2007 Heron Lake Vineyard Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Heron Lake Vineyard
California: Napa Valley: Wild Horse Valley
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s selection from Olivia Brion is a delicious example of a great Pinot Noir from the unique Wild Horse Valley region in the Napa Valley. If you love great Pinot Noir, we encourage you to try this exceptional wine.
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Mission Codename: Faster than a speeding locomotive!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to a tip from deep cover Operative, Agent N. V., that a perfect Pinot Noir was spotted in the one-winery AVA, Wild Horse Valley, high above the valley floor of the Napa Valley. Send Agent Red to investigate.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Olivia Brion
Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir – Wild Horse Valley
Winemaker: David Mahafey
Backgrounder: The Wild Horse Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area whose borders overlap both Napa County and Solano County, California and is partially contained within the Napa Valley AVA. Despite the appellation’s southerly location, which results in more hours of sunshine than other locations in Napa Valley, the Wild Horse Valley enjoys a cool climate, approximating France’s Burgundy region. The Valley’s proximity to San Pablo Bay, which results in a cooler climate, makes the Wild Horse Valley attractive for the cultivation of grapes like Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby hues maintain perfect concentration, straight through the slightly darker heart of the wine, and out to its shimmering pink edging. After swirling, the wine leaves behind a unique set of wine stained legs that are initially chubby – but then go quite thin.
Smell – Dark cherry and red plum mingle with dried meats, leather, cinnamon, clove, forest floor and dusty earth. These are underpinned by cracked green and black peppercorns and subtle geranium.
Feel – Plush and round with luxurious crushed velvet edges. The wine is medium-bodied across the mid-palate, with fine grained tannins that radiate a soft dryness from the center palate, out to the edges.
Taste – Dark tart cherry, cranberry, red plum skin and dark raspberry take the lead. These sit atop cinnamon, clove, black pepper, flinty minerals and a subtle touch of softly toasted oak.
Finish – Very long duration, with bright red fruits sustaining far longer than most other Napa Valley Pinot Noir. Brown spices encroach and eventually overtake the red fruit, ending in a mineral-rich black pepper spice that leaves the drinker craving another sip
Conclusion – This 2007 Olivia Brion Pinot Noir is a fantastic wine from our new friends (winemaker) David Mahaffey and (grower) John Newmeyer. These two gentlemen have been making extraordinary Pinot Noir on their Heron Lake Vineyard for almost 26 years. Their commitment to their wines and to the environment is extraordinary – just like the Pinot Noir that they produce. Today’s wine is made with a care and precision that shines trough in this 2007 vintage. The wine is delicious, aromatic and like velvet on the palate. With a bright acidity that makes it an easy companion for fine dining, this wine is also complex enough to stand perfectly on its own. We recommend, wholeheartedly, that you give this limited-availability wine a try. You won’t be disappointed.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: David Mahaffey
WINE EDUCATION: Taught wine production and wine study classes at Napa Valley College for ten years — I have a Masters degree in Education from Harvard
OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WINE BIZ: Inventor and co-developer of an Ozone Sanitation system used by more than 800 wineries. Applied for and got Wild Horse Valley approved as AVA in 1987
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Transparency in the winemaking so that the vineyard specific qualities always shine through.
WINEMAKER QUOTE:“Great Pinot Noir is always aromatically forward – it should reach out and grab you by the nose. If you have to suck whitecaps to smell it, its not great pinot”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: First Vintage 1980, first commercial wine release 1985
AGENT RED: Greetings, David. We are thrilled to be showing your astounding 2007 Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DAVID MAHAFFEY: I’m always happy to pontificate about wine in general – and my wine in particular.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine making?
DAVID: Yes, harvest 1979, rain threatening, last day of picking at Green & Red vineyard, the last box of grapes were dumped into the stemmer, the heavens opened and Biblical rain started… Followed by one of the great feasts of my life.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DAVID: I’m lucky enough to have been able to drink some really great Burgundy. The one that comes to mind is, ‘95 Musigny from Comte de Vogue – extraordinary fragrance and femininity. I’m sure I’d recognize if I ever got to taste it again. (now, however, a second mortgage would be necessary to do that)
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DAVID: If I can make myself happy, everybody else is going to be thrilled. Most of the time winemaking is a skilled craft, like being a chef, however, once in a while, an intuitive leap from my standard protocol really works and it feels like art has happened. That makes me happy.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
DAVID: The 2007 vintage was a high-water mark for many Pinot producers and it was for me as well. The nose has baking spices like cardamom, some orange-peel black tea, and old style root beer sassafras. The mid-pallet has richness and volume with out weight. Now three years past its harvest, this Pinot has shed a little of its jammy fruit and is showing some of its real mineral Terroir. The long pleasant finish just goes on and on… I’m feeling a little wistful about this wine now that it is almost sold out, a little pre-nostalgia even. I AM going to keep enough of this wine to watch it age gracefully. Moderate alcohol, (just under fourteen per cent) truly classic structure… Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVID: If they were going to shoot me in the morning and I could pick my last wine and meal, it would be this Olivia Pinot drunk with Copper River Salmon, grilled outside on pruned Pinot Noir canes.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the vineyard so special?
