2005 Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Carneros: Knittel Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
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 Renteria.
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!: Today’s Carneros Pinot Noir (Napa Valley) is fantastic.
SAVINGS ALERT!: Enjoy FREE Ground Shipping with your purchase of 6 or more bottles when you use coupon code: PINOTSPY at checkout
Mission Codename: A little slice of Carneros
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Our Operatives were crazy for Renteria’s 2004 Carneros Pinot Noir from Knittel Vineyard. Return to our friends at Renteria and sample their 2005. If its as good as their ’04, procure a bigger quantity this time around.
Mission Status: Accomplished! (its better!)
Current Winery: Renteria
Wine Subject: 2005 Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir, Knittel Vineyard
Winemaker: Karen Culler
Backgrounder: The famous Carneros (or Los Carneros) region straddles the border between Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Most notably known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the rolling hills and the cool breezes that blow from the San Francisco (San Pablo) bay to the south provides an ideal growing climate for those varietals.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Clear ruby-red and a luminescent glow, pinkish-orange edges and long slender legs that streak down the side of the glass when swirled.
Smell – Profound aromas of black cherry, sweet cherry jam, with hints of spice, gun powder and the absolutely required ‘Pinot’ earthy quality.
Feel – Smooth and velvety across the entire palate, surprising when compared to the bold nose on this wine. Medium-bodied with medium light acidity and medium tannic structure that leads to a texture that balances its minerality with a slightly creamy component.
Taste – Jammy fruit with cherries, hints of spice, very mild toasted oak and an earthy and herbaceous layers as well.
Finish – This Pinot finishes super clean and elegantly with a smooth finish that incorporates its flavor components.
Conclusion – There is a reason that the Carneros region is known for Pinot and this wine demonstrates why. Its bold nose, smooth and velvety texture and elegantly incorporated flavors, makes this wine a pure joy to drink.
Presented for your reading enjoyment, what follows is our original mission to Renteria:
With harvest nearing, I was only able to observe the Renteria family at work in their estate vineyards. This time of year, it is difficult to have a sit-down with most winemakers. Rather than go undercover using an assumed identity to gather intel, I decided to visit the winery to learn what I could from other on-site staffers.
My contact at the winery gave me a leisurely tour, detailing for me the rich history of the Renteria family and their love of growing the grapes that make up some of the finest wines in the world.
The family itself now owns 53 acres of vineyards in Napa and is planting 27 more. In 1997 they launched their own Renteria label and today produce 1,800 cases annually of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
While taking our tour, Oscar Renteria, who now runs the family business, gave a quick wave and a smile. As we watched him speaking animatedly with his workers, it was obvious that this was a man who was passionate about his business and about wine.
The site where the family is building its winery and wine caves is stunningly beautiful. While construction only just began this summer, it is clear that this will be a wonderful destination for wine lovers.
A trip to the makeshift tasting room after our tour was a perfect way to retreat from the heat of the Napa summer afternoon. Inside I learned more about the family history and about the love that ties this particular winemaking family to each other and to the earth that they farm.
With the help of consulting winemaker, the famous Karen Culler, Renteria is producing some fantastic wines. Of particular note to me was their Knittel Vineyard Pinot Noir, a great Pinot that is simultaneously a classic example and a tasty interpretation, born of a rich winemaking history, modern growing and production techniques, and, oh yeah, lots of love.
Winery Background Check:
While it is not uncommon to find tenth-generation winemakers throughout Europe, America is too young a country for this to be possible.
Today in this country, there are a small handful winemakers whose families are becoming multi-generational artisan winemakers.
45 years ago, a young Salvador Renteria arrived in California from Mexico. He began work as a field laborer and worked his way quickly to vineyard supervisor. After years spent developing his own planting techniques, he got the attention of major wine producers like Beaulieu Vineyards, Clos Pegase, Cuvaison and Silverado – and went to work planning and planting these now famous vineyards.
Salvador went on to found his own vineyard management company where he put his love of the business to work as he managed some of the largest and most successful vineyards in the Napa Valley.
Salvador’s son, Oscar, grew up in the vineyards alongside his father, learning the family busniess from top to bottom. In 1993, Oscar took over management of the company and carried forth the traditions and the love of wine production that his father imbued him with. Working with select vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River, Renteria still grows world renowned grapes for clients that include William Selyem, Robert Mondavi Winery, Caymus, Rombauer and Duckhorn. By combining practical, generational field knowledge with innovative trials and experimentation, the Renteria family has found a balance which allows them to grow the finest grapes possible.
Karen Culler started her winemaking career as a child, making homemade wine with her father and grandfather in Ohio. Her job was to destem the clusters by hand.
Many years later she attended the University of California at Davis to get her Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology (grapes and wine). After graduating from UC Davis in 1984, she started a 6 month internship at Robert Mondavi Winery in their Research Department. Six months turned into two years and when Robert Mondavi purchased Vichon Winery, Karen joined Vichon as Assistant Winemaker in 1986. In 1989, she became Winemaker.
