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Just Don't Call it 'Little'
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 20, 2012
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Fogdog, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir, 2009
($35):  If you read this column regularly, you probably realize that I’m on a Pinot Noir kick.  One of the aspects of Pinot Noir that intrigues me these days is the broad range of available styles, which is probably the result of more winemakers being more respectful of the individuality of their various terroirs.  Excluding the monster Pinots that to me run contrary to the inherent nature of the variety, I can find many expressions of Pinot Noir to love.

This 2009 Fogdog is the antithesis of those monster Pinots.  It is light in color and fresh and lively in flavor -- a brilliant, nuanced, fine-tuned expression of Pinot Noir’s more delicate side.

Fogdog Pinot Noir is produced by Freestone Vineyards, whose 2006 Freestone Pinot Noir I reviewed three years ago. The grapes for both wines are estate grown, from the cool, southwestern part of the huge Sonoma coast AVA.  Fogdog is a selection of wines that “boast expressive, wild fruit characteristics” and texture and acidity that enable them to be approachable upon release, according to the winery’s literature.  The lots selected for Fogdog are not throwaways but are top quality wines of a different style from those that go into the Freestone Pinot.  Damian Parker, Freestone’s Director of Winemaking, explains that after fermentation of the grapes being considered for the Freestone Vineyards cuvée, those lots that are fruitier and less extractive go into once-used barrels rather than new oak; after aging, some of these lots find their way into the Fogdog blend. The wine spends 14 months in 35 percent new French oak, compared to 15 months in 55 percent new oak for the Freestone. 
 
The aroma of the 2009 Fogdog Pinot jumps out of the glass as soon as you pour the wine:  Fresh, perfumed, redolent of red fruits, citrus zest, floral notes and just a hint of mushroom.  In your mouth, the wine is medium-bodied, dry and a bit grippy, an effect of the wine’s acidity as much as its moderate tannin.  Call it “energy”:  The wine engages your mouth and tingles it with vitality.  Around this energy, the wine’s texture is gently silky.  Flavors of tart cherry, raspberry and citrus are pronounced and they carry long across your mouth.

One aspect of this wine that I particularly admire is the way that the wine’s structure of high acidity, moderate tannin and fairly moderate (13.5 percent) alcohol seems to enable the wine’s aromas and flavors -- it pushes them forth, keeping them lively rather than heavy -- and also underpins them.  If you are tempted to categorize this wine as merely a ‘little” Pinot Noir, the structure must lead you to a different conclusion.  It is a solid, serious Pinot Noir with real integrity, but in an expressive, approachable style. I would drink it now and over the next five years.

It is not often that we have the chance to drink wines that are immediately expressive and yet very high in quality. Kudos to Freestone Vineyards!

92 Points