This Knez Winery Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard 2014 was a fun one on a few levels. Here’s what I told my wine club members about it:
I’ve handled a number of wines from the Cerise Vineyard over the years, for good reason, this might be the best Pinot Noir vineyard in the state, that you’ve never heard of.
Before I go on, Antonio Galloni from Vinuous (he’d the dude who was suppose to take over for Robert Parker at Wine Advocate, before things got weird and he started his own site) has scored this single vineyard Pinot for the past three years: 94 points in 2012, 94 points in 2013 and finally, 95 points for what’s in your glass now.
It’s truly one of the best Pinot’s made anywhere for the 2014 vintage.
“Dark red and purplish hued fruits, wild flowers, mint, spices and rose petal notes meld together in the 2014 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard. The Cerise is deceptively medium in body, but it packs serious intensity. Expressive, floral-infused aromatics give the Cerise its inner sweetness and perfume, while beams of underlying tannin give the wine its shape. This is another superb wine from Knez. “
Ok, so let’s talk about where Cerise is located. The Anderson Valley is technically Mendocino, but it’s a damn hike from my house. Basically, you drive north past Healdsburg and the Russian River Valley, then cut across to the coast. It’s a wild, wild spot. Part of the allure for the locals is that you not only lose cell phone reception at points going across the valley, but you even lose the radio in its entirety. Winemakers that I know whom live in Santa Rosa joke that when they source fruit from Anderson Valley, they buy themselves a few books on tape to help pass the time. Podcasts are also popular.
2014 in many ways was when we started seeing the drought come into play in California vineyards for the first time. Yields were down, but the nice thing for vintners, the quality was still consistent. Vines were stressed from a lack of water, but Napa, much of Sonoma and certainly Mendocino weren’t as affected as say Paso Robles was.
In Anderson Valley, rain is always on everyone’s minds. There is always concern that a long and unnecessarily cool growing season will lead Pinot Noir to be hanging on the vine into October-exactly when the rains start to show up in force, ruining crops and entailing so many late night emails to distribution lists, asking for any help that we can give to help pick.
In 2014 though, there was rain in February, the perfect time because it’s before bud break. Then it was a long, warm growing season. That warmer than average season allowed an early harvest, so literally vintners weren’t left with a care in the world. Combined with lessening yields, it ensured that vintners sourcing fruit in the valley, had an outstanding set to work with.
Ok, so there’s one last piece of information here. If you were to make a list of the most important names in California made Pinot Noir, you’d without a doubt have Kosta Browne on that list. The 38 acre Cerise Vineyard was purchased by Kosta Browne a few months ago. Here’s what the Kosta Browne folks had to say about the purchase:
Scott Becker, president and CEO of Kosta Browne, told Wine Spectator the decision to purchase Cerise Vineyards was less about the zip code and more about the pedigree of quality. “What excited us was the energy of the place,” he said. “It checked all of our boxes for making wines that reflect the place they come from, from the extremely cool climate to the soil, elevation and southwest-facing exposure—it offers us something distinct.”
I’ll take a minute here and mention that you’ll read about how Cerise is either 38 acres, or 60 acres in size depending on the source. As part of this shipment you’ll also be receiving a Knez Vineyard Pinot Noir, Knez is one of the other properties that sometimes gets included to add to the original 38 acres to get to 60. It’s a different vineyard, not a different block and I think when you taste the two wines, you’ll see why I tend to keep them seperate.
In any case, for those of us that enjoy smaller producers, this is a bit of a hit. Knez offered a slightly different look into Anderson Valley Pinot than some others. Plus, it’s also a sign of the times.
Quite frankly, Anderson Valley has sprung into the mainstream wine consciousness faster than could have reasonably been expected. There’s an entire range of perhaps a few thousand wineries based in Sonoma, clamoring for more fruit, better fruit etc. Anderson Valley, if based on location alone, would be a logical starting point. But, the quality and type of fruit fits into what people are looking for as well.
Larger plots in the valley are hard to come by. It’s hard to build out vineyards with environmental restrictions, there’s plent of old growth California Redwood sitting around, which pretty much cannot be touched, ever, for any circumstances. But really, one line sums up the entirety of this sale:
“Fine wine is fundamentally a land game and you must have the best sites.”
For smaller wineries, that’s an ominous assessment is it not?
For me, I’ll try and figure out what that might mean over the longer frame, while enjoying the last vintage I can get from what was one of my absolute favorite vineyards in California.