2012 Rockledge Vineyards Pinot Noir Terres Blanches Carneros
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Rockledge Vineyards and 4.12 out of 5 stars! The Improbable Story of the #1 Under-$20 Pinot Noir of 2012

When we first tasted the top 2012 Carneros Pinot Noirs from barrel, we knew the early vintage reports were accurate. This is the juiciest, most generous Pinot Noir vintage in decades, one in which quality and quantity are extraordinary.

Well before the wines made it into bottle, Chuck Wagner at Caymus called 2012 a "watershed vintage." Our winemaker friends at Phelps, Chappellet, Vineyard 7 & 8 and Saintsbury echoed Wagner's words. But last July, as we worked our way from Carneros to Sonoma Coast, we trekked the vines and saw a second storyline playing out.

Once again, the plants were loaded with small-berry clusters. As bud break had come early, if the weather held out, the 2013 harvest would begin in late August. With wineries already stuffed to the gills, how many had the barrel and tank space to house the new vintage?

We received the answer two months later. Both Bin2Bottle and Laird, two of the largest custom-crush facilities in the valley, were turning away new clients by the drove. The most sought-after commodities in the valley were empty tanks and barrels. Ten-year-old cooperage — usually all but worthless — was selling for upwards of $125. As that drama quietly played out in the press, we booked flights for the coast. Our timing couldn't have been more prescient.

Looking back, it's difficult to sufficiently emphasize both the qualitative and quantitative magnitude of these back-to-back harvests. In Carneros, the top wines from Saintsbury, Donum Estate, Rockledge and Etude are magnificent, infused with gorgeous red-fruit opulence. Even as alcohols surpassed 14 percent, not once during our barrel tastings did we feel the heat. But at each tasting, one couldn't help feel the tension in the cellars. With an equally large and excellent 2013 crop ready to harvest, winemakers pointed to overflowing barrel rooms and complained. Where were they supposed to put all the fruit? Even more importantly, how were they going to pay for it?

While we had no answer for the first question, on several occasions, we were quick to answer the second. Anxious to turn juice into quick cash, on the eve of the 2013 harvest a handful of Carneros hotshots came to WineAccess to exchange hundreds of cases of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs for quick cash infusions — none more voluptuous than the 2012 Rockledge Terres Blanches.

Deepest ruby to the rim with vivid aromas of black raspberry, white pepper and sweet spice, the attack is rich, juicy and broad. Infused with a luscious mix of crushed-red-fruit preserves and black cherry, despite its plush power (14.5 percent alcohol), the finish is long and smooth, with refreshing mineral bite. Drink now for its primary fruit hedonism or lay down for 5-7 years.

Tasting Notes

2012 Rockledge Vineyards Pinot Noir Terres Blanches Carneros
"Deepest ruby to the rim. Aromas of black raspberry, cherry, white pepper and sweet spice the attack is both dense and sumptuous. Rich, juicy and velour-like on the mid-palate with pungent flavors of crushed-red-fruit preserves. Despite coming in at 14.5% alcohol, the most lavish Pinot Noir ever to come out of Rockledge remains fresh and persistent, braced by textbook Carneros vibrancy. Drink now for its primary fruit hedonism or lay down for 5-7 years."
-- WineAccess Travel Log


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