Stephen & Walker
2007 Monterey Pinot Noir
California: Monterey County: Santa Lucia Highlands
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
If you are fan of great Pinot Noir and have yet to try an example from the Santa Lucia Highlands, today’s selection is a perfect example of how great the region is for growing exceptional Pinot.
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Mission Codename: In Pinot We Trust
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit our friends at Stephen & Walker Trust Winery and return with their delicious Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Stephen & Walker
Wine Subject: 2007 Monterey County Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Nancy Walker
Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands boasts 5,900 acres of wine grapes and a near-perfect environment for cooler climate Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which makes up more than half of the grapes grown in this region. The reason for this massive proportion? Santa Lucia Highlands grows some of the best in the country! Spanish missionaries first planted grapes here 200 years ago but the 1970s saw a major revival in the region’s viticulture. And in 1991, the region officially became an AVA.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A beautifully deep burgundy with ruby red reflections in its clear heart and along the edges. When swirled, this wine leaves widely space and random clusters of tin legs that cling to the side of the glass.
Smell – Classic coastal Pinot aromas of bright ripe and tart red fruit including red cherry, raspberry and other tart aromas are layered over a complex base of soft earthy undertones, tasted oak and vanilla and brown spices.
Feel – This dry and medium-to-full bodied is extremely smooth and plush with crushed velvet smooth tannins that awaken mid palate when the vibrant acidity makes its appearance. Soft textured minerality also spreads over the palate and lingers into the finish.
Taste – Fresh flavors of red cherry, raspberry, cranberry and a touch of baking spice and vanilla gives this wine a fresh and approachable. Hints of green herbs and soft briary blend with earthy and mocha notes and adds subtle complexity.
Finish – Long and smooth, with this wine’s fresh and tart red berries initially fading leaving behind notes of toasted oak and vanilla, soft spice and herbs and its earthy flavors framed by its smooth textured minerality and tannins while the acidity continues beyond.
Conclusion – The 2007 Stephen & Walker Monterey County Pinot Noir is a fantastic, and nearly ‘old world’ Pinot Noir with great complexity but not at the sacrifice of being very approachable and drinkable. Rich flavors and aromas along with its tart vibrant acidity makes this a great food wine. Enjoy this wine tonight and watching its aromas and flavors evolve in the glass. We enjoyed this wine with simple roast chicken seasoned with herbes de Provence and pomme frites.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Nancy Walker
WINE EDUCATION: Bachelor’s Degree UC Davis – Bacteriology! Now that’s a great school.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I’ve been winemaker for 29 years and love it! I’ve worked in the cellar, driven fork lift and operated every piece of equipment in the winery. I’ve worked Mendocino County, Sonoma County and a little Pinot Noir in Dundee, Oregon too.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Ou-la-la! It’s all about great grapes and good winemaking experience. It’s so easy to make great wine when you start with great grapes.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Wow – that’s a scary thought! Stephen & Walker released our first commercial wine 5 years ago and never looked back!! Me as a winemaker – I have a few more vintages under my belt!!
AGENT RED: Greetings, Nancy. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Stephen & Walker Monterey County Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
NANCY WALKER: Thank, Agent Red. It’s great to be back on another covert mission with The Wine Spies.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
NANCY: Yes, My Mom and Dad would load up the family station wagon and every 6 months we would travel to Napa and tour and wine taste with the entire clan. My parents served wine with every dinner, and we really celebrated family life every day. I loved exploring the wineries as a kid and finally came to realize that after college. I love cellar work and being in the thick of harvest with all the new wines, flavors and aromas!!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
NANCY: Hmm. That’s a toughie. I have learned so much through the years – especially my years at Fetzer with all the fine winemakers there. I think my best experience as a young winemaker came at Clos du Bois under the tutelage of John Hawley. John is so creative and he really encouraged me to step out and have an opinion and utilize my tasting skills. Confidence is so important. It’s hard to believe that a winemaker isn’t just born with it!!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
WINEMAKER: Well, I always try to make the best wine possible from the grapes I’m working with. Yes, I make wine for myself, but I want to be the Best of the Best – SIR!!
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
NANCY: 2007 Pinot Noir Monterey is grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands just west of Salinas. It’s one of my most favorite areas for Pinot Noir grapes – that and Santa Maria Valley. I’ve worked with this vineyard for 6 years now and feel really comfortable with the wines that are resulting from that long relationship. I really think the first 3 vintages are just the introduction with a vineyard – after that the winemaker can really start to know the grapes and how the wine will turn out. It really is important for barrel choices, fermentation choices, etc.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
NANCY: I enjoy this wine with fresh local breads, the cheeses here are to die for – Purple Haze (goat) is my favorite – the lavender changed the nose of the Pinot and makes it more red berry fruit. Sensational!!
RED: In your opinion, what makes Monterey County such a special place for Pinot Noir?
