2016 Docker Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
Docker Hill Vineyard
Aged 17 months in French oak (45% new barrels)
Open top fermentation, cold soak, punch down
We couldn’t be more excited about our first foray to the northern end of Mendocino winegrowing. Our 2016 Docker Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir was a hit from the day the fruit came in—we knew this was going to be one of our favorite wines from the vintage. As soon as you smell this wine, you know there’s going to be a lot going on. Layered aromas of blackberry, black cherry, violet, black tea, and thyme come on in waves. A little redwood underbrush and bramble blossom peek out underneath. Every time you take another whiff, another nuance shows itself, inviting you to step up for a taste. The mouth is just as rich and dense as the nose promised, brimming with wild bramble berries, dried cherries, blackberry compote, and toasted marshmallows. The finish goes on and on, with echoes of the berry and toffee riding on firm, strong tannins. With its fantastic concentration, fine tannins and solid acidity, this is definitely a wine for the long haul, so be sure to set some aside.
As anyone who knows Dutton-Goldfield knows, we love out-there vineyards. Sites outside the norm almost always mean both the fruit and the grower have personalities we want to get to know. So, when a friend told us about Docker Hill Vineyard, a site on a mountain above Comptche, southeast of the town of Mendocino, we had to check it out. The owners, Massachusetts hardware store moguls Bill and Karson Aubuchon, planted the vineyard in 2010 to an assortment of Dijon and Heritage clones. For our inaugural bottling, we received fruit from the 828, Swan and Pommard blocks. The vineyard sits at about 1,000 feet, keeping it generally above the fog line. The elevation gives the vineyard a longer, warmer day than its neighbors to the west or at lower elevations, but significantly cooler than the Sonoma Coast. This climate provides us a wine with a weighty body, full of richness, yet still fine—Dan thinks of the character of this wine as combining the silkiness of Green Valley with the heft of the Sonoma Coast.
After hand sorting and destemming into small open top fermenters, the must is cold-soaked for 5 days in order to gently extract color, spice and fruit characters, while mitigating harsher tannins. Given our small first year of grapes, we co-fermented the clones in a 6-ton fermenter. The must is punched down between 1 and 3 times per day depending on the stage of fermentation. One of the pleasures of this spring “rack and back” is choosing the barrel array for the final aging of the wine. In the case of Docker Hill, the great density and voluptuousness of the Docker pairs well with the nutmeg creaminess of Fouquet barrels, as well as the great spice and solidity of Seguin Moreau Icone.
Food Pairing Notes
This is a wine that begs for grilled meats and heartier fish, like spare ribs with a dry rub, herb crushed veal chops, or halibut chowder.