2013 Occidental, SWK Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California, USA
Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 04/03/2016
About this WINE
Occidental is dedicated exclusively to the production of world class Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. The state-of-the-art winery is just east of the town of Bodega on a ridge top, next to the Bodega Headlands Vineyard, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Following a hugely successful career at eponymous winery Kistler, Occidental is very much Steve Kistler’s family led project to make the best Pinots California has to offer.
The Occidental Station vineyard lies 15 miles further inland than the estate’s other vineyards. It was planted in 1998 by Steve Kistler, who has farmed the plot himself every year thereafter. It is the one wine in the range that is from a completely different ridge, on a site that is picked two weeks earlier than everywhere else. It is therefore a riper style yet one that is still undeniably ‘Occidental’.
The Freestone-Occidental Pinot noir includes a blend of fruit from Bodega Headlands, Occidental Station, and Bodega Ridge vineyards. It also shares the same winemaking techniques as the vineyard-designated Pinot, the only difference being that the provenance is wider.
Russian River Valley
This low-lying valley Sonoma County in and its 10,000 acres of vineyards was virtually unknown before 1983, when it was granted official appellation status (Russian River Valley AVA).
It has since established a formidable reputation as a prime spot for challenging varieties like Pinot Noir (29% of the acreage in 2007), which thrives in this cool-climate region. Chardonnay (42% of the acreage in 2007) has also blossomed here, showing a signature lean and restrained profile.
The Russian River Valley climate is influenced by cooling fogs, drawn inland from the Pacific. This natural air-conditioning allows the grapes to develop full flavor maturity over an extended growing season, while retaining their life-giving natural acidity.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
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The 2013 Pinot Noir SWK Vineyard, is 100% destemmed, ripe but more restrained, spicy and well-made, with good upside, but needs another 1-2 years of bottle age.
Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 04/03/2016
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