2006 Thorn Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Thorn Ridge Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Coast
What We Say
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Mission Codename: The Shaman
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Uncover the truth behind the greatness of Talisman’s stellar 2006 Thorn Vineyard Pinot Noir. Infiltrate the winery and capture an ample cache of cases for our Pinot-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Talisman Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Pinot Noir Sonoma Valley
Winemaker: Marta Rich
Backgrounder: The Sonoma Valley AVA is one of the oldest wine growing regions in California with the first vines being planted in the early 1800s. The AVA is located along California Route 12 and its eastern boundary are the southern end of the Mayacama mountains. The unique micro-climate with less rainfall and fog than other parts of the region along with its unique soil provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – This beautiful wine shows like a perfect mix of California and Burgundy. On one hand, the wine shows ruby hues like a Cali. On the other, there are hints of Burgundy coloration and just the slightest haziness, like a French Pinot Noir. When swirled, this wine appears soft and springy. The core of the wine continues to spin long after you stop swirling. Chubby legs emerge high up on the glass, but only after a long while. Tight clusters of legs take a long way to make their way down the glass
Smell – Immediately on opening, this wine delivers a unique rush of earthy cherry, melded with strawberry, raspberry, young strawberry, soft spice and oak. After allowing some time to breath, these aromas are still as lovely, but they are softer. Underneath, you’ll find soft leather, minerals and soft silver gunpowder
Feel – Lush and soft on entry, this wine takes a moment to emerge as more full-bodied and slightly dry. Medium tannins ramp up, taking hold at the edges of the tongue and inside the cheeks and lips, giving it a more full-bodied feel
Taste – Showing Burgundian and Cali character all at once, this wine is delicious, complex, flavorful and intriguing. The wine leads with the red fruits of the nose – and is followed by lush ripe blackberry, dried dark flowers, earthy minerals and subtle dried tobacco leaf
Finish – Long and plush, this wine begins soft, bright and sweetly tart and then emerges as slightly dry as bright fruit flavors give way to more earthen and mineral flavors
Conclusion – Big and delicious, this wine shows restrained boldness. That is, it has a big and bold character, but it holds it all in check, careful not to overwhelm your senses. Therein is the Cali/Burgundy paradox that this wine presents. The wine is all-California in it’s bold fruit, but French in it’s earthen undertones. If you are a fan of either style, this is a wine that will intrigue you. If you are a fan of both styles, this is a wine that will compel you – to open that next bottle! Drinking beautifully now, this wine will only continue to improve with age. This wine gets a very hearty Wine Spies recommendation.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Scott Rich
DATE OF BIRTH: January 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH: A lonely, arid desert with no grapevines.
WINE EDUCATION: Graduate School – UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, great mentors, lots of tasting.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Owner/Winemaker – Talisman Wines (1993-present), Winemaker – Moraga Vineyards (2002-present), Winemaker/General Manager – Carneros Creek Winery (2001-2002), Winemaker – Etude Wines (1995-2001), Winemaker – Mont St. John Cellars (1992-1995), Research Enologist – Robert Mondavi Woodbridge (1990), Research Enologist – The R.H. Phillips Vineyard (1989-1990). I also managed to get in a few years consulting in Chile.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Let the vineyard shine through! Minimize the winemaker’s fingerprints on the wine.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Pinot Noir
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Setting up our humble little winery in an industrial park. The setting isn’t impressive, but it gave us complete control over the winemaking process. Prior to that, the wines were made in other people’s wineries. We were always able to get what we wanted, but it wasn’t always without a struggle. Now we don’t have any conflicts with a host winery.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: The day that we had an open house at the winery and one of the visitors asked for her own room because the wine was so orgasmic. Everyone else in the room said, “I’d like whatever she’s drinking!” The ultimate compliment for any winemaker is seeing this sort of visceral, pleasurable response.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Reaching a point at which grape growers actually come to us because we’ve earned a reputation for being very reasonable to work with and making wines that truly reflect the grower’s efforts in the vineyard. For years we struggled to find interesting vineyards because Pinot reaches perfection at such a limited number of sites and most of those had been tied up by long-established producers.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: We make delicious wines that are true to their vineyard origins. It’s all about terroir.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Scott. We are thrilled to be showing your incredible 2006 Thorn Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
SCOTT: Thanks, Agent Red. I’m thrilled that you like our wines so much!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
