Sequana Pinot Noir 2009, California (Santa Lucia Highlands and Dutton Ranch)
Cost: $32, 45
What: These two Pinots are spectacular, just the thing to prove that American Pinot Noir can be very good. I often struggle with California Pinot because I much prefer the restrained Old World style of French Burgundy.
But these two are New World style with lots of forward fruit, but they can compete with the best from anywhere in the world.
The vineyards for the Santa Lucia Highlands overlook Monterey’s Salinas Valley. The grapes benefit from a long growing season, allowing the fruit to develop complex flavors as it fully ripens.
This silky Pinot has earthy aromas and flavors of strawberry, cranberry and cherries, with a touch of spices. It is an elegant wine that spends about nine months in 40 percent new French oak.
As good as the Santa Lucia Highlands is, for a few dollars more the Dutton Ranch takes you to new heights. The aromas open with tea leaves and Asian spice, leading to red fruit flavors like raspberry, cherry and strawberry. The complex finish is long and full of layers.
Dutton Ranch is in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, an area known for a cool climate that is perfect for producing great Pinot Noir. This wine was one of the favorites at a local tasting last December.
Pinot Noir is a delicate and temperamental variety, so the winemaker must pay special attention to get the best results from each vineyard.
Winery: Sequana is part of the Hess Collection, founded on Donald Hess’ belief that great wines come from vineyards of distinction. Sequana’s first vintage was 2007, and it was Hess’s first venture into Pinot Noir.
The company decided to produce estate-grown wines bottled as single vineyard designates. Winemaker James MacPhail approaches the grapes from each Sequana vineyard diferently, letting the vines tell their own story. Artisan techniques such as hand- sorting, cold-soaking and extended maceration, along with aging sur lie in French oak capture this simple notion: the wine recalls where it comes from. Each Pinot Noir produced is unique. Sequana also produces a Russian River Valley, Sundawg Ridge from the Green Valley and Lakeview.
The name Sequana comes from the Franco-Roman goddess of the River Seine,
which flows through the ancestral birthplace of Pinot Noir.
The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978. The winery is best known for its flagship Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines, and single vineyard designates from estate vineyards in Napa Valley, such as the Allomi Cab. The company also owns wineries in Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
A leader in sustainable and organic practices, The Hess Collection adheres to founder Donald Hess’ philosophy: “Nurture the land; return what you take.”
Located in a historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, and later owned by the Christian Brothers, the winery first opened to the public in 1989. It since has earned international recognition for its wine, culinary and visitor programs, and provides free public access to Donald Hess’ extensive private contemporary Art Museum.
Goes with: I had the Dutton Ranch with roast duck prepared on a charcoal grill, and it was superb. The rich fruit cut right through the strong duck flavors, but the fruit was restrained enough that the wine didn’t compete with the food.
I had the Santa Lucia Highlands with a nice grilled jerk pork, and it also was a great pairing. Both of these wines would pair well with pork chops, veal, some light pasta dishes and mild cheeses. These are great food wines.