2008 Carneros Pinot Noir
California: Carneros - Los Carneros (Sonoma)
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
For fans of fruit-driven Pinot Noir, today’s wine is a simple choice! Keep an eye out for our special alerts, at the top of this column, in future listings. We always bring you great wines, but when one really stands out, we issue special alerts.
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Mission Codename: Sixty years and counting
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Souverain and secure a cache of their 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir – before they run out.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Souverain
Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir Carneros
Winemaker: Ed Killian
Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the independent Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Originally designated in 1983, the region’s distinct Terroir and cool climate make it one of the best regions for the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800s by missionaries. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark Burgundy, with a darkening but still clear core. Color remains concentrated right out to the edge of the glass, where the finest line of lilac can be seen. Hold the glass up to the light, viewing the wine from the outside of the glass, and this fine line glints and sparkles. After swirling, skinny, wine-stained tears march slowly down the glass.
Smell – Lush blackberry and dark cherry leap from the glass. These are soon accompanied by raspberry, dried violets and spiced bramble fruit. Soft oak and a hint of subtle pepper round out the fragrant nose.
Feel – Velvety and round on entry. After a swallow, a small quantity of the wine coats the mouth, adding a soft dryness as fine-grained tannins are gradually introduced.
Taste – Led by a delightful black cherry, the wine evolves in your mouth, gradually revealing additional flavors of blackberry, softly spiced plum, rose petal, subtle mushroom and hints of cedar and black tea.
Finish – Very long, with dark fruit flavors that begin tart – and then evolve to dark mixed berry, soft spiced fig and just a hint of earthy, mineral-driven black pepper.
Conclusion – This is a delicious, fruit-forward Pinot Noir that delivers brilliant Carneros character and beautiful Carneros fruit. Bright and lush, both on nose and palate, this is a wine for fans of balanced Pinot fruit. With enough structure to make the wine an interesting solo-sipper, and enough bright acidity to make it a food-friendly companion, this is a flexible wine. Pair this wonderful wine with an assortment of hard cheeses, poultry or pork.
Authentic and Attainable is how Souverain describes their great wines. While we agree with the first part of that declaration, we found the second part to be somewhat, well, relative.
You see, many wineries hold back their more precious wines for their tasting room customers or for their wine club members. Today’s wine is just such a wine and unless you are a club member or can get yourself into their tasting room, this wine is unattainable to most of our Operatives. However, as an Operative, you know that this exclusivity has never kept us from getting you a wine once we have our sights set on it.
I wish that I could tell you that today’s mission to obtain the unobtainable was fraught with intrigue and peril. Rather, we simply relied on our network of assets in the field.
One such asset, industry insider Codename: Malbec, pulled a few strings and made a few key introductions and viola! I was in, landing a temp spot in the tasting room. Once inside, I was able to learn everything that I could about Souverains great wines. Because our Operatives have been keen for a great Pinot Noir for under $25, I zeroed in on the Carneros Pinot. With a few days at the tasting room, I was able to sample the wine freshly opened and well-decanted. Both were great, but a few hours of decant on this wine and it sings!
While I worked there, I got to learn a lot about the Souverain way of making wine. Their 120 year-old estate vineyards sits within Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, where I happen to think some of the finest California wines come from. Winemaker Ed Killian has been making wines in this region for more than a quarter century and his desire to create wines that express the harmony between place and varietal shows in each of the wines that he stewards at Souverain.
When my temp gig was up, Malbec quietly revealed my true identity to the tasting room manager – who was happy to have had a bonafide Wine Spy in the house. The manager pumped my hand and asked me which wine I loved most, and how many cases I would be needing.
I just love this job!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Souverain’s estate vineyards is Top secret, but their tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Bright plum in color, this Pinot Noir offers generous aromas of fresh raspberry, black cherry and sweet spice.
About The Winery:
Authentic – Wines that are the best expression of each varietal and Alexander Valley
Attainable – Exceptional wines that you can drink every day
Award Winning – A sixty-year history of unsurpassed wine quality as noted by the wine press
At Souverain, our goal is to make authentic wines that are the best expression of each varietal and Alexander Valley. We believe our consumers deserve to drink great wine every night, so our wines are exceptional & attainable. Our love affair with producing wines has stretched back over 60 years and during that time our award winning wines have received numerous accolades and praise from the wine press.
In the end, though, the most important award to us is a satisfied consumer.
Having worked with the same growing areas – and in some cases the same vineyards – for more than 25 years, Ed Killian knows the vineyards of Alexander Valley inside and out. He understands which blocks will give him the fruit he’s looking for to create Souverain’s signature style. He believes the most important part of winemaking is learning the characteristics and tendencies of the vineyards.
Ed joined Souverain winery as associate winemaker in 1992 from Lambert Bridge Winery in Dry Creek Valley. In his role as associate winemaker, Ed had a strong hand in every aspect of winemaking at Souverain, and was named winemaker in May of 1996. As winemaker, Ed views his role as the steward of the Souverain name and historical legacy. He uses his expertise to craft Alexander Valley wines on which he’s proud to put the Souverain name.
Souverain has such an incredible history of making distinct wines, and I constantly work to carry on that legacy and tradition, says Ed Killian. The beautiful, concentrated fruit of our 120-year-old Alexander Valley Estate Vineyards contributes to this, as do our cellar techniques and our new state-of-the-art winemaking facility. My mission is to continue to craft wines that represent the best of Alexander Valley.
Ed serves on the Board of the Alexander Valley Winegrowers, and is a member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and the California Enological Research Association. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Redlands and a master’s in enology at the University of California at Davis. Upon graduation Ed worked as a research enologist for Guild Wineries before joining Lambert Bridge in 1981.
He and his wife, Jean – both native Californians – have lived in Healdsburg since 1981. When Ed is not making wine, he is an avid home brewer and also enjoys cooking, scuba diving and gardening
The history of Souverain began in the Napa Valley in 1944 when J. Leland “Lee” Stewart harvested his first crop of wine grapes from his Howell Mountain property in the northern part of the valley.
At the suggestion of his young daughter, Stewart named his winery “Souverain” (taken from the French word for “sovereign” or “supreme”), and his Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings from the 1960s were considered by many to be just that.
In the years that followed, Stewart used innovation and a natural gift for winemaking to establish Souverain as one of the great California wineries.
The winery moved to the Alexander Valley when Stewart eventually sold it in 1973. Stewart stayed on as a consultant throughout the construction of the new facility. In 1976, a limited partnership of growers took control and by 1981, Stewart had fully retired from winemaking.
Beringer winery bought Souverain in 1986 and added the word Chateau to the Souverain brand name. In 1992, Ed Killian was hired on as Associate Winemaker and by 1996 he was the head Winemaker.
In 2006, Souverain built a state-of-the-art winemaking facility surrounded by the 120-year-old Souverain Estate Vineyards in the Alexander Valley, near Cloverdale, where Winemaker Ed Killian has long been sourcing the grapes for his award-winning Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
While the name, faces and location of the winery have changed over the years, the tradition of fine wine production continues at Souverain today. Just as Lee Stewart began, Ed Killian consistently produces outstanding wines that represent the best of their region.
Varietal: Pinot Noir