2012 Chad Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve
 
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Lee Vineyard, Carneros "Pure Ira Lee"

Chuck Wagner of Caymus called 2012 a "watershed vintage," one that combined extraordinary concentration with a copious crop load. After four short harvests that punched holes in winery balance sheets, the valley was finally off to the races. Winemakers rejoiced as they filled tanks and barrels to the brim. The top Pinot Noir names of Carneros and Sonoma Coast prepared for an unprecedented sales bonanza.

But, as we've reported countless times over the last seven years, winegrowing has never been a predictable science. Every time winemakers think they've mastered the intricacies of supply and demand, Nature throws a knee-buckling knuckle curve. Such would be the case in the fall of 2013.

In July 2013, we cruised over the Golden Gate Bridge. For once, we'd splurged, and the top was down on the rental car convertible. We'd set up a half-dozen appointments with the Who's Who of Pinot Noir to taste the luscious 2012s in barrel just a few months before bottling. But as we cruised up Highway 29 through Carneros, we pulled to the side of the road to take a closer look at what many believe to be the AVA's finest vineyard — lovingly farmed for decades by the late Ira Lee.

Much as we'd seen a year before, Lee Vineyard was preparing for a second consecutive bumper crop. Typically, the choice blocks of Lee are farmed to less than 3 tons per acre. Based on the number of clusters per shoot, in July 2013 the vineyard was carrying 4.5-5 tons.

"When the 2012s came in, everyone thought we were out of the woods," Chad, our Napa Valley winemaker buddy, told us over huevos rancheros at Oxbow Market last Thursday. "Finally we'd have plenty of wine to sell. But as you guys saw early on, now we had a new, unexpected problem. The 2013 crop appeared to be almost as large as 2012. Winemakers were quietly freaking out. Their cellars were packed with 2012s. Where were they going to put the 2013s?"

Just after harvest, wineries were obliged to scramble for space at third-party facilities. Most were shut out. With tanks and new barrels at a premium, 10-year-old barrels — typically all but worthless — were fetching $125. Even the Who's Who of Pinot Noir brought in far too much fruit and had no place to put it. They needed space and they needed cash. Carneros' greatest Pinot Noir producer did what many have done over the last four years: He called Chad.

Late last year, we featured the 2012 Chad Pinot Noir Carneros, a beautifully chiseled, black cherry Pinot that took NYC by storm. WineAccess members raved with 143 coming in at 4 or 5 stars. But, as Chad explained last week, he didn't purchase just one Pinot Noir from the Carneros superstar. He bought two, the second of which is "pure Ira Lee."

The 2012 Chad Pinot Noir Reserve is deepest-ruby to the rim. Explosive on the nose, infused with a mix of crushed red fruits, pomegranate and sweet spice, tinged with new-wood cedar. Dense, compact and muscular on the attack, packed with black cherry and black raspberry preserves, braced by superb cool-climate backbone. Finished alcohol tops out at just over 14 percent — but like all the great Lee Vineyard Pinots, you never feel the heat.



Tasting Notes

2012 Chad Pinot Noir Carneros Reserve
"The 2012 Chad Pinot Noir Reserve is deepest-ruby to the rim. Explosive on the nose, infused with a mix of crushed red fruits, pomegranate and sweet spice, tinged with new-wood cedar. Dense, compact and muscular on the attack, packed with black cherry and black raspberry preserves, braced by superb cool-climate backbone. Finished alcohol tops out at just over 14 percent — but like all the great Lee Vineyard Pinots, you never feel the heat. Drink now for its youthful hedonism or, far better, lay this sublime 2012 Pinot Noir down for 5-7 years in a cool cellar. It could use the shut-eye."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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