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A Question of Style
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 28, 2015
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On Point, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 & Anderson Valley “Christinna’s Cuvée” Pinot Noir 2013 (both $36):  My recent blind tasting of several California Pinot Noirs included two wines that delighted me, although they were different in style, as Pinot Noir wines can be.  It turned out that both wines were from the same producer but from different wine regions.  The brand was On Point, a label of Fulcrum Wines, and the wines were a 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

Three years after launching Fulcrum Wines -- a very small operation based in Napa Valley that sources grapes from respected growers of Pinot Noir winemaker David Rossi developed his On Point line in 2008 as a home for Pinot Noir wines that are immediately alluring and vibrant, compared to the rich, more structured character that marks his Fulcrum Pinot Noirs.  Grapes for the On Point wines come from many of the same respected vineyards as the Fulcrum Pinots; the nature of each wine in the barrel determines whether a particular Pinot Noir will debut under the Fulcrum or On Point label.

Of the two 2013 Pinots that I tasted, I prefer the Sonoma Coast wine to the Anderson Valley, but the distinction is one of style rather than quality, because both wines are excellent.  Simply put, the On Point Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir seduced me. It has an effusive berry and smoke perfume and the texture of silk.  It has flavors of red berries, cherries, sage and mineral; it’s juicy and truly fruity but the fruit is not exaggerated.  Fresh acidity upholds the expressive, ripe fruitiness and thrusts the taste of the wine upward, for depth, and rearward for a soft, flavorful finish.

The Sonoma Coast wine derives from Sangiacomo vineyards (54 percent) and Gap’s Crown vineyard (46 percent).  The latter brings the richness of fruit, while the former contributes the smoky, minerally nuances.  The wine aged in French oak for 15 months, but only 18 percent of the oak was new.

On Point 2013 Christinna’s Cuvée from Anderson Valley is, to my taste, a more autumnal Pinot Noir, with a brooding character that lurks in the background of its otherwise elegant taste.  Its aromas and flavors are more subtle and less fresh-fruity than those of the Sonoma Coast wine; along with cherry notes, the aroma suggests spice and evergreen, and the flavors hint at underbrush, earth and meatiness.  Also, the wine is slightly more tannic than the Sonoma Coast Pinot, providing more gravitas.  Of the two, this is perhaps the more sophisticated wine, and in fact my fellow taster preferred it.  Rossi himself describes the wine as having “a wild and brooding Anderson Valley-ness about it that speaks to what makes the region special.”

The grapes fro the 2013 Christinna’s Cuvée came from Donnelly Creek Vineyard, a slightly warmer site for its cool region, with diverse Pinot Noir clones and vineyard terrain.  Like the Sonoma Coast wine, it aged for 15 months in French oak, but for this wine, 24 percent of the oak was new.

On the table, the Anderson Valley wine had the edge because its earthy tones and more subtle fruitiness harmonize beautifully with a wider range of dishes.

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 91 Points

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 90 Points