SCOTT: Tasting old Burgundies that were still beautiful and interesting a decade or more after they were made.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
SCOTT: For my first two jobs in the wine industry, I did a wide spectrum of research, conducting experiments in both the vineyard and the winery. I made over 300 separate wine lots during that period and it allowed me to learn a tremendous amount in a very short time. The Steamboat Conference in Oregon has been a fantastic place to exchange knowledge with other winemakers from all over the world. I’ve also had two great mentors – Merry Edwards was consulting for Mont St. John while I was their winemaker and Tony Soter owned Etude during my tenure as winemaker there. UC Davis provided me with the best wine education in the world and taught me to think rationally and logically in my approach to winemaking. Their mission, however, is to create scientists, not winemakers. In order to make wines with soul, you need to figure out what to ignore from your education and to trust your palate, rather than a bunch of numbers.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
SCOTT: It’s really pretty simple. Seek perfection in the vineyard, because the wines cannot be any better than the raw materials from which they’re created. Once the grapes get to the winery, make wine with as little manipulation as possible. Pinot Noir is a “transparent” variety – everything that has ever been done to it during the winemaking process shows in the glass. The more you mess with it, the less accurately the wine reflects its origins.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
SCOTT: Every wine I’ve ever tasted has influenced my winemaking; some because I wanted to make wines that were as pure and precise, others because I thought they had gone in a wrong direction. Besides the mentors that I mentioned previously, the late Didier Dagueneau was an inspiration because he was willing to ignore conventional wisdom and take risks in the pursuit of making the best possible wines.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
SCOTT: Since 1989. While I was consulting in Chile, I managed to sneak in two harvests per year, so I actually have a few more crush experiences under my belt than the years would suggest.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
SCOTT: This is a tough question and I don’t have a specific target in mind when I make wine. I’m simply trying to make wines that really reflect their vineyard origins. I want to make wines that I like, although I drink other people’s wines more than my own – I know what mine are like and I’m curious about other wines. I specifically don’t make wines to impress critics (the wines often do, but only because they like what we’ve done, not because they’ve been targeted with a specific style). Those who cater specifically to critics often venture into territory that makes me uncomfortable, such as the practice of blending Syrah or Petite Syrah into Pinot Noir to increase structure or color. Pinot is so easily pushed around by other varieties that it doesn’t take much before it’s no longer really Pinot and it certainly loses its sense of origin when blended with other varieties. Having said all this, there is nothing that pleases me more than to see the look of shear pleasure that comes across someone’s face when they discover that a Talisman Pinot Noir is a perfect fit for their tastes.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Sonoma Coast appellation so special?
SCOTT: For me, it’s not so much appellation-driven, but is very site-specific. The Sonoma Coast appellation should really be subdivide into three distinct sub-appellations: the true coast (one ore two ridges in from the ocean), the Petaluma Gap area (the lowest spot in the Coast Range north of the Golden Gate), which is where the Thorn Ridge Vineyard is located, and the Lakeville area from about Petaluma to San Pablo Bay. What makes this particular vineyard site special is the well-drained sandy/silty soil profile and the cold temperatures associated with marine air moving through the Petaluma Gap. Talisman’s vineyard blocks are on an east-facing slope, so they are protected from hot afternoon sun and harsh winds. Lastly, there is very little water at this site, so for all intents and purposes, the vineyard is sustainably dry farmed.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
SCOTT: First, I would ask if they were born insane, or had been dropped on their head as a small child! Then I would tell them to follow their passion and learn from as many good winemakers as they could. I would also tell them to learn everything there is to know about viticulture because the winemaking and the grape growing are intimately linked.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
SCOTT: Following the progress of the new wines in barrel as they find their way through malolactic fermentation.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
SCOTT: It’s brimming with red fruit flavors and aromas. It’s elegant, round, and supple. One wine reviewer stated that the 2006 Thorn Ridge Vineyard bottling has a “Zen-like balance”. It simply delicious!
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
SCOTT: My wife/lover/agent provocateur, and a cozy fire! Anything with a savory flavor profile, lamb or mushroom dishes are great, even grilled salmon with something like a blueberry reduction sauce is killer!
RED: Excellent. I’ll have to try that. The Lamb, that is, not the rest! Please share one thing about yourself that few people know.
SCOTT: I wish I could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix.
