2006 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Like only Canihan Can
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Canihan Family Cellars, a winery long under Wine Spies surveillance. Raid their cellars and return with their limited-production 2006 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Canihan Family Cellars
Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir – Sonoma Valley
Winemaker: Bill Canihan
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. Grown on their tiny estate vineyard, today’s wine is a special treat. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes, followed by his interview with Canihan’s winemaker, Alex Beloz, below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet, with pink sparkling edges and a perfect clarity through its slightly darker heart. When swirled, the wine shows a tight and springy surface that settles very quickly. When it does settle, it leaves tall columns of skinny legs that emerge quickly, but then take a long time to run down the edges of the glass
Smell – Lush and rich, led by ripe black cherry, raspberry and cranberry, merged with darker mixed berries, soft leather, soft spice and the soft aroma of flinty gunpowder
Feel – Round and soft up front, then quickly grippy as medium tannins take hold, adding an emerging dryness as a slate-mineral flavor encroaches
Taste – Balanced and delicious with smoky black cherry, young strawberry and dried flower petals. These flavors linger as smoky and dark mixed berries meld with soft oak, soft dark spice, leather and subtle slate (minerals)
Finish – A long and full finish that starts off sweet and earthen, and then tails off to slightly tart, with dusky fruit flavors that go on and on for a long, mouth-watering time
Conclusion – This is a fantastic Pinot Noir, done in a more traditional Burgundian style. That is to say that, while the California fruit shines through, this wine has a distinctly earthy quality to it. This gives the wine great complexity, while also allowing the fruit to shine through. Rich, firm, flavorful and delicious, this wine also enjoys the sort of acidity that makes it and excellent food companion. We enjoyed our review bottles with a plate of fresh Sushi. It was a brave pairing, perhaps, but we were pleasantly surprised just how well the wine complimented the subtle flavors of the food – without overpowering it. If you are a lover of balanced Pinot Noir, this wine gets a very enthusiastic Wine Spies recommendation!
AGENT RED: Greetings, Alex Beloz. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Canihan Family Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ALEX: Glad to share some info.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ALEX: Travels to Europe, specifically Italy, after university. Met some great families that taught me about wine appreciation. I got the wine bug right away. When I returned home I pursued a career in wine.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
ALEX: My first crush position. There’s nothing like getting the hands-on experience.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
ALEX: To make delicious, compelling wines from fruit grown under strong viticultural practices.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ALEX: I suppose it’s more a region, the North Coast, that has influenced me. It’s where I learned how to make wine and where I work on a daily basis.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
ALEX: About 12 years now!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ALEX: For my clients. In the end I make delicious, compelling wines that my clients will enjoy. Ultimately its they who will sell the wine. If they like it and are proud of it, they will be successful.
RED: Tell me, what makes Bill’s vineyards so special?
ALEX: Bill’s wines are grown on a tiny vineyard in southern Sonoma. During the growing season it gets warm enough in the day to ripen fruit well and cool enough in the evenings to give the vine some respite. It’s a very ideal climate.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
ALEX: Consider and research it well. Get plenty of hands-on experience before committing to a full-on career in winemaking. There is a lot of romance that blinds folks into pursuing such a career not knowing that there is a lot of inglorious hard work and sacrifice in making wine.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ALEX: Lab work on the new vintage. Putting the new vintage to bed. And preparing for a busy spring and summer of vineyard monitoring and bottling.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ALEX: The 06 Canihan Family Pinot Noir. This wine has had an appropriate amount of time in bottle. It’s showing very well at this time. It’s bright and aromatic. It’s fruit driven on the palate with red cherry and raspberry notes. A nice hint of spice makes the wine compelling.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ALEX: A goat cheese appetizer and perhaps grilled salmon as a main course.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
ALEX: Wine is not my job. It’s my lifestyle.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
ALEX: No favorites. I like tasty, well balanced wines of all colors, varietals and regions…but it’s got to be good!
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
ALEX: Most of my wines are nice right out the bottle. They’re always better a year out from release. However, if one has little time or patience, as we all do sometimes, I recommend my wines to be uncorked a couple hours before tasting.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
ALEX: Corton-Charlemagne. Small production. Very pricey. Very good.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
ALEX: Do you love what you do? I would respond: “I’m one of the luckiest guys on the planet!”
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!
ALEX: You bet!
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Silver Medal – 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
About This Wine:
Deliciously layered with strawberry, raspberry, wild berry, and floral tones which fold into cedar and cigar box, ending with an earthy profile. The wine’s texture is elegant and rich, with a deep, lingering finish.
Our 2006 Estate Pinot Noir is the third vintage from our organic, dry-farmed Sonoma Valley vineyard. It takes exceptional fruit to make award-winning wines. Back-to-back Gold medals in the world’s most prestigious wine competitions have proven that our terroir, meticulous biodynamic farming practices, and hands-off winemaking philosophy result in exceptional Pinot Noir.
VINEYARD NOTES: Planted in 1998, this 3.75-acre Sonoma Valley vineyard which borders on Los Carneros is comprised entirely of French Dijon Clones 115, 667 and 777. This vineyard experiences the full impact of San Francisco Bay’s cooling fog in the summer. Phil Coturri’s biodynamic vineyard management practices along with dry-farming and cane pruning result in small yields (less than 2 tons per acre) of the highest quality grapes. The vineyard is certified organic by CCOF.
About The Winery:
The Canihan Family vineyards are ideally located in the Sonoma Valley, and because we border on the Los Carneros Appellation, the vineyards receive the cool evening breezes and early morning fog from San Francisco Bay that provide for perfect grape growing conditions. Biodynamic vineyard management practices, dry-farming, and hand-harvesting only at complete ripeness, fermentation with naturally occurring native yeast, and no fining or filtering result in flavorful wines expressive of our “terroir”.
Although our vineyards were first planted in 1998, we had nurtured the land for more than 30 years. William Canihan Sr. purchased the land from a Basque farmer in 1975. Because of our commitment to the land and organic practices, we let nature cleanse the soil for 23 years. We planted 1103 Paulsen, SO4, and 101-14 rootstocks, and the following spring we field grafted Pinot Noir French Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777, Syrah clone 1, and Cabernet Franc clones 4 and 7.
This year, our new four-acre Pinot Noir vineyard will yield fruit from clones including Pommard, Wadenswil (Domaine Romanee–Conti) 2a, Masson, Joseph Swan, and Hanzell.
Our vineyard manager, Phil Coturri is also currently managing the vineyards of Hanzell, Merus, Moon Mountain and Arrowood wineries. Mr. Coturri has an excellent reputation for his organic and biodynamic practices which are best judged by their results.
Varietals: 100% Estate Grown, Certified Organic Vineyard, 100% DijonClones 115, 667 & 777
Harvested: September 25, 2006
Sugar at harvest: 27.2 Brix
Aged: 16 months in 100% French Oak
Total Acid: 0.50g/100ml
Bottled: February 13, 2008
Released: February 1, 2009
Production: 705 Cases