DAVID: The Wild Horse AVA was granted largely on a unique mineral rich volcanic soil called the trimmer series. The Pinot vineyard sits right on top of this soil. Add to that the 1200 foot elevation and a straight shot west to Bodega Bay. So you have all the factors for a great place to grow Pinot – shallow rocky soil, cool steady wind from the ocean and altitude for further cooling. Plus, I have been farming this spot of land for thirty years, so I’m off the flat part of the learning curve. Still lots to learn.. the difficult part about winegrowing is that you only get to bat once a year.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVID: Now begins my favorite part of the winemaking year – what I call the “Benign Neglect” phase – just watching the young wines leave infancy and toddlerhood and settle into a nice slow growing up. The real work of setting the trajectory of the wines life has been accomplished with the summer’s vineyard labors and the fall’s winery labors.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
DAVID: With reverence…BULLSHIT! Wine is to make the pasta more interesting on Wednesday night! Serious answer — with curiosity, intent, and memory sensors set to 11.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
DAVID: Please call and come taste my wines from the barrel and talk to me about wine.
RED: I have the feeling you’ll be seeing our Operatives, soon…. Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Four Stars – Ronn Wiegand – Fleshy, ripely flavored, and moderately rich; a Pinot Noir with supple texture, good depth, and a long, lightly tannic finish. Tastes of plum, cranberry, toast, mint, and cherry. Excellent.
About This Wine:
It has deep crimson color, sassafras tea, clove and coriander, and aromatic layer after layer as the wine opens up. Infused tastes of red plums, cherry pie and sweet toasty oak. Focused acidity, volume without weight in the mid-palate, a two-minute finish, and mineralised flavors from the vineyard’s rocky subsoils. This young wine is opening superbly.
Winemaking: The guiding principle for our wine is gentle fruit handling — not a seed broken! Our gravity flow system works on four levels, with the vineyard being the uppermost level. After harvesting, grapes are carried downhill and poured into the destemmer. The whole berries fall into a one ton bin (T bin) under the destemmer. By fermenting in small open-top bins with frequent punch downs, some alcohol is evaporated naturally. After gentle pressing, the wine is moved by gravity down into French oak barrels (one-third new) in the underground cellar to be aged fourteen months.
Production: The 2007 vintage has already earned the reputation as one of the best vintages ever for Pinot Noir, and it may be our best since 1994! Only twenty-nine barrels (680 cases) were bottled.
About The Winery:
In the mountains just east of the town of Napa is the coolest growing area of the Napa region, Wild Horse Valley. Here, nestled just below the ridgeline at 1200 feet elevation, is Heron Lake Vineyard and Winery, and the home of Olivia Brion wines.
History: Heron Lake Vineyard is in the south end of Wild Horse Valley, 1,200 feet higher than the Napa Valley floor and five miles east of Napa town. Wild horses frolicked in the cool climate of Wild Horse Valley in the 19th century, but since then the area has been the home of a gentler breed: grape growers. Grapes were first grown there by Joseph Volpe and Constantino Malandrino, who planted in the 1880’s.
Today, the 3,300-acre valley has just 70 acres of vines in three vineyard operations. Wild Horse Valley is a distinct viticultural appellation: while Napa Valley has hot summer afternoons, Wild Horse’s proximity to the San Pablo and Suisun bays exposes it to cool westerly winds. That weather, along with the rocky volcanic soil, results in small yields and fruit of great color, intensity and minerality.
About The Winemaker:
From the Winemaker, By David Mahaffey – I have been making wines in the Napa Valley for 30 years, and have been the winemaker for Heron Lake since its first vintage. My primary goals are to create wines that are balanced, elegant and age beautifully. I think of myself as a craftsman with occasional lucky intuitional leaps into something like art.
Besides being a craftsman in wine, I’m an accomplished woodworker–canoes, guitars, turned bowls and a houseful of furniture. I taught winemaking for a decade at Napa Valley College, regularly lecture about the world of wine, and consult on a variety of wine making projects. I’m the co-inventor and developer of an “ozone for sanitation” system that’s now used by over 700 wineries to save water and avoid harsh chemicals.
Varietals: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Wild Horse Valley
Vineyard: Heron Lake Vineyard