The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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{ }  79 Tasting Notes J. Lohr Estates 2013 Falcon's Perch Pinot Noir, Monterey County ($17) Visually, a bright hue of cherry red gives way to aromas of pomegranate and cranberry with hints of nutmeg spice and subtle vanilla. On the palate the wine is fresh and vibrant. The elevated acidity carries the red fruit flavors that are integrated with the restrained use of French oak. The texture of the wine is classic Pinot Noir silkiness. At 13.5% ABV, the wine is balanced and delicious. (For the record, at $17 I remain unconvinced that there exists a better value in AVA Pinot Noir.) J. Lohr 2012 Highlands Bench Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands ($35) This impressive bottling from Santa Lucia Highlands symbolizes the magnitude for great Pinot Noir in this small AVA. Robust in color and aromatics, the nose is full of red and blue fruits from raspberry to plum, yet it has an equally earthy quality. There is a gravelly, rocky aroma and a wonderful smoky and charred smell. On the palate the wine is full-bodied and full-flavored for Pinot Noir. It is consistent with the aromatics and delivers layers of complexity followed by a long and very flavorful finish. J. Lohr 2012 Fog's Reach Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco ($35) Concentrated color and hue give way to an intensely aromatic Pinot Noir. The nose is full of complex savory notes: sagebrush, mineral, spent wood coals, an ashy characteris - tic. Delicious flavors abound on the palate, with grilled plum, mushroom and umami. Integrated high-quality French oak shows its seasoning signatures, and the wine finishes with incredible depth of flavor and a long, elegant finish. miles long and two miles deep nearing the mouth of Monterey Bay. The combined cooling effects of the Pacific and the Salinas Valley create ideal conditions for Pinot Noir. Thermal Rainbow is a term used to illustrate the effects of the Blue Grand Canyon on Monterey County vineyards. Essentially, there is a large diurnal shift in the region, from the northern part through the central Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs. When I ask Peck what his biggest challenge is in growing Pinot Noir in Monterey County, he men - tions that cool springtime temperatures can affect the bloom-to-set cycle of the vines. He explains that they prune the vines in March (considerably later than most), which delays the entire growing cycle by approximately two weeks. "This is a good thing," Peck explains, and results in the right amount of physiologi - cal ripeness. He adds, "We are blessed with extremely pleasant October weather in this region," which is typically when J. Lohr harvests their Pinot Noir vine- yards at optimal Brix. The interesting fact remains that Monterey County is not a large wine-growing region by California stan- dards, yet the diversity of its AVAs and the range of its grape varieties—more than 40 are planted throughout the county—are remarkable. For those seeking wines that represent the varietal and the terroirs that they are grown in, Monterey County and the sub-AVAs of Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco make an end - lessly fascinating case study. There are dozens of brands making respect- able Pinot Noir throughout Monterey County. I am delighted to continue to taste and discover them, and I remain intrigued by the potential of this great California coastal appellation. If J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines continues on its quest for terroir as expressed in ultra-high-quality Pinot Noir from this promising region, this is indeed great news for Pinot Noir lovers.

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