Finding Sanctuary: Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

“She wasn’t born for this kind of life. You have to be born for this like you have to be born a butcher or a barber, I guess. Wouldn’t anybody be either of them just for money or fun.” 
― William Faulkner, Sanctuary

Pinot Noir is known to many, as a grape of great depth and balance. For many producers primarily in the new world, it’s known as the heartbreak grape. In Burgundy the ancestral home of this now well regarded and sought after varietal, it has earned its well-deserved reputation for producing some of the very best and highly coveted wines in the world. Developing and evolving over hundreds of years. For me, these wines do have both great depth beauty, they speak their truth in every sip, slurp and even the eventual burp, with each bottle, glass poured I affirm my growing devotion for what this grape delivers in the glass.

Many wine enthusiasts picture California as a warm to hot growing region for wine grapes, but that's not necessarily the case. In fact, the wine in today's Pinot Noir spotlight can be found just 17 miles from the cooling effects of the Pacific ocean, near the northern end of the Santa Barbara County on the benchlands of the well regarded growing region known as the Santa Maria Valley. Due to this proximity, it's considered by many as one of the 'coolest' growing areas in California for wine grapes. 

Terroir has as much to do with what's in the bottle, and how is that wine in the bottle is ultimately defined. It's similar to the influence of clones and the type of barrel regimen. The vines are planted to Pommard or Martini clones and grow in well-drained sandy loam, known to wine geeks as Elder Shale and Pleasanton.   

The owners of the coveted Bien Nacido vineyard, which only agrees to sell its grapes to a small number of producers, all of whom must past the smell test of authenticity before they are allowed to purchase their grapes. Perhaps, you're familiar with the likes of Au Bon Climat, Foxen Winery, Gary Farrell Winery, Lane Tanner etc. these Santa Maria growers whose labels bear the name of the rock-star grower known as Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Just before harvest, weighing heavy upon the vine, you’ll find clusters of Pinot Noir grapes, blue to violet and still some sporting indigo colors and for me that builds the anticipation of the good things to come down the road.

Furthering that excitement, seeing Bien Nacido Vineyards on the label, which means nine times out of ten, I’m getting the style of Pinot, which I know will make me and Mrs. Cuvee very happy. It's the reason why I purchased this wine, without a moment’s hesitation; I’ve never acquired a bottle of wine from this producer before, but knowing this vineyards reputation, I was confident that I was coming home with a winner.

Many vino-sapiens know this grape has a reputation for breaking hearts and not just those producers, but also for consumers hoping they can beat the odds and save a few coins by purchasing Pinot Noir’s under the sacred $10 threshold, only to find out later the good ones under that price point are the extreme exception and nowhere near the rule.

Now to that point, the wine in today’s spotlight set me back $34, not a king’s ransom by any stretch. While it may not be a midweek quaff for many reading this, I get that, but that said this wine would typically sell for upwards of $45 to grab it from their tasting room or website. In a restaurant setting, forget about it, a wine like this will sell for upwards of $70 or more, gotta love those markups. So getting a wine of this caliber for the price point I did, from my perspective, this wine is quite the bargain, one you should consider grabbing if you have the opportunity. It’s well worth the price of admission, a wine I scored 91 points, a bit less generous than my pals over at WE who have ad-space to sell (but I kid).

Wondering about how it tastes? Sanctuary Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016: I grabbed this gem, from an online purveyor not so long ago. This picture was taken at the Cuvee Corner Media and Communications HQ. This wine also was not decanted, it was drinking beautifully from the first moment it went into the glass. Btw, yes, stemware and wine temperature do matter. Again as you can see in the glass, very light colored, shimmering ruby color, transparent. Fresh pomegranates, baking spice, strawberry, orange tea aromas escaping from the glass, very enticing.

Another gem, in what I call the reasonably priced category, for about $35. The grapes were hand harvested and spent 11 months in small French oak barrels, 100% new, fourteen thousand cases produced. The palate is plush and polished. This statement, cannot be overstated enough, especially when it's true. The tannins are wonderfully integrated, the acid to fruit ratio is spot on. The overall flavor profile, rustic earth, tangy cherries, sweet sandalwood, and allspice. We paired this wine, with some Mushroom Risotto, and a baked whole chicken, lights out, tasty. The Score: 91 points. Highly Recommended.

It would make an excellent wine for weekend activities or even as a fantastic weeknight quaff, as it has many generous characteristics which lend its self to easy pairing options. Though I would caution, some wines pair better with complementary foods, attempting to force a pairing will leave you with an unfortunate impression of the wines more delicate nuances. Over the next few days, I will be reviewing three (2) more outstanding Pinot Noir’s I’ve recently sampled, so stay tuned. Until next time folks remember, life is short, compromise is for relationships not wine, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are from media samples provided (not for sale) for the review process.

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright of the author, (W.R. Eyer) except where otherwise noted.


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