2007 Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir
California: Napa Valley: Carneros
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Mission Codename: Who Knew?
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Re-infiltrate Benessere Vineyards, this time to secure an exclusive allocation of their exceptional 2007 Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Benessere Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Jack Stuart
Winery Backgrounder: For those of you Operatives that have been with us for the last four and a half years, Benessere Vineyards has become a likely favorite for you – as they have for us here at Wine Spies HQ. Benessere is on a mission of their own, to craft small lots of wines that are the ultimate expression of varietal and terroir.
Varietal Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir. Pinot thrives here. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – With dark ruby hues – from the heart of this pretty wine right out to the edge of the glass – this wine maintains evenly concentrated color. Swirl and the wine settles quickly, leaving behind tall columns of closely-spaced legs that take a long time to run down the inside of the glass.
Smell – Layered and fragrant, leading with candied black cherry, raspberry, Bing cherry and spiced black tea. These sit right atop hard leather, soft sweetwoods, flinty minerals, earth and kola nut.
Feel – Smooth, soft and light-weight on the initial attack. As the wine glides across the mid-palate, it takes on a slightly grippy and full-bodied feel. As it settles in, fine-grained tannins add a softly-dry crushed velvet texture. After the wine leaves the palate, a flinty dryness and soft spicy tang persist.
Taste – Exploding with flavor, this wine leads with black cherry juice, young strawberry, spiced cherry hard candy, dried black tea leaf and red plum. Beneath these, as the wine opens up, sweetwoods, gunpowder, soft earth, leather and soft spice round out the bevvy of flavors.
Finish – Very long, with red fruit slowly giving way to an extended presence of black tea, forest floor and leather. As these fade, a flinty minerality and zingy spice linger onward for a while longer.
Conclusion – The 2007 Benessere Pinot Noir – Carneros, Napa Valley is a truly delicious wine. While we have come to equate Benessere with wonderful Zinfandels and Zin Blends, we are getting to know their other single varietal wines, as well. Each of them are, simply, fantastic. Today’s Pinot Noir is a delicious, complex, bold and very flavorful wine that delivers a plush feel and deep aromatics. If you love great Carneros Pinot Noir, you’ll be impressed by this compelling and flavor-filled wine. Enjoy a clean and lively, softly spicy finish, with black pepper and subtle brown spice that appear at the very end. Pair this flexible wine with grilled lamb, pork tenderloin or a wild mushroom polenta. Enjoy now, or cellar for the next few years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jack Stuart
WINE EDUCATION: At my mother’s knee (age 4, in an Italian restaurant); my father’s first interest in Cabernets (when they were $3 a bottle); early underage experience in San Francisco bistros (back when you could get served); extensive travel in France and Italy; Robert Finnegan’s Private Guide to Wine (he was the Parker of the 1970s and an early booster of Domaine Dujac); Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine; an assorted case of European wines given to my wife and me as a wedding present by the father of a college friend; and two years of graduate school in the Master’s program at UC Davis.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: First commercial winemaking position: Durney Vineyards, Carmel Valley, 1978 and 1979; my first Cabernet won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair. Longest-held position: Winemaker & General Manager of Silverado Vineyards, Stags Leap District, 1980 to 2004; in 1987 I was the first American to receive the Robert Mondavi Trophy for Winemaker of the Year award from the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. Most closely held position: Winemaker & Partner of Trivium Wine, a local partnership making 400 cases of St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon. Most recent position: WM & GM, Benessere Vineyards, since January.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Let the variety and the place speak (or sing!) in the wine. Not overripe, not over-alcoholic, graceful, flavorful and balanced.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “If two glasses of that wine will land you in the pokey or in the ditch, then it’s too damn alcoholic.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1978 Durney Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, released 1981. Recently opened a bottle of this wine to celebrate my son-in-law’s birthday (he was born that year), and it was amazing: still purple red, primary fruit aromas, lovely flavors and balance!
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jack. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Napa Carneros Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JACK: Thank, Red. Great to be with you, again.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JACK: Martin Ray Saratoga Cabernet Sauvignon, 1960-something, tasted in the late sixties or early seventies; my first experience with new French oak in a California wine. Two wines from 1970: Ch. Mouton, bought for $20, and BV Private Reserve, bought for $8.33; both rich, elegant, pure expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JACK: Myself, and consumers who appreciate what I’m trying to do. Chasing reviews destroys the soul.
AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JACK: Pinot Noir is a seductive temptress! When good, it is a complex blend of fruit, soft glove leather and perfumed earth. It has smooth flavors of crushed cherries, rose petals and caramel with a bright entry, lush mid-palate and seamless, lingering finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JACK: Pair this wine with vegetable pasta, lamb chops, salmon steak, and fine milk chocolates.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Napa Carneros region so special?