NANCY: Well it’s really that big blue pond out there – the Pacific Ocean. The wind picks up every single day as the interior parts of the valley heat up and it pulls the cool air from the Pacific Ocean right across the Salinas Valley, Arroyo Seco and SL Highlands. This cooling allows the Pinot to grow in bright sunshine, but not warm up and the results are spectacular. Monterey area is very dry, average rainfall there is super small – below 20 inches a year and all these things have an affect on the grape quality.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
NANCY: I’ve started a new brand and we are working on getting that to market. Right now I’m preparing all the wines for bottling July 25th and that is super intense, we are pulling out of barrel and I’m tasting and blending the lots. It is such a rush to taste the new wines and realize the super high quality that is going to be available – yet another fantastic vintage for Stephen & Walker!! Yay!!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
NANCY: Really – just enjoy at your leisure. Make sure to decant your reds and allow them to open up. Serve your wine in BIG, BIG glasses so you have a chance to really taste and enjoy them as they open and change too!!
RED: 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!
NANCY: Until next time, Agent Red. Stay covert!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Santa Lucia Highlands, near Soledad, CA can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – Grand Harvest Award 2011
About This Wine:
This Pinot is grown in an area of Monterey County – Santa Lucia Highlands which is famous for producing stunning wines. It is from a vineyard that our winemaker has made consistent quality and gold medal winners. Extremely complex with supple flavors of rhubarb, red berry and warm cinnamon. Rich spicebox flavors balance the bright acidity in this elegant blend. Bright fruit, earthy vine flavors and balance make this wine true love for me!! It is truly my favorite wine to drink at night.
Our wonderful Central Coast Pinot Noir is dense, rich and extracted just like it’s older sisters. The grapes were harvested at optimal ripeness by the gang at Scheid Vineyards and they delivered the grapes to our winery at about 25.5 Brix. The fruit was perfect and so is the resulting wine.
We crushed and fermented in small 1-ton-open-topped fermentation tanks. We hand punched down these grapes twice daily for 7 days and then pressed directly to 2 year old french barrels. The wine was aged for 32 months before bottling on August 2010.
This Pinot Noir has exceptional red cherry-pit flavors with a background of cherries, raspberries, dried herbs and tar combine with leafy and earthy vine flavors. This well-balanced, elegant wine has a long delightful finish. I love Central Coast Pinot Noir, and hope you will agree that this wine is superb.
Tasting Notes: Gorgeous central coast spicey berry, rhubarb, cranberry, dense vanilla-butterscotch. Ripe cranberry-raisin on the pallette. Long, lingering finish.
About The Winery:
We are a small, artisanal family owned winery located in the heart of the California wine country in Healdsburg, California. We have spent most of our lives in the vineyards and wineries of California, so it was a natural progression to start our own, winery in 2004. Our three partners: Nancy Walker, Tony Stephen and Irv Bush collectively have half a century growing wine grapes, and making fine wines.
We are proud and passionate to bring you wines made from the remarkable vineyards we tend with our growers in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterey Counties. Every bottle of wine we produce has our commitment and unique perspective, and that is to bring you the true flavors realized from the terroir. Based on our experience, we believe each wine is a specific, individual expression of the fruit from our vineyards and the craft of our winemaker.
We are excited to open the doors and welcome you to our new wine tasting room on the Plaza in Healdsburg. Come visit with us, taste our wines and savor the flavors of our Dry Creek Zinfandel, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey Pinot Noir or Mendocino Port.
About The Winemaker:
Our Winemaker, Nancy Walker, has had the luxury of working as a winemaker in California for the past 22 years. Based in Mendocino County, Nancy has traveled throughout the region visiting growers from Temecula to Portland and from the Shenandoah Valley of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Through her travels, Nancy has developed an appreciation for the regional and local differences that each unique vineyard produces and with this, she is able to tend to our vineyards with our small growers throughout the state, to produce wines of concentration and distinction.
Nancy is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, renowned for winemaking education. Her winemaking career began in 1984, as a cellar worker at McDowell Valley Vineyards. From there, she honed her skills at many local wineries starting with Geyser Peak (1984-1985) as Wine Chemist and QC Technician. From there it was on to Dunnewood (1985-1990), where she was the Assistant Winemaker for 5 years before moving on to Assistant Winemaker at Clos du Bois (1991). Nancy was then responsible for the set up and operation of the small family winery at Brutocao Cellars (1991-1998).
Nancy was then searching for diverse production and vineyard opportunities, and accepted a position at Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland (1998-2005). She then moved on to Winery Exchange (2005-current), an international beverage company, where she is responsible for the winemaking portfolio of Washington, Oregon and California.
Nancy manages has her own wine consulting business where she advises small, micro-lot wine brands of ultra-premium wines.
Harvest Date: 9-15-11
Acid: 0.59 g/100ml
Aging: 30 months in small french oak barrels
Fermentation: 14 days, then pressed direct to barrel
Bottling Date: 8-1-2010
Residual Sugar: 0.09%
Tannin: Soft, subtle enjoyable.