Vibrantly colored in a glowing orb of violet hues, the 2015 Bench Pinot Noir is effusively aromatic with intense notes of baked cherry pie filling and dried strawberries, tempered with lighter rhubarb and pomegranate juice notes. The entry is soft, youthful and full of fresh flavors of red cherries mixed with the juice of blood oranges. A true expression of Pinot Noir that is unfettered by excessive use of oak or extraction, this is a wine that will please the eager Pinotphile now and reward the patient collector for years to come.
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.
2015 was the earliest vintage on record across the state. Four consecutive years of drought led to signifcant stress on the vines. Luckily, our mature vineyards with deep roots not only survived, but thrived, through the heat of a late summer. Earlier on in spring, however, we had a cool period during bloom which hampered set in many areas. Our Pinot Noir was mainly affected, with cluster counts reduced and tiny berry size, with some clusters growing only a couple of inches long. All this was great for quality but brutal on the yields and pocketbook. Our Chardonnay held strong with only slight reductions in crop. Quality was still high in our wines, despite the heat and we made excellent, ripe renditions of our Bench wines.
The three sections of this two-acre hill were picked separately over harvest, as were the different clones. 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.
Alex Beloz, Winemaker
Michael Blaise Terrien, Founding Winemaker