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Three Tempting Pinot Noir Choices
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 14, 2012
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Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir, Gowan Creek Vineyard, 2009
($80):  I recently tasted three beautiful 2009 Pinot Noirs from Goldeneye, the Duckhorn Wine Company property in Anderson Valley, and I faced quite a dilemma in choosing the one to review because the wines differ in their appeal, their price and their aging potential.  I chose the Gowan Creek Pinot not least because it is the middle wine of the three in price and ageability.  

Goldeneye began its life in 1996 when Duckhorn Wine Company purchased its first vineyard in Anderson Valley, and the estate has since expanded to 204 acres. The original concept was to make both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the few blocks of Chardonnay that existed in 2006 were grafted to Pinot Noir, and the estate became exclusive to Pinot Noir.  (Duckhorn Wine Company today makes Chardonnay from other locations, under its Migration label.)  Goldeneye now produces five Pinots, which include three single-vineyard wines, an estate Pinot Noir called “Ten Degrees” blended from several vineyards, and a basic Anderson Valley bottling that contains a small amount of purchased fruit along with 95 percent estate fruit.

Gowan Creek is the home vineyard of the winery.  In the small Anderson Valley AVA, which boasts a distinct range of climate conditions from cool coastal vineyards to warmer inland sites, Gowan Creek is “mid-valley” according to winemaker Zach Rasmuson, and thus combines both cool and warm climate influences. (Two other sites for Goldeneye’s single-vineyard Pinots are Confluence Vineyard, the warmest site, and Narrows, the coolest.)  Gowan Creek Vineyard features eight clones of Pinot Noir planted according to the soils and sites within the vineyard.

I find Goldeneye Pinot Noirs in general to be big but not heavy Pinots with clean, expressive, fresh-fruit aromas and flavors that vary quite a lot from one site to another.  The 2009 Gowan Creek has notes of black cherries, as well as wild berries, an earthy-mineral edge and a spicy note.  The wine is dry, full-bodied and rounded, with silky-smooth texture, and concentration of fruit character.  It has some grip on the tongue from oak tannin, which complements the wine’s silkiness and flavorful fruitiness.  Acidity does not stand out, but it works unnoticed to keep the wine fresh, lively and well-balanced.  This is a big Pinot that’s light on its feet. 

On the richer end, Goldeneye 2009 “Ten Degrees” Pinot Noir ($110) is a truly impressive Pinot that manages to combine power, richness, complexity and clarity.  It’s a blend of estate vineyards from only 14 barrels of the winery’s 1500.  While you could certainly drink it now and love it, this wine will improve over ten years or more. 

On the more immediate end, Goldeneye 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($55) is a thoroughly seductive Pinot for its rich, variegated aromas and flavors of red berries and black fruits combined with piney notes, spiciness and earth.  This wine has the intensity and complexity of flavor of the sort that attracted many of us to Pinot Noir in the first place.  I would enjoy this wine now and over the next few years.

The 2009 Gowan Creek is completely enjoyable now, and I estimate that it can develop nicely over five-plus years.

91 Points