Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ernest Vineyards: Artful Sonoma Pinot & Chardonnay

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist. 

I’m a huge fan of Sonoma Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and now I have another exciting producer to follow. 

Ernest Vineyards focuses on single vineyard-designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The brand was established in 2012 by husband-wife team Todd Gottula and Erin Brooks, who work with Sonoma growers and their winemaking team to produce wines from sites throughout the Green River, the larger Russian River AVA and the West Sonoma Coast. The wines are produced at a custom crush facility called Punchdown Cellars, but Erin and Todd have plans to launch their own facility, called Grand Cru, in the summer of 2017.

I loved both of the Chardonnays, but the Pinot Noirs are even better. Picked at 22 brix, the wines sport a low 12.5% alcohol. But even though these are lighter-bodied wines, they are by no means lacking in structure or flavor. For those Pinot-lovers who tend toward the zesty, red-fruited, earthy style, Ernest wines are worth checking out. They do use a good amount of new French oak (about 30-40%), but that seems to be the perfect amount for my palate — accentuating and harmonizing the wine but not stealing the show.

“Todd and Erin pride themselves on making Burgundian-style wines with bright acid, low alcohol, and balanced flavor,” their website proclaims. A bold statement, but the wines back it up. I thought all four of these wines were delicious, crisp, complex and flawlessly executed. Ernest Vineyards is one to watch if you appreciate that “new California wine” kind of style.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2014 Ernest Vineyards Chardonnay The Bombardier - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $42
Pale yellow color. Aromas: steely, white flowers, nettle, lemon pith, with richer elements of honeycomb, apricot and orange marmalade. On the palate: pleasant but balanced creaminess, vibrant acidity, a medium-bodied frame (13.5% alcohol). Apricot, orange, kiwi, sliced green apples, all of it topped with chalk, floral perfume, mixed nuts and hay. Complex and flavorful but it stays zesty and driven by minerals. Lots to unpack with this wine. 10 months in 40% new French oak. From the Green Valley Ranch Vineyard. (90 points)

2014 Ernest Vineyards Chardonnay The Farmer - California, Sonoma County, Green Valley of Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Pale yellow color. Bright and vibrant aromas with flowers, crushed chalk, some honey, white tea, on top of apricots and orange peels. Waxy but elegant texture on the palate with bright, crisp acidity (13% alcohol). Orange, apricot, yellow apples and kiwi fruit, very pretty, rich flavors but this is so bright, vibrant, elegant. Woven in well are the slight toast and nutshell elements from the oak, but they accentuate rather than dominate the natural flavors. 10 months in 35% new French oak. From Black Emerald Vineyard and some fruit from Green Valley Ranch. (91 points)

2014 Ernest Vineyards Pinot Noir The Artist - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $55
Light ruby color. Aromas of bright cherries and wild raspberries, this is a highly floral wine, like red and white roses, add in some spiced tea, white pepper and rhubarb, and there is a whole lot to sniff in this beauty. Medium-dusty tannins on the palate, medium-bodied, absolutely lip-smacking acidity, this has laser-like focus but shows enough grip to keep things serious. Bright red fruit is doused in roses, black tea, clove. Hints of cherry wood and light roast coffee. Long and seamless. Gorgeous now but I’d love to revisit this in two or three years. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak. From the Bush Vineyard. Wow. (92 points)

2014 Ernest Vineyards Pinot Noir The Settler - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $58
Light ruby color. Such pretty aromatics: fresh strawberries, red currants, wild raspberries, topped in rhubarb, roses, some deeper violet and cinnamon-spice notes. This is tart and zippy on the palate, a medium-bodied wine with dusty but structured tannins. A vibrant and crisp appeal to this wine, with red cherries, raspberries, the fruit is tart and crunchy yet shows some velvetiness. Mineral and earth undertones, hints of coffee and cedar but this is a minimalist style Pinot, and it sports a long, crisp finish. So much to love about this beautiful wine. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak, from the Cleary Ranch Vineyard in the West Sonoma Coast. (93 points)

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