2014 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir
When Mac McDougall purchased his stunning ranch spanning the Gualala River in the early 1960s he had no idea he’d ever be planting grapes on it, but in 1998 old friend Warren Dutton convinced him to do just that. On 9 wind-protected southeast facing acres he planted 2 Dijon clones of pinot. With Mac’s sad passing, his wife Barbara and son Rich now work and stress over it. The site wraps over the ridge at about 1,100 feet and has a spectacular view of the Gualala River, the Pacific Ocean, and Mac’s neighbors at Hirsch and Martinelli vineyards. The fruit has the exceptionally thick skin, deep color and natural spice that is so characteristic of Pinot from the high slopes of the “true” Sonoma Coast. Even in this coastal region, McDougall ripens fairly early, due to its thin, well-drained soil, sheltered south slope and low yields. This same environment also imparts the minerality and solid structure for aging that this area is known for. This vineyard wonderfully represents the wild beauty and intensity of the Sonoma Coast, both in its land and its fruit.
After hand sorting and destemming into small open top fermenters, the must is cold-soaked for 7 days in order to gently extract color, spice and fruit characters, while mitigating harsher tannins. To further this aim, no SO2 was used at the crusher. We punch down 1 to 3 times daily, according to the stage of the fermentation (less often at later stages to avoid harsh tannin pickup), but treat it very gently given the inherently solid structure of the Sonoma Coast fruit. After fermentation, the wine is racked into French oak to age, then racked and blended once in the spring of 2015 to choose our favorite barrels, homogenize the blend, and hone our barrel choices for final aging until bottling in January of 2016. For this wine, we’ve chosen Taransaud as the signature barrel, for the way it rounds out the edges of this big bold wine.
The maturing vines at McDougall are providing us ever more luscious fruit each vintage. While this wine is always a great candidate for your cellar, proving to be beautifully age-worthy over the years, the 2014 is especially friendly and welcoming even in its youth. The succulent, rich blackberry and black cherry compote perfume of the nose jumps out of the glass to wrap you in its assertive embrace. An underlay of cedar and top notes of allspice add savory interest to the fruit. The lush berry flavors continue in the mouth, bringing on layers of black cherry, raspberry, and blackberry, along with sandalwood accents. The wine manages to be dark and broody and tart and bright at the same time, always one of our favorite aspects of a wine. The broad tannins carry the long bramble-berry finish to a sweet end. The depth of the wine makes it perfect for heartier cool-weather fare, like grilled flank steaks with salsa verde or Italian sausages with polenta. Don’t forget to get an extra case for your cellar so you can taste its progress over the next decade and beyond.
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