Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2005
The Sonoma Coast appellation covers an immense, seemingly gerrymandered swath of
Sonoma County, allowing these 100% Pinot Noir grapes to be sourced from Carneros, from
the Russian River area, and from vineyards in between. The result is lush, mouth-filling and
2005 was long and cool in the region, allowing exceptional hang time and full physiological ripening of this notoriously capricious grape. The resulting wine is a deep ruby with garnet edges. You need to swirl a few extra times to get the nose going in the right direction, but then you are rewarded with black cherry, strawberry, concentrated red cherry, and a little heat. The alcohol level is listed at 13.5% yet I suspect it is higher, since the wine has more of a kick than I am used to in Pinot Noir. I enjoyed it with sirloin steak tips over rice pilaf with sautéed mushrooms.
On the palate the wine takes over, insisting you appreciate the mouth-feel before you start ticking off aromatic notes. A base of fruit acidity pushes through cherry, black cherry, candied cherry, and strawberry. The concurrent tannins are well-structured and smooth out the ride. At the end, which takes its time in coming, you have the sensation of having consumed some first-class strawberry preserves (out of the jar, with a spoon). The finish also has a light touch of pepper, nutmeg, and teak wood.
The bottom line on this $15 wine is that it brings the mouth-feel of a Burgundy, but without
the earth-feel of a Burgundy. It brings along some of the promise of California without
succumbing to the mass production and consumer taste-manipulation so often associated with
that state. It makes an honest commitment, and is decidedly in the camp of concentrated fruit.
It is, of course, very high quality fruit.
California takes the point in American wine. There is always another bottle to taste.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman