‘Stars of Pinot’ shine in Los Angeles

Monday, July 25th, 2016

By Mira Advani Honeycutt

Daniellle Huber with James Kress, winemaker of Tolosa

Daniellle Huber with James Kress, winemaker of Tolosa. Photos by Mira Advani Honeycutt.

San Luis Obispo County Wineries Featured

–Wines from San Luis Obispo County were amongst a stellar lineup of pinot noirs at the annual Stars of Pinot tasting held at the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles on July 20. Presented by Wine LA, a wine education enterprise, the tasting showcased Niner Wine Estates, J. Lohr, Talley, Tolosa Winery and Vineyards and Center of Effort from SLO County.

It was pure pinot heaven, with over 50 wineries pouring some 200 wines ranging from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River and Sonoma Coast to Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley appellations. The taste profile of this sensual grape ran the gamut from Oregon’s earthy, restrained wines and Santa Barbara County’s strawberry-powered pinots to wines singing with bright acidity from coastal region of Arroyo Grande and Sonoma Coast’s fog-shrouded hillsides. The afternoon trade and media tasting drew a crowd of 300 and an equal number of consumers attended the evening session.

Known as a cabernet house, Paso Robles’ Niner Wine Estates is making its foray into pinot and chardonnay production from their Edna Valley ranch. Predominantly planted to these two varietals, the 77-acre vineyards also include small plantings of sauvignon blanc, albarino, grenache and syrah, informed winemaker Molly Bohlman.

Nathan Carlson, winemaker of Center of Effort, Arroyo Grande winery

Nathan Carlson, winemaker of Center of Effort, Arroyo Grande winery

“Cabernet, pinot and chardonnay are going to be our top three wines you will see in the marketplace,” said Bohlman. She offered two pinots from the 2014 vintage, the cherry-driven Estate and the well-structured Jesperson Ranch, both wines showing bracing acidity due to the vineyard’s proximity to the ocean.

“I’m going for a clean fresh fruit taste,” commented Bohlman on the flavor profile of her wines. “With some cherry pie, baking spice and little toasty-ness from the oak.” The 2014 chardonnay had brilliant bright fruit notes, with 100 percent malolactic fermentation, the wine did not have that typical buttery taste.

From Monterey County J. Lohr offered a concentrated 2012 Highlands Bench pinot from Santa Lucia Highlands, a fruit forward 2014 Falcon’s Perch and the 2013 Fog’s Reach from Arroyo Seco. Also a 2014 Arroyo Vista that was a rich-on-the-palate chardonnay, barrel aged in French oak.

Arroyo Grande Valley pioneer Talley Vineyards showcased two 2014 vintages — the popular Bishops Peak pinot as well as the Estate pinot (from the noted Rosemary and Rincon vineyards) and the 2013 Stone Corral Vineyard pinot.

Edna Valley wines are known for their bright acidity. However, the 2015 Primera, an intense pinot from Tolosa Winery and Vineyards, was unusually deep hued (a color not typically associated with pinot). Winemaker Jim Kress explained the color intensity. “Last year Edna Valley was hotter than Paso,” he said, “and due the drought the vines produced smaller and intense berries.”

Molly Bohlman, winemaker of Niner Wine Estates with Tucker Spear, director of sales

Molly Bohlman, winemaker of Niner Wine Estates with Tucker Spear, director of sales

The focus is on four pinots, noted Kress. Besides the flagship Primera, there’s Heritage, the single vineyard series and 1772, named after the year Tolosa mission was founded.

With its first vintage in 2008, Center of Effort is a new addition to the Edna Valley wine community. 74 acres of the 140-acre ranch are planted to pinot and chardonnay, producing a small annual production of 3,000 cases, explained winemaker Nathan Carlson. Another 5,000-case production of the Fossil Point label is made form sourced Edna Valley fruit.

Priced under $20, Carlson noted that this has become the winery’s fastest growing label due to it value price. “It’s a good wine by the glass program in restaurants,” he said. “It introduces a quality pinot to the customers.”

As was evident from this tasting, SLO County wineries from Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande are gradually joining the pinot bandwagon. “They’re still trying to figure out pinot,” said Ian Blackburn on Paso Robles pinot producers. “Paso has some hurdles to climb and prove to pinot realm,” said Blackburn, founder of Wine LA.

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