Friday, August 31, 2007

Melville Pinot Noir Technical Symposium: A peak at the 2006 Melville Pinot's

This was our first time attending the Melville Pinot Noir Technical Symposium held on May 19th 2007. Greg Brewer led the group through a series of four flights that each looked at a different variable in the pinor noir process. Keep in mind these are not the finished wines that were tasted. Some magical blending decisions will be made before the 2006 Pinot's are bottled. It will be great fun to see if we can pick out some of the elements we tasted at this event.

Flight 1 consisted of three different sites with the clone and oak held the same. Each had unique qualities worth mentioning. Verna's block in Los Alamos was a lighter Pinot Noir with cherry fruit and plenty of acid to add balance to use in blending if you had another barrel that needed more balance. It also had a hint of caramel in the nose. Block C right behind the crush pad at Melville Vineyards was my personal favorite. Notes of cranberry and pomegranate and cherry on the nose and upon tasting it had big, dark fruit and a velvety mouth feel. Leigh's Vineyard source was from clay loam soil from a steep sloping hillside that faces north. The previous two were grown in sandy soil on more level ground. Leigh's at the time of tasting had quite a bit of astringency and a bit of a bottled up nose.

The second flight compared Clones (2A, 114, 459) Clone 2 A was lighter in color and a pleasant fruit note and a hint of spice. Perhaps a bit of blending with a more acidic lot would round this specific clone out. Clone 114 had notes of mint,earth and a rounded mouth feel. Overall it was darkly seductive :) Clone 459 was very fruit forward ( cranberry, cherry and pomegranate) and hints of tea and thyme. If I were to take a stab at blending these clones, I would probably estimate 3 parts, 114, 2 parts 2A and 1 part 459. I'm sure Greg Brewer will come up with something better though :)

Flight 3 walked everyone through % stem inclusion. Same Pinot Clone, different percentage of stem inclusion. The first tasting had no stem inclusion. Clone 667 tasted of classic pinot fruit but fell away so fast you couldn't help but be disappointed The next tasting had retained 50% of the stems and it was more floral and savory but had a bitter finish. The bitter finish seemed to indicate that perhaps 50% stem inclusion hit the point of diminishing returns despite increases in complexity.

The 100% stem inclusion glass was what I called SUPER astringent. It had more of tart fruit that was akin to rubarb. . There was a clear increase in complexity between the 0-50 %. Overall Melville typically uses 25% stem inclusion and it was pretty clear after this exercise how they came to this number.

The last flight demonstrated the impact of New Oak ( approx M+ toast on Clone 115 ( Block F, 0% stem inclusion) Rousseau, Chatillon imparted a creaminess to the pinot that was very pleasant. Dargaud & Jaegle, Betranges ( close to Beaujolais) had a more BBQ or savory impact. And the Mercurey Grand Cru imparted a creamy mouth feel as in the first but was more subtle.

My notes degraded a bit by the last flight despite judicious spitting as you can see. After the learning portion of the event was over we were all served a wonderful lunch made by the chef's Brothers Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos. Elske, Melville's tasting room manager and event planner was seated at our table. Her job, besides organizing the event, was "having to" to try out the pairings before the event to ensure a wonderful experience. My favorite pairing was the Squab with the Melville Syrah. An amazing combination. Thank you Elske!

Each pairing with Melville's finished wines were wonderful & served as a great way to end a unique wine adventure


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