I have often told others that Pinot Noir and I are still in the preliminary dating stage, not having the certainty (or perhaps the guts) to declare that the two of us are in a “meaningful relationship.” The latest four Pinots from Sequana have, nevertheless, begun to erode my defenses.
Sequana specializes in single vineyard Pinots. The name derives from “Sequana, the Franco-Roman goddess of the River Seine, which flows through the ancestral birthplace of Pinot Noir.” James MacPhail is the winemaker. I always feel it wrong to make too many parallels between French Pinots and those from anywhere else, in fairness to both types of wine, and yet I have to admit to detecting certain Burgundian touches in some of these fine offerings. All four of these wines benefit from carefully-chosen clones, hand-sorting, cold-soaking, extended maceration and 40% new French oak.
The Sequana Dutton Ranch Green Valley of Russian River Valley 2009 Pinot Noir, $45, was the first of these wines I tried. Pacific-influenced Green Valley fits squarely in the cool-climate camp. I loved the visual clarity of this wine (in fact of all four of these wines). My nose enjoyed blueberry and strawberry, with a touch of candied cherry, rose and violet, sweet oak and mocha, all nicely layered. This is medium-bodied, medium-plus acidity, with flavors of Bing cherry, ripe raspberry, and tart plum, with some baking spice keeping the fruit company on the finish.
Next, I moved to the Sequana Santa Lucia Highlands 2009 Pinot Noir, $32, enjoying a completely different experience. Pinot from this ridge on the northwestern slope of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County (think John Steinbeck novels) has always had a place in my heart. My nose detected bright cherry, milk chocolate, mocha and violet flowers. The palate gave me more berries than the nose with some nutmeg and cinnamon. A lovely aspect of this wine is a distinct minerality and a layer of earth. Medium bodied, the wine is nicely balanced.
As to the Sequana Sundawg Ridge Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley 2008 Pinot Noir, $50, Sequana is the sole producer from this small, 6.9 acre, sustainably-farmed family-run vineyard. Single-vineyard is not always the best choice for an expressive wine, but it works in this case. I felt this truly artisanal wine to be the most Burgundian of the four. Mineral and earth aromas dance with cherry and berry fruit. The wine is fuller bodied and somewhat more tannic than the others, long, balanced on the finish, and, alas, the kind of wine you wish you had aged.
The Sequana Russian River Valley 2009 Pinot Noir, $38, combines lots from Green Valley’s Sundawg Ridge, Dutton Ranch, and Lakeview vineyards. Very well balanced in all respects, the wine had the kind of nose and palate I would tend to associate with a mainstream, high-end Pinot: solid raspberry and cherry, rose floral notes, a hint of clove, superbly mouth-filling with great silky tannins. I combined the wine (and my renowned flaky crust beef pot pie) with another human being, leading to a certain synergy among us (the lady, myself, and the Pinot). If she agrees to a jealousy moratorium, I may well declare an effective date for that “meaningful relationship” with Pinot Noir after all.