2006 North Coast Pinot Noir
California: North Coast
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Mission Codename: Scrooge McPinot
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: At the behest of our Operatives around the world, return to Westwood Winery to secure the final allotment of their budget-minded 2006 North Coast Pinot Noir, a wine that delivers real value.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Westwwood Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir – North Coast
Winemaker: John Kelly
Backgrounder: We first featured fantastic wines from our friends at Wesrtwood Wines a few years ago. Since then, our operatives have been asking us to feature another. Through careful negotiation, Agent Red was able to procure a limited quantity of their outstanding North Coast Pinot Noir, a budget-minded Pinot that can hang with its more pricey brethren.
We love John Kelly’s wines – and we love John! He is always great fun to hang out with and he always loves talking shop. During my recent visit with him, conversation ran the gamut! If you ever find yourself in the town of Sonoma, be sure to stop in. John and his team are a warm, wonderful and interesting lot.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Light ruby hues are the predominant color, with a slightly darker core, and lighter edges. When swirled, fat, widely-spaced legs form high up on the glass, moving slowly to the surface below.
Smell – Rich and aromatic with earthy aromas or cherry, cherry bark, dark raspberry and young strawberry. Sweet tobacco, black tea and toasty oak mingle with a soft minerality, subtle spice and a hint of black pepper.
Feel – Cool and soft across the front-palate, this wine then takes on a plush, medium-bodied feel with a soft crushed velvet feel at the mid-palate. Well structured and lively, with bright acids and fine tannins. Light minerals show up as a spreading dryness appears.
Taste – Dark cherry, tart young strawberry, bramble and under ripe boysenberry are the primary flavors. As the wine opens, subtle mushroom, dried fall leaves, black tea leaf and a hint of dried violet appear. If you swirl or decant the wine for a long time, kola nut, black pepper and flinty minerals add softness, depth and complexity.
Finish – Long and clean with red fruit yielding to the earthen flavors. At the tail end, subtle flint and black pepper linger as the palate dries.
Conclusion – The 2006 Westwood Winery North Coast Pinot Noir from our old pals at Westwood, is a bright, tart, easy-drinking Pinot that won’t break the bank. Decant for the best results, as the fruit takes a little bit of time to develop. When it does, though, it ripens and takes on a softer and more flavorful appeal. Pair this food-friendly wine with lighter fair, or a nice rare filet Mignon.
Mission Report:WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: John M. Kelly
WINE EDUCATION: post-graduate degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis, on the job at a retail wine store
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: trained at Westwood, R.H. Phillips, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Duckhorn Vineyards and Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards before going out on my own.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: pre-emptive minimalism: respect tradition in light of modern understanding, don’t do anything in the vineyard or winery that forces me to take extra measures later.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” I guess I explain things pretty well – people end up asking me questions they had never thought to ask before.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: (DATE) first Westwood release was a 1984 Pinot Noir from Lake County. My first vintage in control of Westwood was 1995.
AGENT RED: Greetings, John. We are thrilled to be showing your 2005 Westwood redFOUR blend today. Our Operatives loved the 2006 that we featured, and we are really excited to be able to offer them today’s 2005! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOHN: Glad to have the opportunity to chat with you, Agent Red.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOHN: We always had good wine at the dinner table when I was growing up, but it was a trip to Napa Valley in the early 70s that sealed the deal for me. I was too young to taste at the wineries, but the vineyards, the smells in the cellars – they made an deep impression that never wore off. Plus my parents brought back a boatload of great wine – mostly reserve Cabernets – that we enjoyed for years after. It was working for Mansion Cellars – at the time the only fine wine shop in Davis – for a year (1986) that started my career.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOHN: My archetype is probably my first taste of a decent Valpoilicella. Boillot red Burgundies from Volnay and Pommard, my first Vieux Telegraphe, a Clape Cornas, Acacia, Chalone and Calera Pinots… So I guess it was not “a” wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JOHN: Our plan has always been to make wines I like, and then find the consumers who are as excited by them as I am. We don’t make a lot of wine – under 2,500 cases.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JOHN: This is our 2006 North Coast Pinot; it is 80% Sonoma Valley (from our Estate vineyard) and 20% from southern Napa Valley. It’s 100% Pinot but I felt this particular lot did not fit the profile we set for our vineyard-designated wines. The “North Coast” designation is our equivalent of a second label, and so is priced at about 60% of where our reserve wines are.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOHN: Cheese. Actually enjoying a glass with a grilled cheese with wild mushrooms on sourdough with a soup made from the last of the season’s tomatoes, charred over the grill. Yum.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the North Coast so special?
JOHN: When I make a blend like this I expect the individual characteristics of each vineyard to fade into the background. What comes through is the delicacy and refinement that Pinot grown in our cooler Coastal locations can develop.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JOHN: With an open mind! Leave aside expectations and preconceived notions. Especially with Westwood wines – our wines don’t fit the “California” profile. They are soil-driven rather than fruit driven.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JOHN: Yes – a glass of wine. If you find yourself in downtown Sonoma, come see us!
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOHN: U Sweating the weird weather this harvest. Sweating it. But hey, it’s all good.
RED: Yes, have a great harvest, John! 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 Westwood Winery tasting room, just off the square in downtown Sonoma, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Late rains in the Spring of 2006 threw some serious challenges our way. We were still sticking tractors in the mud in May. The cover crop was shoulder-high before we could get in to mow it. Vine canopies grew and kept growing through harvest. Across the North Coast, clusters of Pinot Noir came in well over twice their average weights at harvest. Fruit came in simultaneously too sweet and too thin.
