Carneros della Notte
2004 Los Carneros Pinot Noir
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Napa)
What we say
Mission Codename: The music of the night
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Conduct a night raid on the Carneros Della Notte Winery – and return with a great Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Carneros Della Notte
Wine Subject: 2004 Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Sal Godinez
The Wine Spies are always ear-to-the-vineyards, seeking out special wines from the best wine producers in the world. We have been fortunate enough to uncover some incredible wines for our Operatives (that’s you, dear reader). Along the way we have discovered the people and the secrets that make great wines such a pleasure to drink. When one of our ‘Assets’ discovered a winery that picked its grapes exclusively by the light of the moon, Agent Red was sent to investigate. Read his mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby red at the center, with edges that fade to pink. Thick and tightly spaced legs that crawl slowly down the glass
Smell – Ripe cherry with hot blueberry pie, cinnamon, roasted espresso beans and a wonderful earthiness and very subtle floral banana
Feel – Round and smooth in the mouth with strong tannins that bite down around the edges of the tongue
Taste – Complex layers with blackberry, dark cherry, blueberry and plum with a subtle spiciness
Finish -This wine has an interesting finish; The flavors and mouth feel fall off but then spring back in your mouth as flavors return and tannins take over, biting the back of the tongue and delivering a tartness that tapers off slowly
Conclusion -This is a wonderfully complex Pinot Noir from one of our best-loved winemaking regions in Northern California. Carneros rarely fails to thrill and satisfy our wine-lust and this wine from Carneros Della Notte comes through for us in a big way. This is a wine which delivers layers of complexity and flavor while also maintaining an elegance and refinement that we would expect from a mid-priced Pinot Noir.
Agent Red reporting
Pre-briefing: As you know, we Wine Spies rely on our Assets in the field. These informants keep a keen eye out for great wines, interesting wineries and intriguing winemakers. What we rarely hear about from our Assets are unique winemaking techniques. My Carneros Asset, Stella, recently alerted me to a winery that ‘conducts unusual activity’ at night. After a quick background check on the winery, Carneros Della Notte, it was clear that a covert operation was in order. Following are the mission details:
Mission Time: 2200 Hours, Local
Mission Report: I began my mission by outfitting my pack with my night vision scope, portable GPS, corkscrew and collapsible drinking glass. Parking a quarter-mile away at a neighboring vineyard, I was afforded safe passage through the vineyards of a winery we had worked with before. This winery had been hearing strange noises on recent nights and they reported an odd glowing from the far corner of the Carneros Della Notte vineyards. As I neared the boundary between the two vineyards, I heard hushed voices. Straining to hear what they were saying I could only make out the occasional word; “Ready…. perfect… balanced…” were among the words I could discern.
Edging closer, I pulled out my night scope. Scanning the vineyards from my vantage point – on a rise at the edge of the vineyard – I could make out the figures of three men. They were sampling the berries from the Pinot Noir vines while nodding and gesturing animatedly with their hands. I edged closer still doing my best to remain concealed. The three men were now in plain site. A twig broke beneath my feet and I froze. So did they. They were silent for a moment and then one of the men reached into his pocket and pulled out a walkie-talkie. He keyed the button on the side and spoke plainly and clearly, “Bring out the crew. It’s time.”
Fearing that my cover had been blown, I sank to the vineyard floor. As I bellied my way through the mulchy vineyard row, shouts in Spanish rang out around me. Heart pumping now, I made my way to the edge of the vineyard where all was quiet. I brought my night scope up to my eyes and scanned the vineyards. At least 10 men were now walking through the rows, flashlights in hand. Their shouts made me wish that I had paid better attention in Spanish class. Alas. My scope settled on a small outbuilding about 10 meters away. I made my way toward it. Voices behind me were growing louder. Noticing that a door to the building was ajar, I held my scope up to my eyes. Pushing the door open slightly, I peered inside… and was met with a blinding flash that knocked me backward!
