Mission Codename “Love is a fog...” - Charles Bukowski
Thanksgiving is around the corner and statistics show that 83% of all US households will have a Pinot Noir shortage for it, according to an International Institute of BS study. 😅
Joking aside… Kendric! That true “garagiste” producer you need to know. A winemaking geek of the highest order. Who makes a beautifully delicate Pinot to transport you to Burgundy?! With 93+ points. Under $30!
If you want full-throttle, deep, extracted Pinot this probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you want a balanced, finnese-driven style with that ripeness that only California can bring, you’ll dig it.
Kendric goes into serious depth about both winemaking and vineyard care. They always harvest a portion of Pinot early, at 21-22° Brix to build a “Red Fraction” - higher acidity, lower alcohol, and red fruit profile. He blends that with a deeper, riper portion of fruit. Some of the fruit sees extended maceration and up to 75% stems, and other lots follow a more typical protocol of destemming, cooler fermentation, and earlier pressing. In the end, he blends only the best barrels into this flagship Estate Pinot.
As San Francisco Chronicle once profiled him as a Winemaker to Watch “It’s not like there’s a road map to making Marin County wine. So, Stewart Johnson plotted his own… Johnson’s Kendric Vineyards is making Pinot Noir that proves Marin County’s potential for outstanding wine. Long in the shadow of its Sonoma County neighbors, considered too cold to grow wine grapes, Marin has developed its own thriving wine community.”
Continuing; “Johnson’s 8 1/2-acre vineyard just south of the county line and the Petaluma Gap, over a hilltop from McEvoy Ranch’s olive groves, has become a go-to source for excellent Pinot Noir… Kendric’s wines are marked by cool-climate finesse and aromatics. It is the style Johnson insisted on making, possible in part because the bottomless demand for Pinot allows him to sell most of his fruit at a profit, leaving him enough to produce just over 300 cases - his way.”
Petaluma Gap AVA was recently formed, and it straddles the border of Southern Sonoma and Northern Marin counties. They farm an 8.5-acre estate vineyard here. An obsessive focus on the vineyard - over 1,500 words dedicated to the vineyard, its unique properties, the clones he selected, and much more on their site here. Needless to say, he’s meticulous about every little detail that goes into the bottle.
True to its cool and foggy microclimate, this showcases bright cranberries, tart cherries, spice, bay leaf, and pomegranate, all flowing into a beautifully balanced, medium-bodied Pinot that shines for its complexity and nuance. It’s a fine, ethereal wine that does not lack intensity or depth as the echoing layers of fruit, spice, and earth prove on the finish. With a fillet of grilled wild salmon and stir-fried garlicky greens, okay some creamy polenta too, this will sing all night long.
As PinotFile profiles him “Stewart could be the brightest and most-educated winemaker around. He graduated from UC Berkeley, obtained a doctorate in political science from Yale, and graduated with a law degree from Hastings. While interning at the Environmental Protection Agency, he was drawn to be in the field instead of an office practicing law. With his wife, who is a Marin native, he discovered the pastoral beauty of Marin County and was drawn to grow grapes there. The Pinot Noir is quite good and sensibly priced.”
Sensibly priced when at just under $40 most definitely - in the $20s though? It’s an insane deal that won’t last.
93+ Points – John Gilman
“The 2018 vintage of Pinot Noir from Stewart Johnson is a fine young wine in the making. It is a bit more black fruity in personality this year than some previous vintages, coming in at 13.5 percent octane and offering up a pure and complex bouquet of black cherries, plums, raw cocoa, a superb base of dark soil tones, woodsmoke, a dollop of fresh thyme, violets and a discreet foundation of cedary oak. On the palate, the wine is deep, full-bodied, transparent, and tangy, with an excellent core of fruit, lovely balance and grip, ripe tannins, and a long, vibrant, and nascent complex finish. This is outstanding Pinot Noir in the making, but it will need some time in the cellar to blossom fully. Fine juice. 2026-2060.”
92 Points – Wine Enthusiast
“Big, broad cherry flavors are lifted by lively acidity and moderate tannins in this full-bodied wine that sports good sour cherry and raspberry tones as well as light black-pepper and cinnamon nuances.”
What the Winery Says
2018 Petaluma Gap Estate Pinot Noir
- Stewart Johnson
- 100% Pinot Noir
- Kendric Vineyard
- Loam, clay loam from sandstone
- Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County
- 60% Whole Cluster
- 6.3 grams/L
- 100% French Oak (25% new)