My California Pinot Epiphany

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-05-2012

I hate the idea that Californian Pinot producers are “correct” when their wines taste Burgundian and those that produce brighter, fuller wines are “incorrect.” Despite favoring Burgundian Pinot Noir over all comers, I think the comparisons aren’t as important and necessary as people want them to be.

But there comes a time when I have to give credit to a winemaker that makes even the most biased Burgundy apologists blush.

I first came across Clos Saron through internet chatter and their inclusion in the movie Wine From Here. The winemaker, Gideon Bienstock, had been with Renaissance Winery before leaving to begin his own project in the Sierra Foothills. He’s discovered, potentially, one of the most exciting terroirs for Pinot Noir in all of California. If you google the vineyard location in Google Maps, you might be as shocked as I was about how high up in the foothills this place really is!

How is it possible for Pinot to actually ripen up there?

Gideon is a vocal advocate of minimizing his direct involvement, as winemaker, in the winemaking process. Sounds funny, right? He doesn’t filter, adds as little SO2 as possible, farms organically, and the result is a wine that is beautifully elegant and balanced.

I recently had his 2005 Texas Hill Road Pinot Noir and was blown away by its finesse and elegance. The red fruit was cool, there were nice mushroom undertones, and a subtle meatiness. Despite all of the vivid flavors, the wine was weightless and silky — my nirvana. After my bottle of the Texas Hill Road Pinot was emptied, I dawned on me that I had just had the best Pinot Noir from California of my lifetime.

I’m looking forward to drinking more from Clos Saron and encourage our readers to seek out their wine.


Comments (1)

  1. Matt, great post. This sounds like an amazing pinot. I know we have varied taste in California pinot noir, but I completely agree with you on this kind of false dichotomy of correctness in California pinot. I’ve never tried one from the Sierra Foothills before, but I am officially on the lookout, this producer specifically. Cheers!