2005 Bella Luna Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Bella Luna Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Churchill Cellars.
Mission Codename: Sir Winston Churchill said: I am easily satisfied with the very best
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Substantiate the claim that Churchill Cellars makes the Perfect Pinot
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Churchill Cellars
Wine Subject: 2005 Bella Luna Vineyard Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Anthony Austin
When a Wines Spies field asset tipped us off that a winery in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley was reported to have created the Perfect Pinot we wasted no time. Agent Red was dispatched immediately. Read his tasting profile and following mission report to see how todays wine hold up to the hype.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Ruby red with perfect clarity, an ultra-tight surface that quickly settles to perfectly still when swirled
Smell – Deeply aromatic with a rich nose of candy apple, sweet cherry, soft leather, subtle cigar box and a hint of spice and the slightest flinty gunpowder
Feel – Feather-light, silky smooth and utterly round, this wine starts cool and bouncy and then warms slowly as medium tannins take hold at the front of the mouth
Taste – delicious layer upon layer of fruit and spice featuring cherry, leather, dark stonefruit, pinot grape and subtle espresso
Finish – This wine has a finely polished finish that starts big, with a slight tartness and fruit – but then turns soft, delicate, elegant and slightly dry
Conclusion – This is another deeply impressive Estate Pinot Noir from California’s Russian River Valley, a region that has consistently impressed us with its quality wines. Churchill Cellars set out to create the perfect Pinot Noir and Pinot is all they do. This spy declares their effort a smashing success. This Pinot has the best mouth-feel of any pinot tasted in recent memory, and its rich flavors and aromatics round out the drinking experience. This is a wine to enjoy on its own, and with its balance and acidity, can be easily paired with most meats, cheeses or seafood.
“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Reading this, I can’t help but imagine Winston Churchill peering into the future, at the winemakers that today make wines that bare his name. Certainly, if Sir Winston were alive today, he’d appreciate this exceptional wine from Churchill Cellars.
I first came to know about Churchill Cellars through an informant. This asset told me that Churchill was making Pinot that was close to perfect. I knew that with a claim like this from my trusted source, an immediate surveillance mission was in order.
Before I could pay Churchill Cellars a visit, however, I had other business to attend to; The Wine Spies were invited to a secret wine-industry where carefully vetted winemakers would have a chance to meet with us – and to unveil their new releases to us in advance of any public unveiling. This sort of clandestine gathering is the perfect place to sleuth out new wines for our Operatives – before anyone else gets to see them.
Since Agent White was handling all of the logistics for the gathering (arranging accommodations, helicopter rides, massages and the like for our winemakers), I had no idea how many winemakers to expect. The gathering was larger than I had thought it would be, with nearly 30 winery-folk packed into the poshly-appointed meeting room.
Midway through the evening, a very tall man sidles casually up next to me and shakes my hand. “So, your Agent Red” he says. “What’s your favorite varietal?”
Agent Sparkle is concealed behind a two-way mirror behind me, feeding me intel on each winemaker I meet throughout the night. Through the tiny two-way radio concealed in my ear canal, Agent Sparkle says, “Ken Churchill. Churchill Cellars. Exclusively high-end Pinot and on your Alert List.”
I smile at the man and reply, “I enjoy most red varietals, but my current infatuation is for a great Cabernet Franc.”
He takes the bait and, scowling slightly, says, “Who drinks Cab Franc? what can you pair that with? What about a great Pinot Noir?” As he asks this question, his eyebrows go up and down slightly and a sly smile plays across his lips.
“Why?,” I ask. “Who do you know that makes the best Pinot?”
His smile broadens and he gushes exuberantly about his own estate Pinot Noir, and about his passionate pursuit for Pinot perfection. His enthusiasm seems to know no bounds and he suggests that we arrange a tasting.
The next day I am treated to some of the best Pinot Noir I have tasted in some time. Ken and his winemaker, Anthony Austin, have created a premium Pinot Noir with incredible mouth-feel, rich aromatics and great flavors. This vintage is reported to be better than the previous and they have high hopes for an even better vintage late this year with the release of their 2006. They got this one so right that I can’t imagine much more improvement.
To create wines that get better with each successive vintage is the goal of most great winemakers and the team at Churchill Cellars certainly have the drive to pull it off. As Winston Churchill said:
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
What the Winery Says
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Awards and Accolades:
Excellent Review from the Pinot File Read Review
Right in step with the luscious 2004 edition. Terrific aromatics featuring candied cherry, spice, and newly-sawn wood. Easily approachable with layers of sweet red Pinot fruit, leather, mocha, oak and herbs. Fine and creamy in texture with integrated tannins and impeccable balance. The future looks bright for this young vineyard.
Rusty Gaffney, M.D. Wine Reviewer/Author PinotFile Newsletter, Tustin
Score: 89 Straight forward and nicely focused scents of cherries, toast and cocoa with hints of a reedy, tight edge are the opening act of this well-played effort, and it follows through nicely on the palate with mid-volume flavors wrapped by velvet and a touch of finishing firmness. As with many wines from this cool vintage, it will grow with age.
Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine
I keep coming back to your Pinot and each time I do it is better than I remembered. When we make a dinner for our guests to remember, I always serve Churchill Cellars and your wine always makes the evening.
Richard Finley, Partner 34 North Street Wine Merchants, Healdsburg
About This Wine:
An elegant medium bodied Pinot Noir with rich dark flavors of black cherry and plum. From grapes grown on the Churchill Cellars estate, this wine has a beautiful nose, long finish and a silky texture. A great wine for pairing with food or having by itself.
The Bella Luna Vineyard is a 2,000 vine 1 acre small-vine vineyard located on Olivet Road in the Russian River Valley Appellation. The vineyard was planted in the year 2000 with 115, 459, 667, and 777 Dijon clone Pinot Noir grapes.
Terrific aromas featuring candied cherry, spice and newly-sawn wood. Easily approachable with layers of sweet red Pinot fruit, leather, mocha, oak and herbs. Fine and creamy in texture with integrated tannins and impeccable balance.
Pair with seafood including salmon and tuna and meat including beef, turkey, duck, chicken. Also complements the following cheeses: brie, fetta, goat, and jack
DRINK BY DATE Now through 2012
$45 per bottle / $540 per case
Vineyards: Bella Luna Vineyard
Clones: Dijon 115, 667, 777, 459
Cold Soak: 9 days, punch down twice daily
Pressed at: 5 Brix, 10% whole clusters added back
Residual Sugar: Dry
Aged: 18 months in 50% new Sirugue barrels (36 months air dried) 50% one-year old barrels
Yeast: Initial fermentation with wild yeast, inoculated with Assmanhausen strain, slow, controlled disciplined yeast
Released: September 1, 2007
Cases Produced: 233