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New Kids on the Pinot Noir Block
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Apr 11, 2017
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Domaine Anderson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($40):  Over the years, many California wineries that were exclusively sparkling wine houses have commercialized a still wine brand featuring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from grapes that could not find their ideal use in sparkling wine.  Roederer Estate has been an exception.  Which is not to say that the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Estate, haven’t apparently felt the urge to produce a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir brand: Their approach has been to purchase a separate winery estate specifically for these wines.

In 2011, the Rouzaud family purchased Domaine Anderson, a small vineyard estate and winery previously owned by the Dach family.  The Anderson Valley itself was familiar to Frédéric Rouzaud, chairman of Champagne Louis Roederer, because it is the region that his father, Jean Claude Rouzaud, chose more than 30 years ago to make his Champagne house’s California sparkling wine.  Consistent acclaim for Roederer Estate sparkling wine has proved the wisdom of that Anderson Valley choice.  In 2012, the first Domaine Anderson wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir, were produced under the new regime.
 
Domaine Anderson owns 50 acres of vineyards in various locations within Anderson Valley, in both hillside and valley floor positions.  Pinoli vineyard is a cool, coastal area near Roederer Estate and Wallraven is a warmer site around the town of Boonville.  The Dach Vineyard itself surrounds the winery and has recently been certified biodynamic.  Pinot Noir vines include multiple Burgundian clones sourced from elite Burgundy properties, as well as clones from Calera and Mt. Eden.  Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir is produced from grapes of all three of the winery’s vineyards, representing the range of terroirs within Anderson Valley.

I recently sampled the 2014 Chardonnay, 2013 Pinot Noir and 2012 Pinot Noir of Domaine Anderson and was mightily impressed.  The Chardonnay surprised me because it has the depth of color and palate richness that I usually find in rich Chardonnays that ultimately disappoint me with their overly high alcohol.  In this wine, however, there is no alcohol burn riding the edge of that richness; in fact, the wine’s alcohol is only 13.5 percent.  Aromas and flavors suggest tropical fruits and floral notes, and the wine’s texture is luxuriously creamy.  Searching within the wine, your palate can likely detect high acidity but nothing about this wine says “crisp” because the richness covers the acidity.  A slight phenolic note helps balance the richness until the acidity shows itself in the wine’s fresh, vibrant finish.  This is a Chardonnay for those of us who like richness, but richness under control.

Both of the Pinot Noirs are very fine, each of them distinct in style.  The 2013 is the richer of the two.  It is a soft, seductive Pinot with dark fruit character and gorgeous silky texture — but this wine is a bit more complex than that simple description suggests.  When you hold the wine in your mouth, it takes on additional dimensions, such as firm but gentle tannin around its edges, tart red fruit notes that brighten the dark fruit flavors, and acidity that enlivens the wine from its core.  The composite is, as the winemaker describes it, “generous without heaviness.”

The 2012 Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir seems trimmer and tighter, with red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry and red plum, along with black cherry notes.  Its acidity feels higher, although the numbers show slightly higher acidity and significantly lower pH for the 2013.  Despite its evident fruitiness, the 2012 comes across more as a savory Pinot Noir than a fruity one, with earthy notes, a saline marine impression, and spicy tannins.  This wine aged for eleven months in French oak, just as the 2013 did, but here the oak was marginally newer, 35 percent versus 30 percent in the 2013. 

The difference in the amount of new oak doesn’t explain the style difference in these two Pinot Noirs, nor does the vintage variation.  But that hardly matters, because they are both seriously high quality and enjoyable Pinot Noirs.  Pick your style.

91 Points