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Having Fun with Pinot Noir
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 12, 2008
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Robert Talbott Vineyards, Monterey County Logan Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, 2005 ($30):  Despite all the overly-ambitious California Pinot Noirs that the 'Sideways' Pinot boom has spawned, I am grateful for the boom because it has given all of us many more opportunities to have fun with Pinot Noir.  Good, poor, or in-between, Pinot Noir is fascinating to taste and fascinating to think about.

Having a bit of fun myself, I sampled the 2005 Logan Pinot Noir recently with dinner.  A bit fleshier than I like my Pinots, I thought at first.  And yet so richly flavorful--not to mention that it's showing no particular oaky character.  And it's fairly priced.  I like it!

Logan is one of three Pinot Noir brands of Robert Talbott Vineyards.  (The other two are Case and Kali-Hart.)  All three are named for Talbott children, in this case Robert Logan Talbott.  The three wines come from two different vineyards and are handled differently within the winery.  In the case of the Logan Pinot Noir, the wine is a product of 32-year old vines from the Martini clone and younger vines from Dijon clones, which winemaker Sam Balderas has been incorporating in increasing amounts into this wine, the percentage reaching 60% in 2005.  Winemaking is traditional, with cool fermentation of separate lots of each clone occurring in small, open-top fermenters, and punching-down of the cap by hand.  The wine ages not in new oak but in French oak barrels that are on average three years old.

Although it carries a Monterey County appellation, Logan Pinot Noir, like the Case Pinot, hails from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands area.  I find many Pinots from Santa Lucia Highlands too huge for my taste, really monster Pinots that defeat the point of this grape, in my opinion.  The Logan is an exception because the Sleepy Hollow vineyard is on the very northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands area, which is considerably cooler than the southern area, and experiences the typical afternoon fog of Monterey.  Certainly the fairly cool 2005 vintage has also exerted a moderating influence on this wine, but even in other vintages, Talbott's wines tend not to push the extremes of ripeness as other wines from this area can.

Let's talk about taste.  The 2005 Logan Pinot Noir has a richly fruity aroma that is medium-plus in intensity and suggests ripe black cherries and blueberries, ripe peaches, a slight floral note and a slight candied fruit character.   In the mouth, the wine is full bodied and richly flavored with similar notes to the aroma, as well as an ethereal, delicate herbal note that comes on strong in the finish.  The wine's alcohol is high, but the rich texture distracts from the alcoholic headiness and keeps the wine grounded.  Even if fleshy Pinots are not my favorite style, the soft, rich texture of this one is a real asset.  Altogether, it represents a terrific blending of Burgundian structure and Californian fruit intensity.

Of course, it works well on the table.  The wine is a fruity contrast to earthy lentil soup, and a lively complement to scrod in a spicy tomato sauce.  Do use a large, proper Pinot Noir glass to capture the full expression of flavor.

90 Points