CellarTracker's #1 Cult Pinot Noir-maker in America
The site is called CellarTracker.com. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. CellarTracker attracts thousands of wine collectors looking to 'track' their cellars. Conceived by ex-Microsofter Eric Levine, the site claims to catalog over one million bottles, hundreds of thousands of which have been reviewed by CT members.
To the casual wine drinker, CellarTracker seems tough to navigate, just too 'geeked out' for all but the fanatical. Maybe that's exactly why we find Levine's brainchild so intriguing.
Last month, we ran a query on CellarTracker, hoping to come up with some top pedigree Russian River/Sonoma Coast Pinot addresses that we'd somehow overlooked. The question was simple enough. Which California Pinot Noir-maker has garnered the highest aggregate ratings from CellarTracker members (assuming a sufficient threshold of reviews). The #2 finisher -- Kosta Browne -- came as no surprise. But as to the top dog, we'd never even heard the name. It wouldn't take long to figure out why.
Founded on a shoestring in 2001, Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley's "Sojourn" has put out a bevy of top-rated single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from hand-selected rows at Sangiacomo, Rodgers Creek and Gap's Crown. But even as Parker, Tanzer and Pinot Report dropped 92-96 point bombs on Sojourn's sleek, raspberry-infused Pinot Noirs, we'd never seen a bottle on a retail shelf. After two months of needling, Craig finally gave us an audience at 141 E. Napa Street. Once there, we'd learn just how precisely Sojourn had been cut from Kosta Browne cloth.
"We're small, and we want to stay small. But if you run the numbers, there's no way to make just 3,000 cases of Pinot Noir from places like Gap's Crown and Rodgers Creek if you have to run around the country selling them to wholesalers and retailers. So, we went to school on Kosta Browne. To a great extent, we have those guys to thank for our success."
Following the Kosta Browne playbook to a T, Bradley went shopping for vineyard sites. He'd spare no cost, locking into hand-selected Sonoma Coast rows from Sangiacomo, Rodgers Creek and fabled Gap's Crown. Yields at each site are tiny, carrying price tags of $4000-$6000 per ton.
Bradley's cellar protocol, so clearly expressed in each of these lusciously suave, high-toned, wild raspberry Pinot Noirs, is strictly non-interventionist. The press is gentle, as are the punchdowns. Once in small French barrels, the wine is barely touched. Racked just before bottling, without fining or filtration, these Sojourn Pinot Noirs are beautifully delineated -- a combination of juicy fruit purity, silken texture, and sneaky acid backbone.
In 2011, the Coast's coolest growing season on record, Sojourn put out three single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from Gap's Crown, Sangiacomo and Rodgers Creek -- and one blend drawn from each of the winery's single-vineyard sites. After three hours of buttering Craig up, touting the virtues of a cameo on WineAccess, we went for the jugular. In a vintage where 80% of Sojourn's sales will be conducted with their closely held mailing list, we made off with 480 bottles -- far and away the largest single allocation in America.
Brilliant ruby in color, with piercing aromas of black cherry and red raspberry, tinged with new wood vanilla. Initially, rich, juicy and primary on the attack, then filling out with air, packed with fine layers of red berry preserves, the texture is lush and sleek, the finish still firm and finely muscled.