This wine’s story is quite unique. When the movie Sideways created an insane demand for California’s very limited supply of Pinot Noir, we went looking into previously unimagined sources such as the hard press “taille” from sparkling wine production. We discovered that a special crossflow filter called an ultrafilter could harvest the high tannin in these wines as a concentrate we could sell for beefing up weak reds, leaving us with aromatically wonderful Pinot Noir which then needed some color. In 2008 we processed hard press Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley and Marin County and produced this blend. We found an aromatically neutral teinturier named Rubired in a Lodi vineyard and used it to supply the color and structure to support these aromatics.
We then barreled down in very old cooperage. We were fortunate to have an abundant supply of the previous vintage to allow us to hold this wine for an incredible one hundred and eleven months. The result combines classic lavender and strawberry aromatics with soulful tertiary aromas of truffle oil and Asian spice which linger infinitely. Initially quite low in alcohol, its time in barrel elevated it to 13.5% through preferential evaporation of water in our dry California cellar.
Its considerable profundity and silky elegance is perfect for roast duck, quail or an elderly cheese. My cellar hands counsel us to serve this wine whenever romance needs a boost.
Clark Smith is an MIT drop-out who wandered out to California in 1972 and sold wine retail in the Bay Area for several years, where he acquired a love of Bordeaux, Burgundy and all things French and observed first hand the California winery explosion in the 1970s. After a three year stint at Veedercrest Vineyards, he secured enology training at UC Davis and spent the 1980s as founding winemaker for The R.H. Phillips Vineyard in Yolo County. In 1990, he founded WineSmith Consulting and patented a group of new winemaking techniques involving reverse osmosis, spinning off Vinovation, which went on to become the world’s largest wine production consulting firm over its 17-year history.
Frustrated with California’s winemaking trends, Clark started WineSmith Cellars in 1993 as a teaching winery to make Eurocentric wines to explore traditions beyond the mainstream, expanding for his winemaking clients the range of possibility for California fruit. Choosing to create long-term partnerships with committed growers rather than growing his own grapes, Clark has become an renowned expert on Cabernet Franc, having vinified twenty vintages from a wide variety of sites.
Teaching at Napa Valley College gave him access to the Student Vineyard for Faux Chablis and his Pauillac-style $100 “Crucible” Cabernet Sauvignon. From Renaissance Vineyards in North Yuba County he has made a sulfite-free Roman Syrah and also produces a Pinot Noir from Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills in a delicate, age-worthy Côtes de Beaune style. These wines are vinified in an ancient beat-up warehouse in Sebastopol, California.
WineSmith wines are noted for their longevity, classic balance, structural integrity, minerality and understated soulfulness. They often are aged extensively prior to release. When drinking a WineSmith wine, always ask yourself “What is this wine trying to teach me?” Clark is a vocal advocate of living soil and graceful longevity, and generally avoids excessive oak, alcohol, or extended hang-time. He is not shy about employing new tools when they are needed, such as alcohol adjustment to bring fruit into balance or micro-oxygenation to build refined structure, but always fully discloses techniques which are controversial and is outspoken in explaining his rationale.
His book, Postmodern Winemaking, is the culmination of four decades of reflection on wine’s true nature.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY
@vandemusser The 2007 Winesmith Pinot was beyond amazing, and so I’m probably going to give this a try. But it doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with the 2007 (different source for the grapes and different methodology unless I’m mistaken) and the sole comment on the 2008 on CellarTracker is not very positive and only rates it at 80 points.
So I’m hopeful (based on the 2007, and my previous good experience with Clark’s wines generally) but a bit worried based on the only actual unbiased tasting report I can find.
@daviator@vandemusser The wine certainly is different from the 2007, which was pure Russian River, whereas this has more fruit complexities and less of a laser line of focus. What they have in common with each other and with the Faux Chablis is they are not the expected California style, being lower in alcohol, higher in minerality, and rather than your basic in-yo-face fruit bomb, owe much of their interest to their 84 to 111 months in ancient cooperage. In consequence, none of the three do well in “unbiased” competitions (if there is such a thing).