In 1996 started her own label, Culler Wines, and began producing her well respected wines with the harvest of 1997. She also consults as winemaker to various other wineries in Napa Valley, such as Renteria, Wolf Family Vineyards, Ladera, and Rivera.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The Knittel vineyard is located in a prime site, south of Highway 12 on Los Carneros Road on the Napa side of Carneros. An experimental vineyard, it was planted by Renteria Vineyard Management in 1997. It has all of the aspects of a perfect Pinot Noir vineyard: planted on an east facing, gentle hillside on clay soils in a cool microclimate to five different Pinot Noir clones. The different clones not only add complexity but also impart various sensory components to the wine. Clone 115 is the largest block and adds depth and tannin structure. The Dijon clones 667 and 777 give the wine’s aroma the higher fruit tones, while the complexity and “spice” flavors come from the California selections, Calera and Swan.
The approximate location of Renteria’s Carneros Knittle Vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.
The location of the new winery can be seen in this satellite photo
What the winery says
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Renteria, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
About This Wine:
The Renteria Knittel Pinot Noir is a classic Carneros Pinot Noir, typified by red fruit aromas, especially fresh strawberry. The palate is full bodied, with ample tannins while still having a soft, velvety texture. The wine is fairly slow to open, but will develop its full potential within the year after release and should improve for the next 5 years.
The 2005 Knittel Pinot Noir is characterized by its complexity and soft tannins. Although the palate has a rich and full finish, it is softened by a velvety mid body. The aroma of the Knittel Pinot Noir is, year in and year out, characterized by plush aromas of strawberry jam, common in excellent Carneros Pinots, but very pronounced and appealing in the Knittel Pinot….we have come to call it the “Knittel nose”.
The Knittel vineyard, planted in 1997, is located in a prime site, south of Highway 12 on Los Carneros Road on the Napa side of Carneros. It has all of the aspects of a perfect Pinot Noir vineyard: planted on an east facing, gentle hillside on clay soils in a cool microclimate to five different Pinot Noir clones. The different clones not only add complexity but also impart various sensory components to the wine. Clone 115 is the largest block and adds depth and tannin structure. The Dijon clones 667 and 777 give the wine’s aroma the higher fruit tones, while the complexity and “spice” flavors come from the California selections, Calera and Swan.
The 2005 Knittel Pinot Noir was picked September 19th and 21st. The 2005 harvest was a late, cool growing season and harvest. The harvest of the different clones at Knittel is normally separated by 1-2 weeks, but this year the weather ripened the grapes at almost the same time.
The must was cold soaked four days prior to fermentation in open top fermentors with Assmanshausen yeast, while being punched down at least 4-5 times a day. It was pressed at dryness, and put into French oak barrels immediately. The wine was aged 12 months in barrels prior to bottling on October 10, 2006.
About The Winery:
Salvador Renteria arrived at Sterling Vineyards in 1962 from Mexico working first as a field laborer, then a vineyard supervisor. After several years, Salvador left to oversee the formative vineyards of Beaulieu Vineyards, Clos Pegase, Cuvaison and Silverado. While working these vineyards, Salvador initiated novel vineyard experiments which earned the respect of famed vintners such as Andre Tchelistcheff, Rick Forman and John Thacher.
Urged by these winemakers to implement trials on trellising, canopy management and other innovative grape management techniques, Salvador was among the first in the Napa Valley to do so. Salvador had the rare ability to focus the divergent ideas of different winemakers and as a result guided their vineyards into lower yields and higher quality grapes. Because of his skill and Hispanic heritage, Salvador was also able to bridge the difficult cultural and communication gaps that often exist between wineries and vineyard workers.
In 1987, based upon the high demand and stellar reputation of his winegrowing, Salvador started his own vineyard management company, Renteria Vineyard Management. At the time, it was one of the first Mexican owned vineyard management companies in Napa Valley and is now among the top three. Tending many of the most prestigious Napa Valley vineyards, Salvador quickly garnered a reputation for his exceedingly high standards- a reputation his son Oscar would embrace and upon which he would build.
In 1993, Oscar Renteria, who had worked alongside his father for many years, assumed proprietorship of Renteria Vineyard Management. Oscar continued to care for the handful of distinguished vineyards his father cultivated and progressively increased his clientele. Working with select vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River, Renteria grows world renowned grapes for clients that include William Selyem, Robert Mondavi Winery, Caymus, Rombauer and Duckhorn.
Continually increasing the quality of geographically diverse vineyards, Oscar implements new approaches in vineyard technology. While father and son continue their hands on approach to viticulture, Oscar believes the infusion of technology is insurance for the future. By combining practical, generational field knowledge with innovative trials and experimentation, the Renteria family has found a balance which allows them to grow the finest grapes possible.
Special Designation: Knittel Vineyard