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Porter Creek Pinot Noir

I’ve been writing about Porter Creek Vineyards since we dropped in during our Healdsburg trip of October 2008. The following March I took note of a NYT wine column by Eric Asimov on California Pinot Noirs that featured Porter Creek as part of a “rebellion”:

From Mendocino and Sonoma through the Santa Cruz Mountains and Arroyo Grande south to the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County, a rebellion is brewing. The dominant style of California pinot noir remains round, ripe and extravagant, with sweet flavors of dark fruit and alcohol levels approaching and sometimes surpassing 15 percent.

But on a recent trip through these leading pinot noir areas I was thrilled to find a small but growing number of producers pulling in the opposite direction.

Last November, we joined Porter Creek’s wine subscription program, which has two options. There’s the Pinot Noir subscription, which provides “a selection of our most current Pinot Noir releases, including limited production single vineyard and reserve bottlings. An example shipment may include 2- Estate PN, 2- Fiona Hill PN, 1-Hillside PN and 1- Reserve PN.” And there’s the Winemaker’s Selection, “a tasting menu of our most current releases. An example shipment may include a bottle each of Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Carignane, Syrah and Zinfandel.” We signed up for the Pinot.

Shipments are sent each November and April, with the result that we had just missed the November selection. Since we didn’t want to wait for months, I called in December and arranged for a version of their winemaker’s selection shipment. This was the subject of a post the day the wines arrived and a follow-up post two weeks later.

Today, our first Pinot Noir subscription arrived, exactly as described in the example: two each of Porter Creek’s less expensive Pinots — the Estate and the Fiona Hill — plus one each of their more expensive Pinots — the Hillside and the Reserve. All are 2009 vintage, as shown in the photo at top. The website has the following descriptions, with wines listed in ascending order of price.

2009 Estate: A classic Russian River Pinot Noir with bright red fruits on the nose, a rich palate and nice mineral notes on the finish. Drink now through 2014 or so.

2009 Pinot Noir – Fiona Hill Vineyard: This meticulously planted, steep hillside vineyard is situated along Westside Road at the entrance of Porter Creek with an ideal southern face. Hard clay top soil with a fractured stone bedrock places continual stress on these Pinot vines, resulting in a very expressive, unique vineyard designate wine. The nose has aromas of wild berries and forest floor, a weighty mid-palate and long silky finish.

2009 Pinot Noir – Reserve: Our 2009 reserve is a special selection originating from the steepest parts of the Fiona Hill Vineyard. It was vinified with one third whole cluster fermention and 40% new French oak barrels. The result is bolder, broader-shouldered wine with serious aging potential.

2009 Pinot Noir – Hillside Vineyard: Among the oldest Pinot Noir plantings in the Russian River Valley, this vineyard produces a wine that demonstrates the multi-layered complexity achieved only with old vines and very low yields. Shows an incredible range of fruit and a density, leading toward age worthiness. Planted in 1974 and yields just 1 to 1.5 tons per acre.

Curious as we are, I suppose the last two will repay patience. I’ll let you know what we think in a few years.

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