2010 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir
Aged 17 months in French oak (50% new barrels)
Open top fermentation, cold soak, punch down
What more can I say about 2010, my new favorite ever North Coast Pinot vintage. Degree of difficulty: 10. Reward for good execution: phenomenal. Extra kicks when others whine about it: priceless. The cold/hot/cold/hot growing season brutalized our yields in 2010, but the right vineyard in loving hands provided wine with a matchless combination of beauty, personality and lushness. Our meager 239 cases of McDougall is a perfect example. In the nose it shows its classic minerality and pomegranate fruit, but this vintage layers on rich black cherry notes, cardamom spice and an enticing sassafras edge. The crux of the 2010 McDougall is really how it shows its classic solid Sonoma Coast structure, while at the same time offering a soft and friendly opulence. On the palate, juicy Bing cherry and cranberry fruit is enveloped in plush and supple tannins. There’s a perceived sweetness (though no sugar in the wine at all) that comes from this richness that’s offset by bright acidity and overtones of black licorice, Asian spice and a touch of root beer. Respect this wine’s desire to stretch out a bit (vinous yoga) by letting it breath in the glass, and hold some back for its great aging potential—certainly up to 10 or more years from vintage.
When Mac McDougall purchased his stunning ranch spanning the Gualala River in the early 1960s he had no idea he’d ever be planting grapes on it, but in 1998 old friend Warren Dutton convinced him to do just that. On 9 wind-protected southeast facing acres he planted 2 Dijon clones of pinot and Mac, his wife Barbara and son Rich have worked and stressed over it ever since. The site wraps over the ridge at about 1,100 feet elevation and has a spectacular view of the Gualala River, the Pacific Ocean, and Mac’s neighbors at Hirsch and Martinelli vineyards. The fruit has the exceptionally thick skin, deep color and natural spice that is so characteristic of Pinot from the high slopes of the “true” Sonoma Coast. Even in this cool region, McDougall ripens fairly early, due to its thin, well-drained soil, sheltered south slope and low yields. This same environment also imparts the minerality and solid structure for aging that this area is known for. This vineyard wonderfully represents the wild beauty and intensity of the Sonoma Coast, both in its land and its fruit.
After hand sorting and destemming into small open top fermenters, the must is cold-soaked for 7 days in order to gently extract color, spice and fruit characters, while mitigating harsher tannins. To further this aim, no SO2 was used at the crusher. We punch down 1 to 3 times daily, according to the stage of the fermentation (less often at later stages to avoid harsh tannin pickup), but treat it very gently given the inherently solid structure of the Sonoma Coast fruit. After fermentation, the wine is racked into French oak to age, then racked and blended once in the spring of 2011 to choose our favorite barrels, homogenize the blend, and hone our barrel choices for final aging until bottling in March of 2011. For this wine, we love the rich spice imparted by Cadus Allier barrels, as well as the way Taransaud barrels match the intrinsic structure of the wine.
Food Pairing Notes
As with all our Sonoma Coast wines, you’ll want equally voluptuous and outgoing foods to partner with it, like venison with mushroom stroganoff, a grilled herb-rubbed steak, or slow cooked pot roast.