Wine: Row Eleven Vinas Pinot Noir
Grapes: Pinot noir (90 percent), petite sirah (10 percent)
Region: Central Coast, Calif.
Availability: Lee’s Discount Liquors, Whole Foods Markets
In the glass: Row Eleven Pinot Noir is a vibrant semitranslucent, brilliant garnet color with a firm deeply colored core going out into a fine slightly tinged light garnet rim definition with medium-high viscosity.
On the nose: There are good amounts of crushed black plums, cranberry juice, cherries jubilee, milk chocolate, licorice root, then bright red flowers, hints of raspberry liqueur such as chambord, and fruit-driven minerals round out the layered and nicely toasty nose.
On the palate: The wine is very powerful for a pinot noir, without masquerading as syrah, which happens a lot in California. There are fresh bright crushed red berries, cherries, plums, raspberry coulis, cranberry fondant and copious amounts of phenols and earthy minerals with underlying hints of crushed star anise powder. The midpalate seems rich and forward with good amounts of balance between fruit and acidity, as well as good tannin structure that reflects the relatively cool climate the wine is coming from. The finish is very fine with hints of candied cranberries and faint oak references.
Odds and ends: In 2004 Richard de los Reyes partnered with Ken Conner to create Row Eleven Wine Co. Their plan was simple. Turn de los Reyes loose and let him find the best vineyards, in the best appellations, and take the best rows, hence the name of this wine. The Central Coast covers pretty much the entire area between Santa Barbara and San Francisco with few exceptions, and in between there are numerous microclimates and vineyards of varying fame. One reason that Row Eleven seems to have been able to find a great formula for creating its wines, especially given the fact that all fruit is bought rather than estate, is the relationships that the partners have with owners of legendary California vineyards such as Bien Nacido, Riverbench and Torres, some located in what I consider one of the top appellations for pinot in the United States, Russian River. This is a delicious and quite high-end pinot that normally costs a lot more money, but here we’re lucky to find it for less than $10. Given that it comes from the great 2009 vintage, you can drink this now through 2016. Try it with salmon rubbed with just salt and pepper and grilled medium-rare.
Gil Lempert-Schwarz’s wine column appears Wednesdays. Write him at P.O. Box 50749, Henderson, NV 89106-0749, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.