During the summer RPM tour the group had an opportunity to taste this when Clark and his much better(SWMBO)half graced us with their presence at our farewell dinner. At that time I did have a glass with supper, but must confess, with the abundance of earlier bottles, and a now fried palate, I recall only it was red and was an older vintage from Clark.
Skip forward four months and about a week+ ago I received an unexpected shipment at FedEx, directly from the producer, for the identical bottling. So no ‘official’ Golden Ticket for this one, but, still, Rat duty calls. So, thinking I had plenty of time, and forgetting about the just how close the upcoming holidays were, I took it to work to share and gather notes from the group there.
What a fail that was; everybody either gone or too busy.
Timing just didn’t work and it got left at work. Oops!
Fetched it up Monday with intents that got postponed until yesterday.
And apologies to Clark for a very sub-par rat on my part.
PnP Wednesday evening, 16C, later than I hoped as I had to be at work before 0600.
Color: pale to medium garnet
Nose: Aromas of berry fruit and spice, from feet away, no need to bury your nose in the glass
Taste: Followed nose, no impression of sweetness/RS, firm acidity, mild but present fine tannic structure, all in good balance; fresh.
Finish: Lengthy. There is something here hopefully Clark will help describe, that I sense as warmth, but not from alcohol, no burn; minerality perhaps?
Second day, Friday, poured a glass ~18:30 or so and impressions unchanged, even after a couple hours of air.
I so wanted some food with this. Still not used to these early roll-overs.
For comparison I also popped a 2008 RRV PN from David Noyes and poured a bit of some remaining '08 Roessler Bluejay. Color and profile compared favorably with the DN (he worked with Peter W) and was lighter in color and body than the Roessler Anderson Valley that was completely different.
I’d really liked to have paired this up with some eats, but I’m on clear liquids, wine is clear, right?
Gotta switch to some MoviPrep that I’ll detest for that ugly procedure tomorrow that crimped my style tonight.
Cheers, and I’ll be in for a bit of this despite storage limitations.
Any SD interest in a split?
Good value here at the case level.
Greetings, O wondrous gang of oeno-geeks. This really is my favorite group to share my unusual experiments with. Thanks as always for giving my outside-the-box wines an even break.
Here is yet another of my hare-brained experiments which came out rather well, though I say it myself. When wife RuthE and I crashed the RPM tour at Brad Alderman’s backyard in Lodi, we brought half a dozen new releases, and though all were appreciated, this was the group favorite by far.
It’s doubtful that you’ll find another Pinot Noir like this any time soon. Rather than to follow the standard mantra that Pinot is delicate and needs TLC, we took the hard press from several top sparkling houses, incredibly rich in flavor but terribly harsh, and simply filtered out the harshness, leaving complex fruity lushness, silky texture and what I have come to call “spicy Burgundian flavor depth.”
Problem was, the wine had so much life energy that it was tight, closed and a bit at war with itself. We needed wait it out. It took almost a decade in very neutral cooperage – we bottled it last summer. The good news is that while still amazingly chock full of fresh berries, it developed exotic nuances reminiscent of tawny port, bacon, toasted marshmallow and such.
Since the initial juice wasn’t expensive, we were able to keep the SRP down to $40. Here we’ve slashed that more than in half for the next two days.
One note of correction of the video. The wine started out just under 12% alcohol, but selective evaporation in our California dry cellar over 10 years elevated it to 13.5%. Still quite civilized, though.
@winesmith Love the video - I was in for a case before I watched it but really appreciate all the insight into what went into this wine. Looking forward to enjoying this one for years to come. Keep up the great work, sir!
@winesmith Clark, what you don’t note here is that very long cooperage in neutral wood is hardly new. Historically, it was very much the norm, both in Europe and California. Back in the day when chateau bottling wasn’t even a thought…
Wine was typically purchased by merchants, and sometimes by very sophisticated drinkers among the aristocracies, in casks of varying sizes and stored by them in cask until bottling, typically shortly before sale.
