2005 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Dutton Ranch
California: Sonoma Coast
What we say
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Mission Codename: The French Connection
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure a stunning Pinot Noir that delivers a true expression of the winemakers experience as well as a real sense of place
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sheldon Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Dylan Sheldon
Backgrounder: Our Operatives love fantastic Pinot Noir. California produces some of the most exciting examples of this varietal, but too often Cali Pinot can be too fruit-driven and out of balance. For today’s wine, we sent Agent Red in search of a wine that expresses California, without straying too far from the grapes Burgundian heritage. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below for a full briefing
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Pale ruby red, with perfect clarity and sparkling pink edges, plus a tight and, when swirled, fast moving surface that leaves behind skinny legs that descend down the glass in perfectly matched pairs!
Smell – Rich aromatics, lead by a rush of earthy dark cherry, soft strawberry, subtle pomegranate, cedar and softest clove with hints of soft earthen spice
Feel – Soft and round at the front of the mouth, exciting yet ultra velvety at the mid-palate and the mouth-coating at the fringes with soft tannins. With decanting, this wine softens up and becomes even more round and smooth
Taste – Delicious and bright, this wine delivers flavors of dark cherry, natural cola, cassis, slightly under-ripe strawberry, subtle cranberry and a clean minerality
Finish – Exceptionally long and lingering with a mild dryness and flavors that change as the wine winds down, reminding you to take another sip. And another… and another…
Conclusion – This is a truely delicious wine that reminds us why we are so crazy about great Pinot Noir! While I would hesitate to call this a Burgundian-styled wine, I can say that present in this wine is a Burgundian influence. This, perhaps, imparted by Dylans exposure to winemaking during his time in France. This is a gorgeous wine, with bright flavors, lush aromatics and tender feel. If you love really great Pinot Noir, this wine from Dylan Sheldon is certain to please you.
Get Dylan Sheldon talking about wine – his wines or just wines in general – and be prepared to learn a thing or five. Dylan Sheldon is passionate about all aspects of wine making and his passion shines through in the wines that he crafts.
Today’s wine was tasted in a side-by-side comparison with a French Burgundy. I was stunned by the similarities, but also by the profound differences. Where the Burgundy showed a typical austerity, there was also a subtle restraint in Dylan’s Sonoma Coast Pinot. No over-the-top fruit here, but the fruit does really shine through. In all this is a very well balanced wine, which reflects Dylan’s own approach to making wine. He is, at once, naturist and scientist, allowing nature to play her part, but also fine-tuning and encouraging her along the way.
If you have not been in to the Sheldon tastingroom in Sebastopol, California, I encourage you to pay a visit. The room, set inside an old railway car, is cozy and intimate. Just be sure that you allocate enough time when you do visit, for Dylan will make the time fly by as he regales you with information and wine wisdom!
Wine Spies Winery Check:
The location of Sheldon Wines tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
This wine possesses a brightness & sense of place that reminds me of a walk in the Sonoma Coast redwoods after the rain. Tremendously expressive notes spicy yet earthy layers suggesting clove, truffle, & cedar followed by dark cherry, huckleberry & a dash of pomegranate…it just keeps going. Exotic & complex, the mid palate richness, bright coastal influenced acidity & firm yet polished whole cluster tannin, all braid into a serious mouthful of wine.
The grapes for this wine are grown in a small vineyard two miles west of the town of Sebastopol, which straddles the boundary of the Russian River Valley & Sonoma Coast AVA’s. This location benefits from the warm, but not excessively hot days typical in the Russian River, as well as the cooling Pacific breezes blowing in from the coast some 11 miles (as the crow flies) away.
Harvest took place between Sept. 24th and 28th, a blend of three clones, Dijon 115, 777 & Pommard 5 grown on the well draining soil known as ‘Goldridge series loam’, which is remarkable for it’s ability to nurture top quality Pinot Noir.
