Twenty-five years ago, Anderson Valley was California’s best-kept secret. Even the most ardent Pinot Noir collectors refused to make the 100-mile drive from the Golden Gate Bridge to the sparsely populated hillsides above the small towns of Boonville, Philo, and Navarro in the northwestern quadrant of Mendocino County.
In 1992, Williams Selyem surprised many when it produced its first single-vineyard Pinot Noir, drawn off of Anderson Valley’s Ferrington Vineyard. Then it was the brilliant Ted Lemon, whom we first met in the late 1980s at Guy Roulot in Meursault, who followed Williams Selyem’s lead, with a spectacular Littorai release off of a vineyard aptly named “One Acre.”
Only in the last decade has the tide has really shifted. Sonoma’s greatest Pinot Noir-makers have turned their attention to this unique spot, drawn by the cool microclimate, steady breezes off the Pacific, and high-elevation hillside plantings. Joining Littorai and Williams Selyem have been Wells Guthrie at Copain, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor at red-hot LIOCO, Eric Sussman at Radio-Coteau, Knez, and Anthill Farms, each turning out a few barrels per year of Sonoma Coast’s most sought-after single-vineyard Pinot Noirs.
Arguably the two most extraordinary Pinot Noir vineyards in Anderson Valley — Cerise and Demuth — were purchased by BlackRock executive Peter Knez in 2007 and 2008. In the dry, mild 2012 growing season that was perhaps even more extraordinary in Anderson Valley than it was in Napa, winemaker Anthony Filiberti (of Anthill Farms) turned out a mind-boggling Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir. Here’s why.
When we first visited Cerise Vineyard in 2009, we wondered why anyone would ever think Pinot Noir could grow in such an unaccommodating locale. Cerise sits among 800 acres of undulating hillsides, stretching up to 1,100 feet in elevation. Even in mid-summer, the winds off the Pacific keep daytime highs in the mid-70s. Foggy mornings and evenings slow down the maturation cycle, stretching out the growing season. Yields are tiny at Cerise, as is berry size. In many ways, the summer of 2012 provided a magical script for Knez’s Pinot Noir oasis, as clusters ripened slowly, sugars climbing incrementally as acids remained firm. When the call to harvest was made, the grapes were juicy and “loaded with sugar.” Still, finished alcohol came in at a modest 13.3%, pH a firm 3.53, and total acidity 7.3 g/l — numbers far more akin to a hot year in Gevrey-Chambertin than Russian River!
The 2012 Knez Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard is one of our favorite coastal Pinots of the vintage, and critic Antonio Galloni agrees. Brilliant dark-ruby to the rim. Explosive and piercing aromas of crushed red fruits, black cherry, anise, and sweet spice. Galloni describes “a wine of pure density and power,” and he’s SPOT on. Big, broad, and juicy on the attack, filled with black-raspberry preserves. A welcome hint of pomegranate keeps the wild-berry opulence in check. Finishing with great length and vibrancy. Like fine red Burgundy, the firm acidity makes this Pinot Noir delicious out of the gate yet built to run marathons. Drink now-2026.
Total production was 650 cases, and all but 25 were allocated before release. Those last 300 bottles are ours, all ours. $38 for a short time today. NOT TO BE MISSED.
Great nose with a long finish but flavor not up to the $42 price.
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