La Crema Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast
Cost: $24-26
L a Crema pinot noir is one of those wines that has been popular for a long time. People know it is good, you see it everywhere, and you don’t think about it much.
Every time I drink it I am reminded why it is so popular. It is just what a pinot noir is supposed to taste like: full of ripe red fruit, juicy cherry, plums and blackberries. It is a refreshing wine that pairs well with a wide variety of food.
The suggested retail price is $25, but I often see it on sale for several dollars less. It is a fun wine to drink, even without food, so when you can find it on sale, you are getting a really good deal.
Sunset at the Outer Banks.
Powerful aromas of cherry and plum start things off, leading to complex fruit flavors with hints of spice and toast. Everything is in balance, leading to a long, pleasant finish with a smooth mouthfeel.
I was reminded of how good La Crema is on a recent visit to my primary care physician, a really good guy who likes wine. We often talk about various wines and he told me La Crema is one of his go-to wines. He also said a moderate amount of red wine daily appears to be good for your heart, moderate being the key word.
One of the things that makes La Crema so good is where the grapes are grown, in the Sonoma Coast region. When you think of the California coast you tend to think of warm, sunny beaches, but for wine grapes the coastal region means warm days and cool nights, often with morning fog, a great climate for growing grapes.
This allows the grapes to ripen slowly and fully, helping flavor development and acid retention. Acidity balances the ripe fruit flavors and helps make the wine good for food pairing.
After harvest the grapes were hand-sorted and gently de-stemmed with 70 percent whole berries in the tank. Then they were cold-soaked at 48 degrees for three days. Fermentation took place in open-top tanks, punched down three times a day.
Free run juice was transferred to tanks for one night of settling before racking to oak barrels (97 percent French, 25 percent new). The wine then spent nine months in barrels,
The original name, La Crema Vinera, means “best of the vines,” and the winery sources fruit from the best areas throughout the Sonoma Coast. Depth and spice come from the Russian River Valley vineyards, earthiness from Los Carneros and red fruit flavors from the Green Valley.
I also loved the Sonoma Coast chardonnay ($23) and the Russian River Valley chardonnay ($30). The Russian River chard was especially good, showing juicy nectarines and lemons balanced with fresh acidity and a lingering finish.
Winery: La Crema was founded as a boutique winery by Rod Berglund in 1979, just as people were discovering how important the Russian River Valley was. He left to work for his father-in-law at Joseph Swan Wines, which he now owns. La Crema is still family owned and operated by Jackson Family Wines.
Jess Jackson bought the winery in 1993 and, with the help of wineaker Dan Goldfield, raised the quality of the wine. It is now considered one of the top producers in California for Burgundian varieties, such as pinot noir and chardonnay.
The winery also has bought vineyards in some of the most respected parts of the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Rita Hills, Green Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Mendocino, Carneros, Monterey and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They tend to focus on cool-climate regions.
The winery focuses on sustainability, in the vineyards and in the winery. They are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, everything from grape to glass. The goal is long-term health of the vineyards and their environments, as well as the people who work there.
Grape pomace (the seeds, stems and skins left after fermentation) is composted and reused in the vineyards. All winery water is recycled to use for irrigation. Habitat conservation around the vineyards provides biodiversity while nesting boxes provide homes for raptors and owls that keep the rodent population in check. Solar panels also provide about 65 percent of the electricity usage.
La Crema produces multiple pinot noirs and chardonnays, including some from Oregon; two pinot noir rosés; a pinot gris, and a sparkling brut rosé from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
After years without a tasting room there is one at the winery’s Saralee’s Vineyard. Fashioned from a 1900 barn that was later converted into a home, it features a back deck that opens out into a hilly section of the vineyard. Using reclaimed wood, glass and other surfaces, it still looks like an old building, but brought up to modern building codes.
Mary Jo gets the ham ready for dinner.
Goes with: We had this lush wine with a delicious spiral cut baked ham that my sister-in-law Mary Jo made while we were with her and her husband Russ at the Outer Banks. They had come to visit Teri and me so Russ and I could attend the inaugural Women’s Amateur Tournament put on by the Augusta National. Then we all went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
The sweet and salty ham was great and it was a good pairing with the La Crema pinot noir. Ham can be difficult to pair with wine, but pinot noir is always a good bet. The lush fruit flavors and smoothness of the wine cut through the saltiness of the ham and made a great meal.
We also had a fruit salad and corn on the cob. Looking out the window at sunset on the Albemarle Sound made the whole experience better.
This wine also would pair well with bacon-wrapped stuffed dates, roast chicken, duck and chocolate mousse.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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