Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pinot in the Fog

As Laube notes in his blog of 4/25, the search for Pinot terroir is booming and die hard Napa owners are picking off Sonoma Coast properties as fast as they can sign their loan documents. Jason Pahlmeyer bought a 70 acre ranch for $500K in '99 but would probably have to pay 10 times that today, given the startling success of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (see Kosta Browne for an example) and the shrinking availability of accessible land.

I guess the folks at Joseph Phelps Vineyards also picked up some Sonoma Coast property a while back, because the inaugural vintage of the 2004 Fogdog Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast was released about a year ago. Here's the site link with a lot of info about the wine: http://www2.ibgcheckout.com/phelps/catalog/view_product.jsp?product_id=1058&cat_id=1002

I understand that Craig Williams, formerly the head winemaker at Phelps, is in charge of the fogdog project and I have to put in a good word for Craig. My friend Jeff and I were the Christie's California Only tasting in June 2000, along with my two sisters, who joined me at the auction the next day. The tasting was followed by a wine maker's dinner at Spago. Every table had a noted winemaker and Craig hosted our group, which was made up of 6 folks who had just blown through 70 or so fine California wines at the tasting and, in a word, were toasted (OK so we forgot to spit). Craig and his wife Robin (sp?) were sober and thought we were terribly witty and charming, or so it appeared. At any rate, they were wonderful dinner companions, the food terrific and between courses we took bottles from one table to swap with another. Armed with various Phelps gems that I wrestled from Craig, I coaxed some Pinot out of Bob Cabral, some Merlot from a bottle w/o label from Dan Duckhorn and some secret Cab from Paul Draper, among countless other first class California winemakers. It was an unforgettable evening that was never to be repeated and I consider myself lucky to have attended. We still tell stories about the dinner, though most of them make fun of me purloining Craig's wine and stumbling from table to table, drunk as a skunk. All true, though my wife drove me home.

Back to the wine--according to the label, a "fogdog" is a"bright and clear spot that appears in the fog" that inundates the northern California coast line. Cool! The wine checks in at 13.8% alcohol, is unfined and unfiltered and looks to have spent about 15 months in new and used French oak. According to the link above, the grapes were source from three Sonoma County vineyards in Freestone, California: Freestone Vineyard (70%); Quarter Moon Vineyard (26%); and Ferguson Vineyard (4%), though I don't know how much of this wine was made. I bought it online for about $35 a bottle.
Tasting notes--Clear garnet in the glass, with a bit of effervescence. Not overly aromatic, though a bit of lead and other metallic notes on the nose. Juicy red and black cherries compete mid-palate, with tart currant flavors and notes of wet earth and moss. Very delicate, almost fragile in the mouth, with a long, balanced finished boasting tastes of a mixed berry fruit compote. Fine first offering though I suspect that, as these vines age, this combination will produce a more robust and developed wine. I can't imagine that the 2004 fogdog will get any better with age so pop those corks soon.
Rating--Very good, quaffable.
Cheers, Barrld