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Too Good for Leftovers
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 10, 2009
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Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($75):  I need to get out more. If I hadn't been concerned about getting my beauty sleep or being well rested for an important presentation the next day or whatever my reason was, I would have discovered this wine in the company of its winemaker during a blind tasting of six Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast.  Over dinner at a posh NYC restaurant, mind you.  As it was, I tasted the wine blind at home over a dinner of leftovers.  (On the positive side, I suppose that proves my excitement for this wine wasn't unduly influenced by the circumstances.)

If I had tasted all six Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs, I would most likely report that they were impressive, because I enjoy Pinot Noirs from cool climate regions, and the Sonoma Coast is probably the coolest of California's cool regions.  The 2006 Freestone Pinot Noir is indeed impressive and it epitomizes all that I love in this style of Pinot Noir.  Its pronounced flavors are fresh, complex and concentrated within a sleek frame that has plenty of depth.

Freestone is an historic community in western Sonoma County that takes its name from local quarries.  Freestone Vineyards was established by Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 1999 when Phelps and son Bill purchased 100 acres of land near the hamlet and planted three separate parcels mainly with Pinot Noir but also Chardonnay.  The winery itself was completed in 2007.  Within the huge Sonoma Coast AVA, Freestone Vineyards is situated in the southern part, just south of the Green Valley AVA and north of the Marin County border.

The 2006 Freestone Pinot Noir is the product of a long, cool growing season that brought the grapes to ripeness with high acid levels and ideal aromatic development.  Winemaking involved a considerable amount of whole berries in the fermentation along with some whole bunches.  The wine aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 55% of which were new.

When you put this wine to your nose, you might notice a gentle vanilla perfume from the oak, or not -- that note comes and goes.  The wine's aroma is pronounced with scents mainly of fresh berries and cherries, both red berries and black cherry, as well as delicate herbal notes, spiciness, and a very subtle mushroomy / earthy note.  In the mouth, the wine is dry and full-bodied but not overly high in alcohol (14%, for the record) with pronounced fruity and spicy flavors and a dryish texture from fine-grained, firm tannin.  It has high acid that gives depth to the taste and diverts your attention from the tactile expression of tannin on your tongue.  The vertical energy of the wine's acidity intersects with the horizontal plane of tannin expression and creates not a round wine but a complete one.  Above all, the wine is lively and expresses fresh, pure fruit character to a degree that is a rarity among California Pinot Noirs, in my experience.

This wine can age.  It actually improved after a month in a previously opened, gassed bottle.  Its bright fruit will compliment dishes of rich fish or poultry that have fresh flavors and will contrast nicely with simple roasts.  It's also great with leftovers.

93 Points