Hartford Court, Sonoma Coast "Land’s Edge Vineyards" Pinot Noir 2007 ($45): California has many wineries that are Pinot Noir specialists, and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to be in a position to judge which winery over time is the stellar Pinot Noir specialist in the state. For now, I will say that Hartford Family Winery in Sonoma County is definitely on my short list.
This winery grows Pinot Noir in nine vineyards -- mainly in Sonoma County but also in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County -- and makes ten distinct Pinot Noir wines. And yet its total Pinot Noir production is only about 8,000 cases per year; most of its Pinots are produced in quantities of fewer than 500 cases per year. Quality across the board is excellent, and the diversity from one Pinot to the next proves what individual attention each terroir receives.
The wine called Land’s Edge Vineyards Pinot Noir is the one Hartford Court Pinot that is not made solely from the estate’s vineyards. As such, it has the largest production, about 2,500 cases, and is the least expensive. Actually those are just bonus reasons for recommending this wine; my real reason is that I love it.
The wine is full-bodied and dry, with silky texture and a slight grip of tannin that spreads gently across your whole mouth. Fresh acidity gives the wine depth and adds dimension to the silkiness. The wine’s aromas are pronounced, pure notes of dark cherry and berry, with a floral scent and a vanilla perfume that emerges with aeration. The wine’s flavors repeat the ripe dark cherry and berry and also suggest earth and mineral notes, finishing with coffee. Although the wine is rich in fruity flavors, it is not fruity as in “near sweet:” this is a dry Pinot.
The aromas and flavors of this wine are every bit as intense as you want in a California Pinot Noir, but they do not overwhelm the structure. This wine is impressive on both counts: fresh, rich and pretty in its aromas and flavors, yet solid in its structure.
The 2007 vintage seems to be a special one for California Pinot Noirs. Hartford Court winemaker Jeff Mangahas told me that his 2007 Pinots were very expressive wines straight from the fermenter to the bottling, and he described the wines as having wonderful tannin balance with good fruit expression.
In tasting through all ten 2007 Hartford Court Pinot Noirs six months ago, my favorite was the “Far Coast,” a brilliant wine. This Land’s Edge wine is akin to that one because it is mainly from the winery’s Annapolis vineyard, of which the Far Coast vineyard block is a part; it is a cool site far up the Sonoma coast. Another source for this wine is the winery’s Seascape vineyard, which is a cold site exposed to the Pacific Ocean, producing low yields of concentrated, fresh fruit. The wine also contains some grapes sourced from outside growers.
I do believe that the Land’s Edge Pinot Noir will improve by gaining the complexity of age over the next several years, but I would not hesitate to drink it right now. It is immensely satisfying.