To add California context, the virtual monopoly producer in pre-Prohibition California, the California Wine Association, kept its premium red and white wines in neutral oak in San Francisco (perfect cool, damp cellar temperatures) for many years. The top Cabernet was bottled and put into distribution at the age of ten, and the Riesling (then the top quality white in California) at around the age of seven - ten.
Obviously, otherwise far different grapes, sourcing, vinification, etc., but fascinating
@rpm Absolutely true. And even after prolonged aging in wood, wines were still expected to have cellaring potential. As you point out, even Riesling was aged considerably. The Blue Nun revolution in the late 60s changed all that by ushering in the notion that white wine should be fresh rather than profound.
It was much later that, at least in America, and partly due to the fact that new wine drinkers didn’t have wine cellars any more and wanted to drink their wines the day they bought them, that somewhere in the 90s many California wineries started employing strategies to rush wines to bottle including extended hang time, trading away profundity and longevity for drinkability and fruit-forwardness.
This is largely a domestic phenomenon. WineSmith is trying to preserve the notion that Eurocentric wines that are balanced and have structural integrity to go the distance can still be made in California.
2008 WineSmith Pinot Noir
I was excited to learn that I had a bottle of 2008 WineSmith Pinot Noir on the way for lab rat purposes but had to have the shipment held at UPS until we got back into town from our Holiday travels. First thing I did when we got back is head to UPS. It was like receiving an extra Christmas present!
My wife and I drank this together, here are our thoughts…
Me: Translucent ruby, good clarity.
She: Burgundy but closer to ruby when held to the light.
Me: Straight-up barrel room. Love it! Cherry, raspberry, mushrooms, old wood.
She: Cherry, strawberry. Tart with a little oak.
Me: Bright cherry flavors dominate, almost reminiscent of a Scott Harvey Barbera. Instantly apporoachable upon PnP. A light and nimble wine that’s freshness belies its vintage. Additional flavors of red fruits, well integrated oak and a little something… leesy? that adds complexity and rounds out the palate. Also a touch of ginger root on the mid-palate.
She: Bing cherry, cherry cough drop, red berries. Light oak. Something herbal or lightly spicy.
Me: Light bodied wine with juicy mouthfeel and mild tannins. Good acidity.
She: Light, juicy, light tannins.
Me: Fruit carries through to the finish, picking up some light herbal spices along the way. Medium length, mouth-watering, lip-smacking with a mild tannic grip.
She: Still getting bing cherries and light oak. Medium finish, light oak.
We both agreed that this wine is delicious and it disappeared very quickly. We were amazed that it tasted so fresh after 111 months in neutral French oak! While this is not a followup for the 2007 Russian River Pinot nor is it even in the same style, it is very good in its own right and well worth the Casemates asking price.
Thank you for the opportunity to sample this! After watching the video and reading about the source fruit and manipulations necessary to create the finished product… truly amazed at your abilities all over again!
Two questions - the first I usually don’t bother to ask because ageability is one of the hallmarks of your wines but given how instantly approachable this one is, I have to wonder what you think the long term prospects may be?
Secondly, the grape you used to add color to the wine after ultra-filtering - does it impart any flavors or aromatics into the wine?
I really have no idea as to age-worthiness except to observe that the wine seems very fresh and has improved markedly in the recent past. It shows no sign of dryness, so my guess is that it will improve for 5 - 10 years in a perfect cellar, but as you say, it’s darn good now.
On the other hand, and as several comments suggest, the wine certainly benefits from breathing, even for a few days, so it is nowhere near its last days.
I have not (shame on me) run an oxygen consumption diagnostic on the wine as yet, which would tell us a lot. This is an analysis I invented four years ago that I think is a vital piece of information about drinking window, potential for reduction, closure selection, impact of field oxidation of grapes left to hang too long, and a host of other windows on wine longevity. O2 Appetite varies about 10,000-fold among different wines.
For your second question, I do think Rubired, which is a descendant of Alicante Bouchet, has a sweaty fruitiness that I disliked initially. The aging processed transformed this into a complexing element I now find very sexy.