We pulled out all the tricks in our book, but the 2006 Pinots never came together to be the wines we require for our vineyard-designated bottlings. Fortunately the blend turned out well: 82% Sonoma Valley and 18% Napa Valley – meaning the wine has a “North Coast” designation. No vineyard designation means a great-drinking wine at a bargain price.
About The Winery:
NEW WORLD WINES WITH TRADITIONAL STYLE: Westwood produces wines that satisfy desires for depth, structure, balance and finesse. Our wines are soil-driven and food-friendly. Westwood’s Annadel Estate Vineyard is planted to Dijon and heritage clones of Pinot Noir, several clones of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Tannat. Starting with the 2008 vintage our wines are all Estate-produced and -bottled.
We currently bottle one Estate Pinot Noir, a varietal Syrah, our proprietary redFOUR Rhône blend (Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, and a hint of mystery), our 4-Part Rosé, produced as a saignée de cuve from Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah, and finally, a small amount of varietal Tannat. Our total annual production is around 2,000 cases.
A NEW WINERY WITH A SOLID PAST: The modern history of Westwood began in 2002 when the winery – founded in 1984 by Bert Urch and Betty Stoltz – was purchased by John Kelly and partners and moved to Sonoma Valley. Today John – a UC Davis-trained biochemist with over two decades of winemaking experience – is making Westwood wines from grapes grown on the Annadel Estate, a unique vineyard planted by the partners in 2001.
The Apprenticeship of John Kelly: John Kelly and Westwood go way back. He and Bert befriended each other while working together in the Department of Biochemistry at Davis, where John was pursuing his post-graduate degree. After Westwood was established as a commercial operation John began helping Bert out at the winery whenever he could.
When John decided to pursue a career outside academia he first took a job managing a high-end wine shop in Davis, and then interned in wine production at R. H. Philips Vineyards in 1987. In 1988 he landed an assistant winemaker position with the prestigious Napa Valley Cabernet producer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. At SLWC, John’s responsibilities grew to encompass viticultural research – which allowed him to put his training as a scientist to use.
John maintained his relationship with Westwood as his winemaking apprenticeship progressed, continuing to assist whenever he could. Then in 1992 he left Stag’s Leap for a short but instructive stint at Duckhorn Vineyards before moving on into a deeply rewarding research position at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Sonoma County’s famous Chardonnay producer in the Russian River Valley.
Late in 1994, while still at Sonoma-Cutrer, John took over winemaking at Westwood when Bert Urch suddenly passed away. In 1995 John put to use lessons learned from his associations with wineries successfully specializing in one grape – Chardonnay at Sonoma-Cutrer, Merlot at Duckhorn, Cabernet at Stag’s Leap – and decided to focus his attentions on Pinot Noir at Westwood.
A New Partnership: In 1998, John was working as Technical Director for the wine service laboratory Vinquiry and devoting nights and weekends to Westwood. Though fully engaged in these pursuits, when presented with an opportunity to form a partnership with investors to acquire potential vineyard land, he took it.
The partnership bought an undeveloped parcel located at the northwest end of the Sonoma Valley appellation, in the cool Santa Rosa Plain–Russian River drainage basin. They immediately set about improving and planting their unique site, taking the historic place name of the surrounding area to call their development the Annadel Estate Vineyard.
While the vineyard was being established the partnership approached Betty Stoltz, the owner of Westwood, with an offer to buy the winery. A deal was struck and closed in 2002, and in anticipation of working with the grapes from Westwood’s Annadel Estate the new owners determined to move the winery from its original Sierra Foothills location to the town of Sonoma.
The Move To Sonoma Valley: While waiting for the Estate vineyard to come into production, John secured contracts to buy Pinot Noir fruit from two very high quality vineyards, one in the Sonoma Valley appellation and one in the Sonoma Carneros. John and his partners brought Westwood to market in its new Sonoma Valley incarnation with these two Pinot Noir bottlings, along with the superb Haynes Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir which Westwood produced from 1985 through 2005. Starting with the 2008 vintage, all Westwood wines are 100% Estate Bottled.
We have taken full advantage of the unique combination of soils and exposures at our Annadel Estate Vineyard, planting Pinot Noir in the coolest areas. Presented with a diversity of soils and meso-climates at the site we decided to expand the range of wines offered under the Westwood label. In the warmer locations we planted an unusual selection of red Rhône varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise. We originally planted a small amount of the inky, aptly named Tannat to give us new blending options for our unique reds, but have since found it can make a really interesting varietal wine at our site.
The Future of Westwood: After several vintages the wines we have produced from the Annadel Estate have started to show a clear sense of place, a distinctive structure and minerality that will define the Westwood style going forward.
Ultimately Westwood will release two Estate Pinot Noir bottlings – one vinted from modern-era Dijon clones and a second Pinot assembled from our collection of California Heritage clones.
We will release four wines from our other Estate varieties: our redFOUR – a proprietary red wine blend, a dry pink wine we call our 4-Part Rosé, produced from saignée de cuve of our Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah grape lots, a varietal Syrah, and a small amount of varietal Tannat.
Westwood has embarked a new chapter in its history – in Sonoma Valley, where we will continue to produce distinctive artisanal red wines in our iconoclastic soil-driven style.
Varietals: Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 14.4% (v/v)