Wine is Elemental: Mind the Gap

“Grape cultivation is difficult, laborious, and not always rewarding work, dependent on a variety of factors (weather, soil conditions, insects, diseases) that are beyond a vintner’s control. The only certainty is doubt.” ~ Todd Kliman

In general, viticulture today has become so finely tuned that the average vineyard owner is far better prepared for adversity even when in or near the end of the ripening cycle. In combination, however, with other subjective tests of the fruit, an experienced winemaker can often pinpoint the best day to harvest the fruit to get the most sugar, lowest pH, and best elements of varietal character that the vine has to offer from its long growing season, even in an outlier year, like 2011.

The wine in today's spotlight from a producer I've long admired and one I think everyone in the wine-community should know about and possibly support via wine purchases. They're a relatively new producer known as Bruliam Wines, where indeed as their motto indicates "Wine is Elemental" an idea tasted in each new release. You may also be surprised to find out that they have a strong charitable outlook, making donations to a varied group of over eighty charities.

If you'd like to know more about their story and the different projects they're working on then I'd encourage to find out more here. In a nutshell, they speak Pinot Noir, bringing varied expressions, from well-known and unique vineyard site, where they source their fruit and give thankful homage to the vineyards named on their bottles.

Having spoken with many winemakers over the year's from up and down the west coast, I've come away with one conclusion that 2011, thought a distant memory for most, it was a tough vintage for many producers. If you recall it was a dreary overcast vintage, 2011 was the year much of the west coast did not have a normal summer. For the most part, up and down the coast, it was cloudy and gray for nearly the entire year; which meant hangtimes were extended. The ripening process, was not as robust in previous years, like the hot and heavy 2009 vintage, which resulted in high brix and early pick dates, even for late-ripening varieties.

Looking back at the 2011 vintage from the beginning of 2019 you can get a sense of this unique vintage, and its long aging ability. This is a vintage for those who are fans of balance and moderation, versus the typical hedonistic phenolic ripeness commonly associated with domestic west coast wines. But what does this mean to the average vino-sapiens out there? One, you should be paying closer attention to the critics to find the diamonds in the rough or simply enjoy a bit of restraint in this textbook definition of vintage variation.

Which is why I wanted to highlight this bottle for you today, because this Pinot Noir from the Gap's Crown folks is one of the real gems from 2011 that should score for your own cellar. The Gap’s Crown, a Sonoma Coast vineyard which also supplies Pinot Noir to top producers like Kosta Browne and others.

In fact, winemaker Michael Browne [of Kosta Browne] stated that the fruit from this vineyard [Gap's Crown] site is "the backbone" of their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A vineyard easily located in the "Petaluma Gap" of Sonoma County; which in fact was reported to have sold (changed hands) not so long ago. It was purported to have sold for an average of 100K dollars an acre, an incredible threshold to have reached in so short of time and, a key indicator of just how valuable this vineyard is now and will continue to be in the future.

Even in tough vintages like 2011, it's still entirely possible to make fantastic wines, but with an altogether different expression than what you may be used to in the warmer years. A "different-expression" is what you'll find in this Bruliam 2011 Gap's Crown Pinot Noir, an elegant, but at the same time a powerful expression of Pinot Noir. I'm giving this wine 93 points, it's an outstanding representation of the quality this vineyard has to offer.

Lovely floral aromas stream easily from the glass, this is a richly textured wine, beaming with bright red-berry fruit, a hint of tea leaves and well-rounded tannins. It's a wine I'd lay down for a bit, as you whittle away some the riper 2009 and 2010 you may have socked away already. But if you're just now collecting or trying these wines with current vintages like 2015, 2016 etc. I'd recommend circling back to the 2011, the contrast in style will amaze you.

Kerith Overstreet, an excellent winemaker, she produced what I would describe as a balanced behemoth of finesse in this bottle of Pinot Noir from a tricky vintage and, it was great seeing her again at Bird Rock Fine Wine back when I was working with Ken Chalmers the owner of the fantastic wine shop in La Jolla. While their portfolio of wines falls into the boutique category, you can find many other of her wines on the shelves at Bird Rock, one is terrific Rock Pile Zin, and from what I hear, that is the last of the lot to be found anywhere.


Unknown said…
Love Gap's Crown pinots! Anything from that part of SOnoma - Sangiacamo, Rodgers Creek, good. Have you tried the Garnet Rodgers Creek or Carneros Pinot? Insanely good for the price - truly the best QPR wine I've found. Garnet website
Will Eyer said…
Hi Michael,

Gap's Crown is a hot ticket for NW Pinot Noir.

I have tried a few of the wines from Garnet and recommend them quite often myself and, you're right crazy good qpr. I even wrote a review about their wines a few months back here>

Thanks for leaving a comment!



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