2005 Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Larklinn Vineyard
California: Mendocino County: Anderson Valley
What we say
Mission Codename: The Secret Formula
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Investigate the rumor that the formula for Gryphon wine was stolen by fabled winemaker, Mr. [censored]
Mission Status: Inconclusive (note: Regardless, Gryphon Pinot is better than the highly rated Pinot from [censored])
Current Winery: Gryphon Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Gryphon Pinot Noir
Principal Winemaker: Jonathan O’Bergin
Founded on their shared loves of great food, fine wines, world travel and general good times, Gryphon Wines is the life-expression of husband and wife team, Jonathan O’Bergin and Marie “Zabie” Johnson. It could be said that, given their respective heritage and life experience, creating fine wines was only a natural outcome for them both. Today, they make wines of distinct character. One of the wines that I tried I described as “fun”, the perfect description of this winemaking couple.
Their approach to winemaking starts in the vineyards, where little external influence is exerted on the grapes. Instead of employing high-tech farming practices, they allow nature to reign almost unrestrained over the grapes, supplementing her own sway by giving the grape water only during drier periods or laying down light beds of kelp when natural ground cover is sparse. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are never employed. When the grapes ripen to perfection, Jonathan and Zabie say that the wines practically make themselves. I found out otherwise. I know that careful winemaking and experimentation played a major role in producing this great wine.
Gryphon Wines Pino Noir is made exclusively from grapes which are owned by Jonathan and Zabie and grown on their vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Monterey County, and on their Larklinn Ranch; 120 acres nestled in the ‘deep end’ of Anderson Valley, in California’s Mendocino County. While Jonathan had been making Pinot Noir in Anderson Valley since 1989, it wasn’t until he blended Pinot Noir grapes from the Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards, that Pinot magic was made! This blend of grapes, from two distinctly different and equally fabled Pinot Noir regions, was exceptional.
This magic did not go unnoticed and earlier this year millionaire winemaker, [censored], released his own award-winning Pinot from these two great regions. Was this a coincidence? On inspection, I was able to determine that Jonathan O’Bergin did meet with [censored] to discuss various winemaking practices. During their discussions, it seems that Jonathan did suggest that these two regions would pair magnificently. At the time, this suggestion was shrugged off by [censored], and while I do not have conclusive evidence to support our assumption that Jonathan’s idea was ‘borrowed’, the release of [censored]’s own two-region Pinot seems proof enough for me.
I recently met Zabie while on a covert mission in Napa. I smelled wine and struck up a conversation with her. Sure enough, I learned that she was a winemaker and she and her husband were launching a new wine label. We talked for a long time. Afterward, Zabie gave me her business card and invited me to visit her and husband Jonathan in Carmel Valley. A few weeks later I called to arrange a meeting.
My Spy GPS led me slightly astray and I arrived at their home a few minutes later than expected. Their home was beautiful and the view of the lower valley was spectacular. Jonathan, a mile-a-minute talker that gushes with charm and enthusiasm, sat me on a stool and poured me two glasses of his Pinot Noir; One that was freshly opened and another that had been decanted two hours previous. Both were great, but the decanted wine was superb. We swirled, sniffed, sipped and talked for a long time, taking a break to enjoy a wonderful Zabie-cooked omelet of egg, fresh tomato (Jonathan pulls seemingly hundreds of pounds out of his organic garden behind the house), squash and gruyere cheese. This, paired with freshly baked bread from a local organic bakery and the Gryphon Pinot Noir, made for a heavenly mission.
Spying wines is not all grueling work, but its missions like this one that make up for the harder ones. Zabie and Jonathan are great people that make great wines. It is my recommendation that all of our Pinot loving Agents try this wine before it runs out. While I was able to negotiate a small quantity of cases, I don’t expect there to be much left to anyone soon.
[note to Wine Spies Central Command: Time to update navigational systems!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Light Garnet color, with a little more red than the classic color of some Pinot Noir
Smell – A wonderful blast of cherry, strawberry and gunpowder, with subtle sterile mulch and potting soil
Feel – This wine has a unique feel! Its smooth and wet to begin with but the wine seems to HOVER on the tongue! Mild mid-palate tannins
Taste – This is a complicated wine to describe in terms of taste. Sip it and your taste light flavors of strawberry and cassis. Hold it in your mouth and the hovering effect almost hides the flavors from you. Decant for a few hours to reveal more character and deeper flavors
Finish – Long-lasting but delicate with all over mouth flavors and feel that taper off wonderfully
Conclusion – Once again, The Wine Spies bring you a wine that drinks like a $50+ bottle. This is an interesting wine that, on opening, has lighter flavors than most California Pinot Noir. Air it out for 2 or 3 hours and it really comes alive, revealing way more character and aromas and flavors that just were not there on opening.
Wine Spies Technical Wine Analysis
(pending, check back soon)
What the winery says
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The first thing you will notice about this Pinot Noir is a distinct aroma of wild strawberry and blackberry filling your glass. A classic vinus quality balances the fruit on the palate. This wine is soft yet structured with a core of tannin wrapped in velvet and a supple, lingering black cherry and currant finish.
We blended the pinot from our Larklinn vineyard with fruit from 32-year-old vines grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. The synergy of this blend highlights the best of each terroir while creating something unique and delicious. Great wine at a great value!
We are delighted to promise “No corked bottles”! This is the first Pinot Noir we have bottled under screw cap.