2006 Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Vigna Monte Nero
California: Monterey County: Santa Lucia Highlands
What we say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from CRU Monterey.
Mission Codename: CRU in the SLH
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands, a region famous for producing what are arguably the finest Pinot Noir in California, and return with a fantastic Pinot for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: CRU Monterey
Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir Vigna Monte Nero Santa Lucia Highlands
Winemaker: Michael Levin
Backgrounder: The Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) is regarded as one of the best – perhaps the best – Pinot Noir producing region in California. The Wine Spies have featured SLH Pinot in prior missions and today we send Agent Red to CRU Monterey, where their Pinot Noir is among the best he has tasted from the region. With Spring in full swing in California’s wine Country, Agent Red brings you a perfect springtime red wine. Read his tasting notes and mission report below for full details on this fantastic wine.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A perfect ruby red that maintains color concentration right to the edges of the wine, a super-tight surface, and closely space legs that run down the glass at varying speeds
Smell – A big nose-full of this wine tells us immediately that this is a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. With Santa Lucia Highlands characteristic aromas of gunpowder plus fruits of cherry and blackberry. The wine also exudes French characteristics with Earthy forest floor and dried herbs.
Feel – Rich and soft and round up front, this wine has a suppleness to it but also something of a tightness and a brightness that makes the wine really interesting and even fun in the mouth
Taste – Delicious and bright with great fruits of dark cherry, tart plum and ripe blackberry with an earthen herbaceous quality that the best SLH Pinots express
Finish – This wine becomes even more flavorful after you swallow it, with flavors that last and last a long time – to be replaced by the wines gentle tannins that dry the tongue slightly
Conclusion – What a wonderful surprise this wine was! On the recommendation of the winery, I had been sitting on the samples that I had procured from the winery for more than a month now. They kept insisting that I wait a little while longer to allow this wine to mature just a tad more. When I finally got the call from the winery, I immediately popped a bottle and then spent two days evaluating for you. Day one the wine was perfect. It had balance and brightness and aromas that sang out. After a day in a re-corked bottle the wine was even better, exhibiting more roundness, gentler fruit and a more supple mouth-feel. We Wine Spies are very fond of wines from Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands, particularly Pinot Noir from the region. To me, this wine delivers the best that Santa Lucia Highlands has to offer.
It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying my morning espresso. I was sitting in an open air cafe, nestled among
apple trees, and I was just waking up. Suddenly, a loud voice shakes me further awake.
“S’up, yo?! What brings the Secret Agent Man to the S.L.H?!”
I didn’t need to turn around to know who it was. One of my newest assets, Codename: “Dawg”, had proven to be very useful at obtaining information for me, but he wasn’t the most subtle informant in the world.
Patiently and as quietly as possible, I said to him, “Good morning, Dawg. Lower your voice and sit.”
The joke was lost on him, but, obediently, he sat.
“Yo, Red, check it. Me and my crew, we just found you a killer new release, yo. Its a Pinot, direct from the S.L.H.. I know how much you dig those, yo. And check this, the name of the winery is CRU. That name is off the hook, yo.”
Usually my patience with Dawg is bolstered by the knowledge that he delivers great intel. Today, I was not in the mood.
“Listen, Dawg…. Duane. You are 42 years old. You are a chemical engineer. You have 2 PhDs, 3 kids, a loving wife and your crew consists of your wine buddies from work. For goodness sake, you drive a minivan, Duane. How about we lay off the schtick for today.”
Visibly dejected, Dawg took off his hip hop sunglasses, removed his faux-diamond encrusted grill and slumped into his chair.
“Awww, geez, red… Why do you have to ruin my cover like that?”
Calmly, I replied, “Sorry, Dawg. Its been a rough week. What do you have for me, something great?”
He perked up.
“Yeah, Red. Listen, I have a friend that works at CRU winery. I trust the guy implicitly and, heck, I am a member of the CRU wine club so I know they make great wine. Anyhow, I managed to get my hands on their newest vintage. You can’t even find this stuff for sale yet. He’s letting us drop the wine on the world early. Heck, we might even be the first to have it.”
Dawg then fell back into his character soon after, but at least he told me which dead-drop to find the wine samples at. I thanked him, tried to do some crazy handshake with him, bade him farewell and rushed to retrieve the wine.
Once back in my safehouse, I let the wine settle for a few days before opening it. On opening, I tasted the wine and its aromas and flavors screamed Santa Lucia Highlands. After a few hours in the air, the wine only got better.
The Santa Lucia Highlands, in Monterey County, continues to impress and amaze me. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this region are fantastic and today’s Pinot from CRU illustrates this point in perfect detail. Its simply delicious.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Santa Lucia Highlands, where the majority of the fruit for this wine was grown, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
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About This Wine:
Elegant and well-balanced this Pinot has rich, earthy flavors, layered with robust expressions of red & black fruit character in the nose and mouth. The luxurious mouth-feel can be attributed to the soft tannins and to the barrel aging regime. We used a combination of 40% new oak (80% French, 20% Hungarian) for aging.
The Vineyard & Vintage:
The Santa Lucia Highlands sit on a plateau on the eastern facing slopes of the eponymous mountain range. The appellation has gained a stellar reputation as an ideal growing area for Pinot Noir. The Vigna Mont Nero vineyard is planted in stony granite based soils and chilled by cool maritime fog. This Pinot Noir was grown on 60% clone 777 and 40% clone 115.
The 2006 growing season started with heavy winter rains, but the weather turned mild and dry for the rest of the year. There were very few dramatic heat spikes during the summer. The mild summer and a protracted autumn allowed a long hang time for most varieties, which translated into relatively low acid levels and soft mouth-feel.
About The Winery:
Cru, a French term identifying prestigious, distinctive vineyards and the wines made from them, embodies the notion of select vineyard sites and unique indigenous style. After nearly 20 years crafting Monterey Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, our winemaker understands the intricacies involved in attaining this rare level of elevated distinction. He knows where the best vineyards are located and how to bring out the most in the wines made from them. CrU produces two varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Monterey County provides the ideal setting for crafting CrU wines. A superior region for growing premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the temperate marine climate of the upper Salinas Valley provides the perfect conditions for these cool-weather varieties.
About The Label:
Our wines feature the artwork of Ms. Tinna Savini. Her painting technique involves the manipulation of color and surface textures to create two contradictory, yet complementary canvases. These distinct elements are then mounted side-by-side to create an integrated and harmonious image. This symbiosis, along with Savini’s use of organic, landscape-inspired forms, make her works a compelling visual metaphor for the relationship between grape grower and winemaker, and the site-specific wines of CrŪ-Monterey.
Varietal(s): 100% Pinot Noir
Appellation: Santa Lucia Highlands
Harvest Date(s): October 12, 2006
Average Brix at Harvest: 25.1
Total Acid/pH/RS: 6.65/3.87/.05
Finished Alcohol: 14.8%
Bottling date(s): November 28, 2007
Total 9-liter cases: 225
CA suggested retail: $29.99