Uncovering Treasures Beyond the Golden Gate Bridge
Post by Chuck Hayward | June 24th, 2011
Tasting through the pinots that were recently poured at the Seventh Annual Marin County Wine Celebration in Larkspur was a revelation. It had been about three years since I last had a chance to immerse myself in the wines from this emerging appellation. And while some of my past impressions were reconfirmed, at the same time, I gained a few fascinating insights that bode well for the region’s future:
The quality of winemaking is at a high level. Yes, it takes good grapes to make great wine, but it also requires skill. Many winemakers working with this fruit are at the beginning of their wine careers, yet with acclaimed vintners like Sean Thackrey and Scott McLeod (ex-Rubicon, now Skywalker) overseeing their crushpads, there is no shortage of star power. Plus, a few of the winemakers now have around five vintages under their belt and have gained an in-depth understanding of their sites that they can pass on to new vintners. The combination of older vines and increased experience will provide the foundation for excellent wines in the future.
Noticeable characteristics distinguish Marin County pinots. One of the most telltale attributes is the dark color of the finished wines. It turns out that the strong winds which propel the fog into the valleys of Marin and Sonoma make it quite difficult to grow grapes. To protect themselves, the grapes naturally develop thick skins giving the resultant wines lots of pigment and powerful flavors. The prevailing winds also reduce yields by making pollination difficult, which creates smaller bunches at harvest and therefore higher skin/juice ratios. (more…)