2014 Comptche Ridge Pinot Noir
Comptche, Mendocino County, CA
2014 Vintage: The year began with continued drought conditions, unusually warm winter temperatures, and very little frost. These conditions combined motivated the vines to wake up and begin their growing season 4-6 weeks ahead of normal. These same warm temperatures allowed for an even fruit set, and, happily, a great deal of concentration from tiny berries in both Pinot and other varietals. The ripening season itself was dry and consistently warm, queueing the grapes up for one of our earliest harvests on record -- we started bringing in fruit in mid-August.
Vineyard: This remote vineyard is located in a small natural clearing above the town of Comptche, just inland from the northern Mendocino County coast. Owned and managed by the Weir family, Comptche Ridge is dry-farmed on a complex mix of fine sandy-clayey Franciscan soils, and is ringed completely by high redwoods and Douglas fir. The vineyard, planted primarily to Swan clone, yielded less than two tons per acre.
Winery: The fruit is generally harvested at 22-23 brix. We use about 40% whole clusters in the fermenter and destem the remaining fruit. The grapes have a very long cold soak, upwards of 12-14 days, where cap is punched only once daily and is protected by dry ice. We don't inoculate or add enzymes at primary stage and let uncultivated yeasts perform the fermentation, which is typically hot and fast, usually with three punchdowns per day. We very gently press the wine when it has been dry for a few days in the fermenter, and we do not separate the free run and press fractions. At this point, some of the whole berries do release a touch of fresh, carbonically-macerated juice. This means that the fermentation is officially completed in barrel. Single-vineyard Pinots see about 15% new oak with the remainder neutral. We do not initiate malolactic fermentation, which often will last uninfluenced until the following Spring. We employ a bit of lees stirring at the beginning of elevage but then leave the wine to uncoil in barrel with periodic topping. We by and large bottle the Pinots 16-18 months post-harvest.
Tasting: The wines from Comptche Ridge often have a long, low profile, totally beholden to low forested ridges that house the site. On gentle aeration, hints of cassia bark and rose hip unfurl, followed by warm, but fresh, red fruits. The palate echoes these aromatics but adds the detail of dewy forest duff and redwood sorrel. Structured acids and well-worn tannins give the wine a stable, even base upon which the wine will age; we suggest a minimum of 2-3 years’ aging.