July 6, 2010

Three Pinots, One Guy Named Owen


Three wines. Three winemakers. One vineyard (pictured topographically at right).

This experiment is not so much ours as it is theirs -- the "they" being, the generous souls at Felton Road Wines and their co-consipirators from Pyramid Valley Vineyards and Craggy Range. We at the Lab are just the gleeful beneficiaries of the results.

Here's the story as we know it. A fellow named Owen Calvert bought a vineyard. Owen is generally regarded as a really good guy. He and his wife spend most of their time in bleak places providing aid and assistance to people in need; they are UN relief workers. Their vineyard is just across the road from the Felton Road winery, so Owen asked if Felton Road might like to manage the vineyard and use the fruit.

They thought it would be a better idea for Gareth King (Felton Road's aces viticulturist) to manage the vineyard (bio-dynamically) and to let three different winemakers make a wine from fruit branded as coming from the Owen Calvert Vineyard. In that, the vineyard would become a known entity, and when Owen Calvert returned home from his long missions, he might have something of sustainable value at the end of his porch.

So each of the three parti-
cipating wineries gets an allocation of what is essentially the same fruit and from that they make their own expression of what the vineyard has provided.

What better window to Dirt could there be?

The 2006 is the first vintage of this collaboration. And we carefully cellared an example of each wine, patiently waiting for them to blossom.

Then we sold the Lab and decided to drink up.

The Pyramid Valley Vineyard pinot smells of rich cherry fruit and loamy soil. It is elegant, long and linear, revealing in turns cherry, plum and nectarine, then spice, and stones. It has a lithe, almost feminine quality. It caresses the tongue like velvet.

The Felton Road wine offers similar aromas, if with a slightly more pronounced rustic, earthy tone. The fruit seems brighter -- cherry, tart plum and nectarine (could this last orchard fruit be the clue to the vineyard?). This is less delicate, less linear and the cooperage is somewhat more obvious. But it is, like the first, sensuously delicious.

The Craggy Range is also very, very good. It is the least earthy and mineral of the three, but the most fruit forward. There is, alas, no nectarine here -- but I'm not giving up my theory without further tests!

The family resemblance between the three is unmistakable. These wines are like brothers. The Marx Brothers. One obvious and upfront. One a thoughtful crowd-pleaser. And one silent and brooding, taut with mystery.

Are we any closer to our elusive goal? Have we found Dirt? Perhaps. But it's not like terroir drops down from the ceiling and quacks like a duck with the secret word.

To be continued...

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