2008 Winery Block Pinot Noir
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Save the last dance
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit our friends at Balletto Vineyards to acquire their 2008 Winery Block Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Balletto Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Winery Block Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Anthony Beckman
Backgrounder: The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Medium dark ruby red with a clear but dark heart and ruby edges that show hints of violet. When swirled, evenly spaced thin legs ring the glass.
Smell – Bright and fresh red fruit including raspberry and a touch of strawberry layers over an earthy base. Notes of exotic spice, violet floral hints and toasted vanilla begs you to take a sip.
Feel – Very smooth, this medium-to-full bodied dry wine has silky tannins and lively but balanced acidity that grasps the red fruit long into the finish.
Taste – Bright and ripe red raspberry, cherry and hints of strawberry blend with a base of earthy undertones and vanilla toasted oak. Herbal and forest flavors make a soft appearance as does hints of dried citrus and exotic spice.
Finish – Medium in length, clean and smooth with lingering red fruit, earth and toasted vanilla fading leaving just a touch of spice behind.
Conclusion – The 2008 Balletto Vineyards Winery Block Pinot Noir is a delicious, well balanced and nicely integrated wine with plenty of complexity but not so much that you cannot enjoy it by in large gulps. This wine is drinking perfectly right now, give it a little time to full open up and express itself; pair with grilled pork chops topped with cranberry relish.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Anthony Beckman
WINE EDUCATION: 3 years as the wine buyer for Taylor’s Market in Sacramento, CA. Bachelors of Science in Viticulture and Enology University of California-Davis
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Grow it on the vines, and do as little as possible in the winery.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2001
AGENT RED: Greetings, Anthony. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Winery Block Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ANTHONY: It’s a pleasure to be here with everyone.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ANTHONY: When I was12 or 13, I went to dinner with my parents in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a place called Julian’s, and they served a duck breast with a fresh blueberry reduction sauce. That first bite changed my life. It was the first time that food gave me such a strong emotional and physical response. I was in heaven. To this day, I have a vivid memory of those flavors, how well they fit together and – most importantly – the incredible feeling they gave me. After that, I started searching for foods that would re-create that first food-related emotional experience, and of course came across fine wine in the process, and…well, everything changed when that happened and there really was no turning back from a career that involved wine. It became too much a part of my daily life to not dive in and become a part of it.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ANTHONY: As a young winemaker, there certainly are some giants in the winemaking world that I look up to, and they all share the same qualities in their winemaking. In general, their wines are balanced, and beautiful, with an elegant texture, a healthy dose of acidity and lots of complexity. Wines that make you think about the flavors and layers instead of being beaten over the head with them. Regardless of the variety, if a wine has all those things, I’m going to like it. And, it’s really what I am trying to do with all the wines I’m making for Balletto Vineyards.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ANTHONY: I feel that winemaking is 95 percent artistic expression, and – like a painter or sculptor or poet – the end product needs to be displayed and shared so that someone across the world can open a bottle and get that awesome spark of enjoyment from a wine that I’ve made. Without that wine-loving consumer, winemaking wouldn’t be nearly as fun or fulfilling.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ANTHONY: Today we have the 2008 Winery Block Pinot Noir. This single-vineyard wine comes exclusively from the vineyards that surround the winery and tasting room in the Russian River Valley. It’s an incredibly aromatic wine with bright cherry fruit, baking spices, new leather and earthy/forest floor aromas that seem to burst from the glass. Like all our wines, it has a rich texture without being tannic or bitter and there is a healthy bit of tartness that holds the wine together. This is a delicious, mouth watering Pinot noir that tastes great right now as it shows off its youthful exuberance, but will gracefully age and mellow in the bottle during the next five or so years.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ANTHONY: I’d have to say that my favorite pairing right now, especially with the cold weather here, is lamb. There’s something about the rich, almost gamey lamb flavors that match the spicy and earthy flavors of the Winery Block. Both seem to complement and enhance each other at the same time. It’s one of my favorite things in life, really.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
ANTHONY: The Russian River Valley – especially where we’re located in the cool southern tip of it – is one of those perfect places to grow wine grapes. In the morning, we’re drenched with cold fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean. By mid morning, the sun will be shining and we’ll gain 30 or more degrees in a few hours. By early evening the fog will roll back in and cool things down again. Because of this weather pattern, we’re able to get ripe flavors at lower alcohols and still maintain the grapes’ natural acidity.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ANTHONY: I’m getting ready to bottle our 2010 Pinot Gris, Rose of Pinot noir and Gewurztraminer, so I’m spending most of my time making sure all the blends taste good and stylistically match our previous vintages. So far, I’m really pleased and excited about all of them. It’s a fun time of year.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ANTHONY: In general, I’m a true believer in the axiom ‘Drink what you like, and like what you drink.’ Because we’re dealing with individuals and their personal tastes, there is no universally excellent wine. It doesn’t matter if it’s cheap, expensive, critically acclaimed or critically panned. If you like it and it gives you enjoyment, then it’s excellent. The person sitting next to you might disagree, and that’s what makes it entertaining. If we all liked the same things, the wine world certainly would be a boring place.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ANTHONY: We’ve just started our Balletto Vineyards Facebook page and it’s a cool way to keep track of everything we’re doing throughout the growing season.
