There should be no mystery why the American wine consumer took decades to tune into pinot noir, for the Burgundian varietal — at least when made in the traditional, not overripe style — is a subtle mistress, requiring patience, study, and focus to appreciate. Compounding broad appreciation even more, pinots — which, for starters, are almost impossible to make properly for under $20 a bottle — tend to get even more delicate and restrained as their pricetags rise. Against those odds, however, pinot-files are as rabid as any wine-loving group, and they converge on the Central Coast this coming weekend for the 13th annual World of Pinot Noir in Pismo Beach.
One of the weekend’s starring winemakers is Adam Lee, whose Siduri Wines feature appellations from Oregon to the Sta. Rita Hills, and are lessons in how to make pinots perform with energetic yet discrete elegance. “There are sites and vintages that tend to produce more restrained wines, and sites and vintages that tend to produce more ripe wines,” said Lee, who started making wines nearly 20 years ago from his home state of Texas before moving west to Santa Rosa, where he is based now. “Our philosophy is to make wines that reflect the place and the vintage.”
Siduri’s tasting notes are evident of Lee’s meticulously hands-on nature, dwelling much more on the grape-growing and winemaking specifics than on whether the bottle you’re drinking should taste like berries or herbs. “You really do think about all of these things — it’s not just willy-nilly picking on Thursday,” said Lee, explaining that his customers dig those details. “It gives them, at the very least, an appreciation of what goes into making the wine.” He’s even sent further documentation, such as fermentation calculations and nutrient readings, to his “real geeky customers.”
As part of Friday morning’s “Alcohol and Balance” panel at World of Pinot — which still has seats available — Lee hopes to dive into method as much as philosophy, and explore how when you do something can inform why you do it. “I’m not just talking about alcohol and what is balance, but how decisions in different years lead you to the point of where you are,” said Lee, who will be comparing his 2010 and 2011 Solatera Vineyard bottlings. “It’s not always about why you go there. It’s how you got there.”
Here are five of Lee’s recent hows and whys worth tracking down.
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2011: Though less on nose, delivers strongly on tongue with warmth and accessibility. Most roundly beloved by the six people who tried it.
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011: Pungent tar aromas, almost overpowering to other four wines, giving way to crispness and cherries.
Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir 2010: More herbal and minerally, with mouth-watering acidity, faint tobacco smells, and brulee notes on a long and emerging finish.
Parsons Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011: Rich presence, darker juice, touches of menthol but also plenty of berries, lots of personality.
Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011: Raspberry and, like the Parsons, a more pronounced personality compared to the appellation blends below.