Crushed into small 1/2 ton open top fermentors, we cold soaked the grapes for 48 hours before starting fermentation. The fruit was fermented on the cooler side to retain the delicate aromatics of Pinot Noir. After 12 days we loaded the must into our 3/4 ton hydro-basket press, gently pressing off into a mix of 28% new & 72% seasoned French Cooperage. After 14 months we bottled Dec. 12th as always, unfined & unfiltered. This age worthy Pinot Noir should be cellared for another 6 months. If you’re like us & just can’t wait that long, please decant a half hour prior to serving. We believe our 05’ Pinot has just begun to show it’s full array of talents & drinking pleasure now in early 2009.
As these wines age, expect natural sediment to form. Our wines are unfined/unfiltered, because sterile wines have no soul.
About The Winery:
In the spring of 2000 I was working as a winery grunt intern on the other side of the World, Margaret River in Western Australia to be exact…hand loading clusters of Estate grown Chardonnay, into an old Champagne press. I’d been working over 90 hours a week for as long as I could remember, eaten more Vegemite sandwiches than I could count, I was a bruised, bee-stung, sticky, & exhausted mess… I had an ear to ear grin through it all. After the last grapes were pressed, the crew was headed out on the town for a well deserved pint! “Oi!… there’s a phone call for the Yank!” The tasting room staff shouted out. An old friend had tracked me down with a job offer. There was an opportunity to open a Wine Bar back in Carmel, California, with a side gig teaching wine appreciation classes, was I interested? After vintage I returned to the States and took up the offer.
“Cepage” Wine Bar opened late in the Summer of 2000. “If you build it they will come…” Enter: Tobe Weatherly, a recent transplant to the area, after a decade of studying geology in Boise Idaho (and sneaking in 100+ days a year of skiing). Tobe became a regular at “Cepage”, it was soon discovered that we shared a similar palate, and passion for itinerary-free travel. Just a few months after coming to the Monterey Peninsula she started talking about an extended trip. She knew I had worked overseas in wineries & came by regularly to ask questions. I thought this was a great idea for her, I gave it the hard sell…it worked so well I convinced myself too!
We started planning our own separate trips to work vintage. I had sent out resumes’ to New Zealand and had talked to Tobe about places she might want to visit, and how to get on as an intern at a winery. As we became better friends we talked about maybe meeting up somewhere in Australia, New Zealand, you know… if it happened to work out that way. My resume got passed around in New Zealand until it reached Gordon Russell @ Esk Valley Estate winery in Hawkes Bay. I was offered a position for the 2002 vintage, which I gladly accepted. I mentioned I had a friend looking for an intern position, and he said “sure thing, we can always use another set of hands!” So two separate trips became one.
We shared a flat at the winery with the other crew members, and worked side by side for months under difficult conditions, often wet, cold, tired and hungry. We loved every minute of it, the barrel work, the crush work, monitoring the vineyards, all of it. And most importantly that we were doing the work with each other. Some would call it serendipity.
Tobe and I were married on a sunny afternoon May 1st, 2002, surrounded by vines turning to brilliant fall colors, barefoot in the ‘Terraces Vineyard’ overlooking the winery at Hawkes Bay. The next 6 months were spent traveling and studying the wine producing regions through nearly a dozen countries. We returned to the States to start our own fledgling wine label, never mind that we didn’t have a winery, or equipment, or grapes, or funding for any of it!
The Universe seemed to conspire to help us along the way, we were able to lease an empty winery, & borrow an old basket press. We each worked two full time jobs, auctioned off the wine cellar, sold our cars, & pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down to fund the first vintage, which produced 420 cases from 2003. In 2004 we ramped up production to just over 700 cases, and in 2005 we broke into the 1,000 case mark. We’ll be staying a small two person operation, to be able to know what’s going on in every row of every vineyard we use, to sort each cluster by hand, to focus on the subtle nuance of every individual barrel. For us, winemaking is not about aggressive manipulation or beverage manufacturing. Winemaking at Sheldon Wines is about building the aromas & flavors in the vineyards, then ushering them from grape to glass. In other words…“Get the best fruit possible, listen very carefully to what it has to say & don’t screw it up!” And most importantly, to never forget, that we are Alive…Awake…Free…most likely delusional.
Acidity: pH 3.68
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Sub-Appellation: Dutton Ranch
Bottling Date: December 12, 2006
Oak: 30% New French, 70% Seasoned French
Release Date: July 15, 2007