Vintners Collective in Napa, California, recently shipped two Pinot Noir’s from Ancien Wines. One was their 2008 Russian River Valley, the other their 2008 Sonoma Mountain Red Dog Vineyard. It was a good opportunity to compare the winemaker’s (Ken Bernards) craft, exercised on the same grape from two different places.
The first wine, from the Russian River Valley, had aromas of black raspberries, dark-fleshed fruits, spices, earthy notes, and chocolate. The palate was boysenberry, black raspberries, tobacco, a hint of menthol, and milk chocolate. The finish was medium long, with soft tannins. It tended slightly to the acid side, and evolved into juicy sweet cherries. In his tasting notes on aroma, the winemaker noted “… concentrated dark fruits, rich earthy spices, black cherry, plums, blackberry, cassis, strawberry pie, and candied violet…” On the palate he noted similar flavors to those in the nose, and “…revealing hints of red fruits and underlying layers of pepper, vanilla bean, espresso bean, and cacao.” This wine retails for $45.00 through the Vintner’s Collective.
The Russian River Valley is located North and West of Sonoma Mountain. The vineyard supplying grapes for this wine is located in the Southwestern corner of the appellation, which as a much lower elevation (under 300 ft, based on the general location). According to the vineyard notes, the climate is cool, with maritime breezes and fog coming in through the Russian River gorge, settling into the lowlands where this vineyard is located.
The Red Dog was rich, earthy, and spicy on the nose, with cardamom, cigar box, strawberries, talc, alcohol, and dark cherries on the nose, and dark cherries, black raspberries, licorice, eucalyptus, coffee, and spices, with some vegetal notes, on the nose. This wine had a long finish that was slightly bitter on the sides of the tongue and spicy under the tongue. It evolved to a cherry/milk chocolate aftertaste that was quite pleasant; the flavors lingered for quite some time. The wine was not overly tannic. This wine retails for $48.00 through the Vintner’s Collective.
According to the winemaker, “The nose opens to an exotic flush of roses, lilacs, holiday spices, dried mushrooms, and dried cherries…in the glass, fresh black cherry, cherry preserve, ripe plums, dried cranberries, and hints of geranium and pipe tobacco. The palate is rich and concentrated…boysenberry and strawberries are hinted at as the acidity lifts the mid-palate. The palate fills with an earthen and tannic strength, and the finish is long and dominated by fine, dry tannins and dried fruits.”
The Red Dog Vineyard is located at about 1,000 feet, on the eastern face of a ridge located on the western side of Sonoma Mountain, more or less midway between Petaluma and Yountville. It’s climate is affected by the Petaluma Gap, which contributes to a cool growing environment for the grapes. There are a number of wineries located in the Petaluma Gap, taking advantage of this climactic feature.
Both wines were quite good, but I preferred the Red Dog. It was more complex on both the nose and the palate, with a longer more enjoyable finish. However, of the two wines, I feel that the Russian River Valley iteration might be a better food wine than the Red Dog, as the acidity felt slightly higher. The complexity of the Red Dog allowed the wine to stand quite well on its own, while the Russian River begged for a bit of lamb!