RED: I’ll tell people to check it out. 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!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Balletto Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The 2008 Winery Block is a serious – yet pretty – Pinot Noir bursting with floral aromas of violets and lilacs. It has a bright ruby color that complements the underlying raspberry core of the wine. Secondary aromas include orange peel, forest floor, and new saddle leather as well as oak components of light vanilla and the slightest hint of dark-toasted bread. The wine is complex with different aromas that reveal themselves as it evolves in the glass. In the mouth, the wine shows fine, cocoa-like tannins and a silky viscosity. A solid, perfectly balanced acidity pulls all the components into a focused and incredibly long lingering finish. This wine will improve and evolve during the next five to seven years of bottling aging. 2008 is only the second year Balletto has bottled this single vineyard Pinot, and it is quickly becoming a favorite for those looking for complex, nuanced and distinct Pinot Noir.
About The Winery:
The estate wines of Balletto are born of the distinct soils and climates of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, and of the Balletto family’s passion for the land. We invite you to come “Taste the bounty that is Balletto”.
2001 was the first vintage for our winery. As grape growers first, we strongly feel that with good grapes comes good wine. It all starts in the field. Our grapes are handpicked and we use only French barrels from a variety of barrel makers. In addition, all of our wines go through malolactic fermentation. With the help of consulting wine maker Dan Cederquist, we feel we have produced an excellent representation of Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Russian River Zinfandel and Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris.
About The Vineyards:
Russian River Valley Vineyards: Balletto has four vineyards in the Russian River Valley from which we receive grapes to make wine. The main vineyard and the Winery are located at 5700 Occidental Road in Santa Rosa, California. We are just Southwest of another family owned and operated winery: Hanna Winery. The western edge of the vineyard is adjacent to the Laguna de Santa Rosa waterway, which is a major tributary to the Russian River. This vineyard is located in the Santa Rosa Plains area of the Russian River Valley and has 3 different clones of Chardonnay on 100 acres. We also grow 8 clones of Pinot Noir on 60 acres and we have 5 acres of Pinot Gris. We have three different soils types – Wright Loan Shallow, Clear Lake Clay and Blucher fine Sandy Loan. The majority of our fruit is sold to other wineries, but we feel fortunate to be in the unique position of a small winery with the flexibility to choose from a wide variety of clones grown on many different soils.
Another vineyard we have in the Russian River Valley is known as BCD Farms. This vineyard is a partnership and is located North of our winery site on Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa. This is an area known to produce some outstanding Zinfandel grapes. BCD Farms is an 80 acre vineyard with gentle rolling hills. This vineyard produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
A recently acquired vineyard is a 65 acre vineyard on Piner Road in Santa Rosa – about 10 minutes North of the winery, which has sauvignon blanc and gewurztraminer varietals.
Sonoma Coast Vineyard Now in Russian River Valley Appellation: This Vineyard is the Balletto Family home ranch located in the hills of west Sebastopol. Other wineries with vineyards close by include Merry Edwards and Martinelli. The TTB recently approved a petition submitted by the Russian River Valley Grapegrowers to extend the boundries of the Russian River Valley appellation. This extended area includes our home ranch.
The home ranch is planted with 3 different clones of Chardonnay, 9 different clones of Pinot Noir and 2 clones of Pinot Gris. The soil type in this vineyard is Gold Ridge Loam. This vineyard is in a slightly cooler and more windy climate than our main ranch and winery site, requiring different vineyard management techniques, such as pruning for a later bud break for frost protection, and early leafing for better air flow around the grape clusters.
Harvest Dates: September 6 through September 27, 2008
Brix at Harvest: 24.2 to 24.8
Clones: 50% Swan, 30% Mt. Eden, 10% clone32, 10% Martini
Vineyard: The Winery Block is comprised of several blocks of Pinot Noir vineyards that surround the winery on Occidental east of Sebastopol.
Soil: The Pinot selected for this bottling is grown predominantly on Blucher Fine Sandy Loam.
Other Information: This wine was barrel aged for 10 months in French oak (30% new, 30% one-year-old barrels and the remainder were neutrals to 40% neutral oak barrels.)
Total Cases Produced: 300