Hitting my head on the door frame, I fell – and was caught by a large, kind-faced man with a quizzical look on his face. Looking over his shoulder he shouted, “David, ven aqui”.
Moments later, ‘David’ arrived and, pulling my to my feet, declared, “Agent Red, I presume?”. Noting the vacant look on my face, he continued, “You’re just in time. Tonight is first harvest! Next time you make an appointment to see us, you know that you are welcome to drive down our driveway, right?” Sheepishly, I replied, “But that would take away some of the fun, now wouldn’t it?”
Winery partner David Harmon and winemaker Sal Godinez were kind enough to let me observe their harvest under the stars. Sal explained that nighttime, while not the easiest time to be picking grapes, was the perfect time for these grapes. Sal found that harvesting at night assured him of fruit that was in perfect balance and the chemistry is most stable. Picking went on late into the wee hours and when at last they were done, they ushered my back to the little building where I had bumped my head. As I entered the darkened room inside, I noticed an eery glow emanating from the back wall. As the lights came on, the glow was replaced by rows of wine bottles. I looked at David.
“Do you like our glowing labels?”, he asked?
“Ahhh. So that’s what dazzled me earlier!”
We all shared a laugh (at least I think they were laughing with me and not at me), and then a bottle of their great 2004 Pinot Noir!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Carneros Della Notte and the entire Carneros AVA can be seen in this satellite photo
Wine Spies Technical Wine Analysis
Cases Produced: 400
Alcohol By Volume: 14.5%
Aging: 3-5 yrs (can be aged for up to ten years)
Cooperage: 100% French Oak – 50% New
What the winery says
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Awards and Accolades
Voted #1 Wine by Women in the “2006 Pinot Shootout”: The nose is extremely closed but the blackberry fruit explodes on the palate with notes of earth and coffee. Chocolate flavors join mid-palate. The wine is full-bodied and well-balanced with round tannins on the long finish.
Scored 92 Points – Pinot Report: Smart Buy! Medium deep ruby color; deep, complex earthy, spicy aromas; rich, ripe, full red cherry flavors, spice and earthy notes; silky texture; good structure and balance; long finish. This Pinot has nice, full red cherry flavor with some complexity and a silky mouthfeel.
During his nearly twenty year career Winemaker Sal Godinez has focused on research and experimentation with Pinot Noir clones that contribute to the complexity and intensity of these wines. Sal favors using French clones rather than classic American clones like Martini or Swan. Recognizing the importance of the impact of new clonal selections on wine aroma, texture and quality, Sal continuously works with clones to produce mature elegance and exceptional complexity.
Each year Sal begins in the vineyard. Engaged in viticulture and hands-on farming, he commits himself to the vines throughout the growing season, overseeing labor-intensive management such as shoot positioning to insure proper fruit exposure, rigorous crop thinning, precise irrigation and timely harvest. “I focus on preserving the flavors born in the vineyard,” said Sal. “I spend more and more of my time walking the vine rows — measuring, evaluating, tasting and planning the future of each individual lot.”
In the winery, Sal chooses his techniques to produce balanced, “fruit and spice based” wines with the structure and depth to age gracefully. His objective is to enhance, but not overshadow, the qualities of the grapes. “Each vineyard has its own personality, and I bring that to light.” Sal’s winemaking techniques vary on a lot-by-lot basis. Sal cold soaks his Pinot Noir, chilling the must prior to inoculation. He favors gentle handling, direct barreling after fermentation and racking the wines once to separate out the gross lees. Drawing from his favorite coopers, Sal frames the fruit character with complementary French oak barrels. Each year he purchases a large percentage of new French cooperage, replacing his barrels after two vintages. Both of these new releases are filtered using a cross flow filter system which he believes enhances the mouth feel of the wine.
About The Company
Founded in 2003, Carneros della Notte is a boutique winery owned and operated in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, California. The founding partners are Dave Harmon, Sal Godinez and Darin Applebury. The winery is dedicated to the production of ultra-premium Pinot Noir wines.