Pinot Noir Tasting for the “Young Sommeliers” Part One


One of our goals for 2016 is to do more educational tastings.  Here is one we did today for the trade.  As I told the participants, there is never one answer.  By learning, we can ask better questions…..& thereby continue to learn.

We began by doing a tasting of wines from the Melville estate vineyard of the Santa Rita Hills appellation.  We were fortunate as Chad Melville sent some barrel samples to start the learning wheels churning.

Pinot 1The first duo featured two 2015 barrel samples–both produced from Dijon clone 114, same winemaking, just from different soils.  Anna’s–is more sandy soils & from my perspective, lighter, more transparent & ethereal.  M–is more clay to the soil, & therefore had more forward fruit with more umpff.  This help set the table for the participants as we moved along to other wines.  Pinot 2

The second duo featured two 2015 barrel samples, both produced from the same Dijon clone, same soil, one done with NO stem inclusion & the other with 100% stem inclusion.  While more & more professionals debate about the merits of stem inclusion, I am not sure if too many, at least here in the Islands, really understand what qualities this translates to in the finished wine.  Here was an opportunity to see first.  Furthermore, as we moved through this day’s line-up of wines, we could now discuss, soils & stem inclusion better on each of the wines presented.

Pinot 3We then tasted a finished wine, the 2013 Melville Pinot Noir “Estate”, which was produced from 16 different clones/selections, 40% stems, & aged in older oak, which provided yet another perspective on the vineyard for tasters.  Pinot 4

The next 2 wines were produced from single parcels of the estate vineyard.  “Block M” (95 points) is the wine swept parcel on top of their sand knoll, mainly botella clay & planted to Dijon clones 114 & 115.  The 2013, which is the seemingly riper, more forward of the 2,  saw 80% stem inclusion & aged in old barrels. The “Terraces” (94 points) is the 3 parcels on three sides of the sand knoll, which Block M caps & is planted to Swan, Mt Eden, 115, 667 & 777 on clay loam/calcareous shale soils.  The 2013 had 50% stem inclusion & was also aged in older oak.  One could readily taste the differences between these two wines……from the soils, plant material & % stem inclusion.  The third wine of the flight was the 2012 Samsara Pinot Noir “Melville Vineyard“.   The Melvilles came onto the Santa Barbara wine scene in the late 1980’s & from early on, Chad Melville was their vineyard-ist & Greg Brewer was their winemaker.  A little bit down the road, Chad & his wife, started their own label, Samsara, where Chad was the vineyard-ist AND the winemaker.  So, here is the wine we thought would provide some additional perspective…Melville grapes (2/3 Pommard, 1/3 667), 50% stems & 22 months in oak, 25% new.  What a VERY different slant, using Melville grapes!!!!  I refer to this wine as Black Beauty–such power & strength, done very effortlessly so.

For the future, the BIG news is, Greg Brewer has moved on & now Chad Melville will be overseeing the vineyards AND the winemaking.  We wish Greg the best with his future endeavors.  The change at Melville will be sooooooo interesting to watch unfold & settle out.  Stay tuned!!!

Categories : Wine

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