@Zortapa Upon further research, I find I was wrong about Rubired’s parentage. The variety is a crossing of Portugal’s Tinto Cao and Alicante Ganzin. However, since this is a close relative of AB, perhaps caution should be applied in your case
I just want to slip in a word here about Sandra Johnson. Many of you know her as our customer service Office Queen, and well she wears that crown while managing her two active growing boys with the help of free access to WineSmith products.
But here’s news. When my Assistant Winemaker Mike Faulk move on to pursue his dreams, Sandra stepped up to the job. What she lacks in experience and training she more than makes up for in passion, focus, hard work, a head for details and a voracious appetite for learning. She may be starting from little more than an appreciation for good wine and for our work supporting small wineries, but there’s an upside: in forty years, she’s the first Assistant Winemaker I haven’t had to unteach!
And for those of you who are Mike Faulk / Engracia fans, he and Maureen (well, she did all the work) just last week produced one Ava Joy Engracia Faulk, 17 inches 5 pounds, 6 ounces. All in high spirits. Mazeltov!
Shannon and I tasted this in September with Clark and Mike Faulk. Honestly, they opened so many wines that night that I didn’t remember it, which bothered me. The 07 RRV WineSmith is one of my favorite wines, and I wanted to know how this 08 was, so I ordered a couple bottles as part of a mixed case.
Opened the second bottle tonight to see how it was drinking after seeing Sandra’s email that it would be on Casemates. I agree with the excellent tasting notes so far, and will add, that like all of Clarke’s wines, this got better and more expressive with air and we loved it. It may be a completely different build of Pinot than the 07, but Clarke’s style and skill come through in spades. Killer Pinot QPR, especially at the case price.
I meant to mention that as we were getting close to the end of our bottle, I started to sense some additional complexity was starting to come out but we just couldn’t put it down once we started drinking it! Does it come in a magnum?
WineSmith…Pinot Nor---------111 months hidden in the cask;;;;;;;;;;Never had this one (Who Has)------------In for a Case, as if you didn’t know. jazzy-fascinated-teeth
Thanks Clark we have Loved everything you have offered. <No we’er not in his Will, just love his juice!!>
@chipgreen@mrn1 Hi Gentlemen, I’ll take anywhere from 3 to six bottles also. Not sure how the allocation is going between the two cases. Very nice Rat report!! You can whisper me as to the final split. Later
You will note in the tech that the TA is low. The palate energy in this wine is a good example of minerality. We do not know its chemistry, but its presence extends wine life considerably. See Chapter 8 in Postmodern Winemaking.
Labrat checking in here. We were lucky enough to get a bottle of this and I was super excited as I have been a fan of Clark’s wines for years but never had one of his Pinots. Now on to the tasting. We decanted for about an hour prior to drinking and the wine was singing.
Color: medium reddish burgundy with a hint of rust on the rim.
Nose: Dried /cherries, aged cherry compote. Definitely can smell the age with wonderful tertiary aromas of mushroom, woodsiness and a hint of anise. There is more there but we didn’t have our wine wheel and couldn’t put our fingers on it.
More cherry on the palate but a darker richer cherry (black cherry?), medium bodied for a PN, very well balanced with acidity and tannins. Medium long finish, delicious. I think this wine is near it’s peak.
Overall a delicious wine. I’ll be in for a case. This is a great wine if you enjoy aged wines. Wonderful flavors throughout. You can rest your nose in the glass for hours and enjoy this without ever taking a sip.
My mother was visiting and prefers younger fruit forward wines and she was not a huge fan although she did finish her glass
@propvin@tiger7610 Too far?! We have one couple flying in from Dallas this year. In the past, we’ve had folks drive here from DC area, Hartford, CT area, fly in from Dallas and San Jose. You’ll be missing a good time. And you’ll be missed.
@propvin It really is a great time, I think this is my 5th year or longer going to it. I do understand that 5 hours is a bit long time to drive, but I can tell you that the dinner by itself is worth it. You will be missed