RED: I’ll teach you, one day. Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
SCOTT: I don’t have a favorite. I like to constantly try new wines. There are so many fun, interesting wines out there.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
SCOTT: This is really simple. Be brave enough to pull the cork and trust your own palate. For Talisman Pinot in particular, keep in mind that these wines are made for the long haul. They’re absolutely delicious right now, but don’t feel bad about leaving a bottle half full and finishing it later. Our wines love some air and they are often even yummier the next day.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
SCOTT: What a tough question! 1990 La Tache wouldn’t be bad.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
SCOTT: It’s the single question that I ask everyone who wants a job working on the production end of a winery. ”When you were a little kid, did you like to play in the mud?” I loved playing in the mud. My mother has ancient photos of me covered with mud. Despite the romantic ideal of winemaking, it’s really all about making huge messes and cleaning them up.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
SCOTT: It’s been a tremendous pleasure. I hope that you enjoy Talisman Pinot Noir!
What the Winery Says
Talisman Cellars is dedicated to the creation of delicious wines that are true to their roots and accurately reflect their places of origin.
About This Wine:
The 2006 Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir has an extremely high “yum factor”. The nose combines black cherry trifle, rose petals, and a very subtle note of oak spice. The mouthfeel is velvety, lush and opulent, providing the perfect entrée to dark fruit flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and anise. The finish is persistent and juicy.
Vineyard & Winemaking:
With panoramic views of northern California’s Coast Range, Thorn Ridge is an ideal spot for a picnic on a warm summer day. With a weather pattern that runs in 3-5 day cycles of alternate hot and cold, however, this great spot for an outing becomes downright inhospitable during the cold portion of the cycle. Sitting southwest of Sebastopol on the northern edge of the Petaluma Gap, Thorn Ridge is a magnet for cold air and fog, just the right elements for superb Pinot Noir grapes. The soils are low-vigor silt and the vineyard receives so little irrigation that it is for all intents and purposes dry farmed.
Heavy rains during both winter and spring delayed budbreak about ten days beyond the norm and provided enough soil moisture to set the heaviest crop in the history of this vineyard, 2.2 tons per acre, considered a low yield in all but the most extreme vineyards. A spike of heat in mid-July was the only anomaly in an otherwise cool growing season. Cool weather continued into the fall, setting the stage for a late September harvest. The cool weather created high acid, low pH wines that should age exceptionally well.
The grapes were harvested in the middle of the night, keeping the fruit cold and preserving the fresh fruit character. Once in the winery, 75% of the grapes were gently destemmed while 25% were dumped in the bottom of the fementer as whole clusters. The native fermentation started slowly after a pre-fermentation maceration of six days. A very small inoculum of RC-212 Yeast was added to insure completion of the fermentation. After seven days of fermentation, the wine remained on the skins until pressing 37 days after the grapes were picked. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and eighteen months of aging in new and two-year-old French oak barrels from Francois Freres, Dargaud et Jaegle, Cadus, Remond, and Marcel Cadet.
About the Talisman Logo:
The Talisman logo is a stylized representation of a Native American medicine wheel. The elements of the medicine wheel represent the circle of life and the four directions, reminding us of our place in the universe. The rays around the medicine wheel represent the sun, which provides energy for life on Earth and ripens grapes, allowing us to revel in the pleasures of life, including fine wine.
About Scott & Marta:
Scott Rich, founder of Talisman Cellars, had his first exposure to winemaking at age 6 in the home of Greek friends who made wine in their Salt Lake City basement each year. He attended graduate school in the enology program at U.C. Davis and has worked as a research enologist for both RH Phillips and Robert Mondavi. He has been winemaker at Mont St. John, Carneros Creek, and Etude, where he made highly-acclaimed Pinot Noir and Cabernet. Currently, Scott’s time and energy are spent as winemaker/owner of Talisman, as well as winemaker for Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air, California. Moraga produces sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Marta Rich actually has no memory of life without wine. Her father made wine in their Minnesota basement, using virtually any form of grapes or juice he could get. Yearning for warmer climes and more interesting terrain, Marta fled for the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned her degree in Psychology. After taking up residence in Napa Valley, Marta began an 18-year stint at Robert Mondavi. She worked her way up the ladder, first scheduling grapes during harvest and eventually running Mondavi’s Northern California sales team. She was well-prepared for both of her current jobs, National Sales Manager for Calera Wine Company, one of California’s Pinot Noir pioneers, and Director of Sales & Marketing for Talisman Cellars.
Together, they happily zip around in their travels, spreading the gospel of wine to anyone who will listen. Quality, artistry, and promoting pleasure are their key objectives. In their spare time, they ski and play in the outdoors.
Vineyard planted: 1995
Vine Density: 908 vines per acre
Clones/selections: Dijon 115, Swan, and Pommard
Yield: 2.2 tons of grapes per acre
Rootstock: 110R and 1103P
Titratable acidity: 0.66 g/100mL
Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
Barrel aging: 18 months, 60% new French oak
Production: 503 cases