northern California. The Owsley Vineyard is along the Bloomfield Gap which is the geological feature that funnels fog inland from the Pacific Ocean to the vineyards of the Russian River, Owsley is one of the first vineyards to receive the cooling effect of the fog in the evening and one of the last to have the sun burn the fog away the next mid-day. You may know Sonoma-Cutrer from their Chardonnay that is featured on countless restaurant wine lists, they are mainly a Chardonnay House and their Pinot Noir is something of a boutique winery inside of a Chardonnay winery, their Pinot production is housed in a barn (a very nice barn) away from the other facilities. The grapes from 2 sections of the vineyard and the wine is fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks. Open-top fermentation is difficult because in most cases you would want to control the oxygen going to the fermenting grapes, but open-top fermentation allows the Pinot to be brighter and livelier, so the risk is worth the results. The wine is aged in French oak for 16 months, 1/3 new barrels, 1/3 once used barrels, and 1/3 twice used barrels, and the barrels use oak from the best forests in France, this is not an inexpensive Pinot, they do not cut corners here. The alcohol content is 13.9% and you can tell this is a small production wine, the bottles are numbered, this one happens to be 2,452.
The color is a very clear, but somewhat dark (still see-thru) garnet red with black highlights. The nose is legit, one of my favorite things about a good Pinot Noir is the aroma, there is cherry, mushroom, bbq’d meat, a savory note, spice, a touch of vanilla, and faint Thanksgiving spice. This is a Pinot that is smooth upfront and complicated on the mid-palate. It starts with ripe cherry, cola, black pepper, and strawberry. The mid-palate shows several types of exotic spice (they each hit different parts of your palate), cranberry, tobacco, and a touch of cream. This is one of those wines where you take another sip and you notice additional flavors. The acidity is bright, it lets all the flavors and textures ample time to unfold. The finish mirrors the mid-palate and does not let go.
Normally when we write about Pinot Noir it’s one of those “I can’t believe it’s this good for $10” kind of wines, but the Sonoma-Cutrer Owsley Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2016 is really good, spare no cost wine. A well positioned top quality singe vineyard, oak barrels from the same place Grand Cru Burgundy wines get their barrels, and made in small batches by talented highly experienced winemakers. This one is probably in the $40 range and it may be easier to find on the Sonoma-Cutrer website than a wine shop. The Holidays often are a wonderful time to share an exceptional wine with family and friends and here is a tip. If you grab a bottle that is in the $50 or above range there is an excellent chance that wine is not meant to be consumed upon release and while you can drink it right away, you really are wasting money by not laying it down for a minimum of 3 or 4 years. If you are going upscale and buy a wine in the $40 range, the wine may have some nice aging potential, but is made to “drink-it-now”. That is way a wine such as the Sonoma-Cutrer Owsley Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2016 is right in the Holiday sweet-spot, a no compromise wine made to high standards, but still a drink-it-now wine ready to share with loved ones.