Though we surely do spend a lot of time fawning over the greatness of Burgundian Pinot Noir, there’s no question that American examples of this difficult yet awe-inducing variety have never been better. As we emerge from a tricky era in American winemaking where in many corners an emphasis was placed on body, concentration, and power in order to please certain wine journalists and their followers. For no grape was that approach more troublesome than Pinot Noir. After all, the best Pinots are all about grace, perfume, and elegance and there’s nothing elegant about a 15% bruiser. Now, many domestic producers of Pinot are approaching a more Burgundian mindset, focusing instead on freshness and purity. Better vineyard sites are being focused on with more progressive farming techniques, harvesting at lower levels of potential alcohol, less extraction in the winery, and less use of new oak. All of these developments mean great American Pinot is giving Burgundy a run for its money. This month’s two selections, from two of California’s most talented winemakers, are evidence of that.
First–Brea’s lovely Pinot Noir comes to us from natural winemaking prodigy Chris Brockway. If you’ve spent any time drinking natural California wine lately, chances are you’ve come across one of Chris’s delicious wines from his main label, Broc Cellars. Chris has pioneered minimalist winemaking in California, all the while producing crowd-pleasing wines at ever reasonable prices. We’ve long been fans of Chris’s work, and we were excited to hear about Brea, his new project. Brea incorporates everything that makes Chris’s approach special and aims to deliver classic expressions of important varieties like Pinot Noir that are farmed sustainably and hit the shelf at a reasonable price–no small feat. His 2017 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot does just that, and represents one of the most satisfying ‘drink now’ California Pinots we’ve come across. Like Broc Cellars, Brea wines are made in Berkeley, California. Chris’s lovely Pinot Noir is sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. This area was chosen with purpose, as it is a particularly cool climate. Winemaking is restrictive–native yeast ferments, no new oak, and minimal sulphur at bottling, all searching for purity of fruit.