2004 Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir • Knittel Vineyard
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Napa)
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Mission Codename: Labor de Amor
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Answer the question, “Does love make better wines?”
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Renteria
Wine Subject: 2004 Carneros Pinot Noir, Knittel Vineyard
Consulting Winemaker: Karen Culler
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.
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 2004 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.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Light, clear and juicy pink
Smell – Strawberry, subtle gunpowder and earth
Feel – Velvety on the tongue-tip, medium tannin bite on the mid-palate with an all-over zing
Taste – Beautiful fruit with strawberry and lightest pomegranate
Finish – Long and lingering with a big mouth feel that lasts, with fruit and very subtle tobacco and leather
Conclusion – A slippery-smooth wine with a wonderfully rich nose, this is a classic Piont Noir with unique character and flavors that please, rather than make you feel as though you had been sucking on a fencepost.
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 location of the new winery can be seen in this satellite photo
Pairing: This wine paired beautifully with penne pasta and fresh garden-grown basil!
Wine Spies Technical Wine Analysis
Harvest Date: September 3, 2004
Winemaker: Karen Culler
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
What the winery says
The 2004 Knittel Pinot Noir was on picked September 1st and September 3rd. The 2004 harvest was an early ripening, fast harvest. The harvest of the different clones at Knittel is normally separated by 1-2 weeks, but this year the warm weather ripened the grapes at almost the same time.
The must was cold soaked four days prior to fermentation in open top fermentors, with both native and Assmanshausen yeasts, while being punched down at least 4-5 times per 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 August 31, 2005.
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 2004 Knittel Pinot Noir is characterized by its depth, richness and abundant tannins. Although the palate has a rich, tannic 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”.
Production: 467 cases