JACK: Our version of Pinot Noir, which we think is loaded with ripe cherry fruit and cranberry juice aromas, is a great example of why the Carneros region is renowned for Pinot Noir.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JACK: Come visit our tasting room at 1010 Big Tree Road in St. Helena, and you can try them. Expect wines that don’t taste like what you had last night. In a world of Cabernet, we’re doing something different. There is nearly infinite variety in the world of wine, which is what makes it more interesting than vodka, so keep trying new wines from people and places you’ve never heard of.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JACK: We’ve had a wet spring and mild summer so far this year, and the vines are lovin’ it! There were two-and-a-half inches of rain in June, ten times the average, and a cooler than normal July—no ten-day heat waves this year. Véraison, the softening and coloring of the grapes, didn’t begin upvalley until the first week of August, and if it weren’t for a significantly smaller crop than last year, we’d really be sweating harvest. As it is, things won’t kick into gear until late September or early October. Come see us after the kids are back to school!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JACK: Yes. The two most important things you need to know about wine is (1) what you like and (2) where to find it. Don’t be buffaloed by critics or intimidated by waiters—drink what YOU think is good. Red wine with fish is okay. The only rule is: Don’t drink and drive.
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!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Benessere Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Pinot Noir is a seductive temptress! When good, it is a complex blend of fruit, soft glove leather and perfumed earth. Our version of Pinot Noir, which we think is loaded with ripe cherry fruit and cranberry juice aromas, is a great example of why the Carneros region is renowned for Pinot Noir. It has smooth flavors of crushed cherries, rose petals and caramel with a bright entry, lush mid-palate and seamless, lingering finish. Pair this wine with vegetable pasta, lamb chops, salmon steak, and fine milk chocolates. It will age well for three to six years.
Vintage: 2007 began early due to the dry weather and light crop. Without the cool spring and summer, harvest would have begun even earlier. Uncharacteristically for Napa Valley, the rain stopped after mid-March. A heat spike around Labor Day foretold that the vintage would follow rapidly. However, after this brief heat wave, the balance of the fall was unseasonably cool and harvest was extended through the end of October. This extension of hang-time allowed for full flavor development and leisurely picking and fermentation regimes. The 2007 vintage marked the second vintage in a row of a light crop in Napa Valley. Bob Mueller grew the grapes for this wine and his vineyard is located in the cool and foggy Carneros region of Napa Valley.
Winemaking: Pinot Noir is one of my favorite grapes to make! It is extremely fickle and it is not only a difficult grape to grow; it is difficult to make into wine as well (similar to Sangiovese). There is no way to make great Pinot without a great vineyard; however, there are many ways to mess it up in the winery. I feel that this is our finest Pinot Noir to date. All of the elements were right for great Pinot Noir production in ’07: small, intensely flavored fruit, gentle handling and listening to the vineyard owner about how to best produce wine from his vineyard. After a long, slow fermentation, the must was pressed directly to barrel. 50% new and 50% once used French oak barrels were used to age this wine. It was gravity racked once during its life in barrel and bottled after 15 months of aging.
About The Winery:
“Benessere” is the Italian word for well being and prosperity. This is the feeling we try to embody at Benessere Winery. We are a small family owned, high end producer of Italian varietals, located in the north end of Napa Valley on the valley floor where the soil is well suited for growing excellent wine.
The property was purchased in 1994 by John Benish. At that time it had been abandoned for some years. It has now been restored and everyone who visits comments on our beautiful setting. The buildings are sunny yellow, the flowers are breathtaking and visitors like to linger to enjoy the ambiance while sipping our exquisite wine. Because we are small, we pride ourselves on individual attention to all our visitors. Everyone who comes is treated as company and we hope you will feel this when you visit us.
In 1998 we harvested our first crop. Sangiovese is our signature wine. This beautiful deep-ruby colored, aromatic wine pairs well with all foods. We are continuing in our quest to produce the finest Sangiovese possible through gentle handling of the fruit and of the resulting wine. The Black Glass Zinfandel is exceptional and can be drunk for special occasions or for every day. You will enjoy it immensely. We make a Pinot Grigio, loved for its clean crisp taste, with fruit that has been purchased in Carneros. Every year we sell out of this very quickly.
We have expanded our selection of varietals to include Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Muscat di Canelli. We also produce an outstanding blend called Phenomenon.
The wine club is open to new members. Some of our wine can be bought only through the wine club. Although we have a large group we give them all individual attention, and even have several parties a year open only to our members. They are very festive affairs and our members always enjoy these events.
In addition to our beautiful property and beautiful wine, we also have the distinctive possibility of being the only place where the late Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous tenor, made his only movie, “Yes, Giorgio”. The movie company installed a tennis court especially so Luciano could play tennis in that movie.
We would be honored to have you visit our winery.
Production: 105 cases
Acid: 0.59 ml