The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 69 of 92

Richmond and Gauthier discovered that by retain- ing a couple of the annually formed suckers from the trunk of the vine to replace the 35-year-old cordon arms at the top, the vines are effectively rejuvenated. This allowed them to put aside their plans to replant, and the huge investment involved. "How sustainable is that?" asks Gauthier, who points out the thriving new cane shoots and weighty new clumps of fruit. "You're talking about a savings of $25,000 an acre times four years." Working intensely with clones, such as the rot-re- sistant Swiss clone of Pinot Noir—its bunches offer up an intense chocolate profile as we bite into them like corn on the cob—Richmond reflects, "I won't live to see the new clone, which, in time, will evolve for a new winemaking paradigm." Known as the winery's spiritual leader, Richmond spills forth wise words about the grapes he so care- fully tends. "You have to make many wines to make a good Chardonnay; if it is good, then I am proud of the wine I made. For Pinot Noir, well, if I get good juice, then I am simply relieved: There's not a lot of control over this grape." In fact, Richmond refers to the Bouchaine Estate Pinot Noir as his "drama queen." We taste the 2007, scheduled for release at the beginning of 2010. "This is the best vintage I've ever worked with in my life," he attests. His winemaking practices include using no stems, fairly aggressive crushing (no whole fruit and a 24-hour gravity draw-down, removing every bit of free-run juice) and a three-day fermentation at 85 to 90 degrees. And while we taste through the wines and Rich- mond preaches the word of Burgundian fruit in the land of Carneros, we understand his meaning when he tells us, "A winemaker has more in common with religion than with science." Intro-Vinous november 2009 / the tasting panel /  69 This Swiss clone of Pinot Noir is a great blender and a hedge against bad weather: It won't rot. the '07s Usually grown as a blender for sparkling wine, Pinot Meunier is quite similar to Pinot Noir. "It has minimal character, compared to Pinot Noir," says Greg Gauthi- er, who shows us both leaves and their similarity. The Meunier leaf, on the left, displays an almost "furry" character. "Because of the novelty of this variety, we have been bottling it for the past three years, making about 200 to 300 cases. We have no qualms blending it with Pinot Noir." The Bouchaine 2007 Estate Chardonnay, released in September, offers up a toastiness from a judicious stirring regime. Kiwi, lime and ginger support its great, strapping acidity. It has a suede cloth texture. With a January 2010 release date, Richmond tells us that his "drama queen," the Bouchaine 2007 Estate Pinot Noir, is the best vintage yet. Woodsy, soil-rich power, orange peel and chalky tannins may describe this wine, but it's one that just must be tasted.

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