2011 Sunce Winery Pinot Noir Zora's Estate
 
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Russian River Valley Parker's "Drop-Dead Gorgeous" 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate wrote, "it is impossible to miss the striking beauty of the best 2011s … where growers were diligent, and perhaps a bit lucky, too, the wines are drop-dead gorgeous." Still, we've encouraged all of you to be cautious before pulling the trigger on 2011 Russian River Pinot Noirs.

Make no mistake: This was a challenging growing season, far cooler than most growers have been obliged to navigate. It was a vintage where veteran growers trusted their vineyards as they do in Burgundy, rolling the dice on Nature's caprice, ultimately taking a glorious page out of the Vosne-Romanée playbooks of Roumier, Méo-Camuzet, and Boillot.

But those who panicked — refusing to drop crop aggressively — suffered the consequences. In choosing not to burn more holes in already charred P&Ls, they burned balance sheets to a crisp!

As to the valley elite, all enjoyed critical bonanzas, turning out a number of once-in-a-decade 93-94-point gems. Any hope we had of knocking down the cellar doors at Kistler, Radio-Coteau and Kosta Browne was stifled by tiny yields; the superstars had nothing to sell. Some complained that while the finished wines were magnificent, production was down 40 percent off the highs of 2007!

If you're lucky enough to be on the mailing list of Kistler or Kosta Browne, grab every drop of 2011 Pinot Noir you can lay your hands on. Once your collector appetite's been satiated, and you're ready to become a ruthless bargain-hunter again, follow us to the banks of Santa Rosa Creek, where Kistler's Vine Hill Vineyard sits on one side and Sunce's Zora Estate on the other.

When we asked how the estate managed to turn out such a luscious wild-berry single-vineyard Pinot Noir in 2011, Sunce's proprietor just shrugged his shoulders. "We managed by NOT managing. 2011 was a vintage where you had to stop thinking like an accountant. We never worked so hard or spent so much in the vineyard. We typically drop fruit once. In 2011, we made three passes. Harvest took no time, because there was almost nothing to pick. But the fruit we brought in is something of which we are very, very proud."

The spring of 2011 was wet and cold up and down the valley. Zora's Estate was already two weeks behind schedule in mid-July when Sunce made the first call. In the last days of July and first week of August, during véraison, as others continued to hold out, the Sunce vineyard crew gave Zora's a crewcut, dropping nearly 25 percent of the clusters. As the 3-acre parcel is set on a 5 percent grade with western exposure, the vineyard manager rolled the dice, deciding against tinkering with the leaf canopy. If a heat spike hit, sugars would climb without blistering clusters. And If the weather remained cold and rainy? Sunce would be making pink wine!

When the thermometer crept towards 100 degrees in late summer, many vineyards were fried. Zora's Pinot Noir, still sheltered by a full canopy, shrugged off the heat. When the call to harvest was made, the estate Pinot Noir had reached 25 Brix. Berry size was small. Concentration was Kistler-like. Acids remained piercing and vibrant.

While Parker, Galloni and Tanzer are all correct in saying that there are a plethora of gorgeous 2011 Pinot Noirs on the high end, Nature's cruelty left little opportunity for bargain-hunters. We discovered just two. The 2011 Sunce Zora's Estate is one of them.

Brilliant ruby-red to the rim, infused with piercing aromas of framboise, black cherry, tinged with new-wood vanilla. Rich, high-toned and juicy on the attack, packed with crushed raspberry preserves, beautifully delineated and focused, braced by the brisk acidity of this extraordinary growing season.



Tasting Notes

2011 Sunce Winery Pinot Noir Zora's Estate
"Brilliant ruby-red to the rim, infused with piercing aromas of framboise, black cherry, tinged with new-wood vanilla. Rich, high-toned and juicy on the attack, packed with crushed raspberry preserves, beautifully delineated and focused, braced by the brisk acidity of this extraordinary growing season. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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