This 2014 Bench Pinot Noir is pure, intense and fruit-driven. A bright burgundy hue matches the aromatic notes of candied cherries in a sweet, simple syrup. A hint of vanilla bean adds elegance to the nose, and one is also reminded of a spring garden harvest of strawberries and rhubarb. Though quite youthful at the onset, after time in the glass, the wine expands with beautiful texture on the palate The finish is soft and silky with a touch of Tokaj oak influence, allowing the purity of fruit to shine through.
The maritime environment of the Carneros grape-growing region delivers cool, foggy mornings followed by warm days that slowly nurture ripening. This seaside influence is particularly acute at our Poseidon Vineyard; one can see the masts of boats bobbing in the water just a few steps to the south. The prominent feature of our vineyard is the gravelly, geological “Bench”—the elevated, rocky, former riverbank of the Carneros Creek—that runs serpentine through the center of the site. From this unique geological feature spring some of our most distinct, small-production wines.
Drought led conversations all over the farmlands and vineyards of California in early 2014. However, strong, compact rains in February and March helped secure a solid growing season for the vines through spring and early summer. The size of our crop was minimally affected, but it was slightly lower than the previous two years. During harvest, there were no extreme heat waves, which helped moderate ripening. The tricky issue was that, with the record-breaking drought, the vines ripened fruit earlier than ever before. Most of our varietals were ripening at the same time in early September and it felt odd to be picking Cabernet Sauvignon alongside Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Timing aside, the modest temperatures of late summer and fall offered us the luxury of picking at optimum ripeness.
Each pick was fermented separately, and we were super excited to see how the different clones would taste. After several months in barrel, it was evident which of the clones we favored: clones 667 and 777. Clone 667 was highly aromatic and dense on the palate. Clone 777 was bright, lively and elegant. It seemed natural to keep a few barrels of these clonal wines for our special “Bench” blend of Pinot Noir. These wines were racked only once before bottling to maintain the pure fruit expression.
Michael Terrien, Founding Winemaker