Sonoma, aka Pinot Country
How Pinot Noir is coming into its own in a diverse appellation
Porter Creek is a small operation in the Russian River Valley that makes a wide range of wines, and for once I'll go ahead and include non-Pinot wines in a Pinot article. Why? Because the winemaking style here offers a consistency across varieties that make these the perfect wines to branch out with. All the wines are fresh and pure on the palate, lively and possessing an Old World energy along with fantastic aromatics.
Owned and operated by a father son duo, Alex and George Davis, the vineyards at Porter Creek are all certified organic and on their way to being certified biodynmaic. The winemaking is described as Burgundian, and I would bet that applies across the board, and as I alluded before, this is one case in which you really can sense that in the wines. The use of oak is modest and judicious, and the fruit seems to possess that fine combination of ripeness and freshness that one can obtain in California through careful farming and a certain comfort with warm climate alcohol levels. The wines are not inexpensive, ranging between $35 and $65 a bottle for the Pinots, but for an introduction to the house style the $24 Carignane is a steal, and the Zinfandel and Syrah, both in the mid $30s are beautiful interpretations of those varieties.
There’s a lightly sweet fruity top note to the Asian pear fruit on the nose, which picks up lovely spice nuances with air. On the palate this is clear and tense, full of green apples with a hint of fig at the core, all framed with textural touches of green plum and lemon curd on the back end that leads to a clean, apple peel finish full of lovely bright acid. Clean, bright and focused, this is enjoyable, but has the promising feel of a young wine. 91 points
A little earthy on the nose, with lovely floral, almost rose petal, aromas topped with lychee and pineapple. In the mouth, this is a little sweetly fruited up front, but with attractive freshness to the apricot fruit that shows some some golden raspberry character in a very clean and bright style. This shows lovely energy in the mouth, with late-arriving honeysuckle perfumes and a lovely bright orange-tinged finish that is impressively long. About as good a new world Viognier as I’ve had. 93 points
Bright on the nose with a bit of a stemmy/floral/dark oily herbal element to the dark, almost curranty fruit. This is a little soft on the palate and broad in the mouth, full of earthy forest floor aspects to the wild red cherry and wild raspberry fruit. Finishing with lift and energy, this picks up a minty aspect to go along with the rich, earthy/clay base. Light and fresh, both easy going and fairly complex. This is delicious. 91 points
Complex on the nose and downright Burgundian, with burnished wild cherry, mineral, gorgeous raspberry fruit, and a touch of old wood, all topped with nuanced smoke notes. There’s nice concentration to the bright red cherry fruit here and it all remains tense on the palate, with fine acidity and a wonderful base of fine-grained tannins. The mid-palate shows off precise mineral cut and leads to a finish full of wild cherry preserves with tons of balancing acid and real finesse. This is a pretty brilliant wine. 93 points
Bitter apple, oil, shale, and juniper show lovely purity, freshness and intensity on the nose, with hints of gamey meats and nuanced, slightly smoky dark berry fruit topped with a hint of tar and lots of wild plum. In the mouth this is a bit rustic with firm but well judged tannins, but the masses of wild plum up front, followed by pure bright acidic red berry fruit, quickly buffer the tannins. This is a superbly honest wine with just has a touch of richness on the back end, and while it really has a drop dead gorgeous nose, it is a bit simple in the mouth. Still I would willingly drink a lot of this. 89 points
Classic bramble berry, the Zinfandel nose is bright and perfumed, with just a kiss of oak lending a smoky edge to the powerful nose. Marionberry and boysenberry pop on the entry of this surprisingly medium to light-bodied wine that shows full-on bright acids on the palate. This has a lovely texture, a little chewy with deep fruit, and terrific balance that leads to a bright, clean finish with hint of jammy Lingonberry fruit, and lingering dusty tannins. This asks to be guzzled. 92 points
Co-fermeted with about 5% Viognier
This comes on strongly, with peach, honeysuckle and jasmine aromas on the nose that are joined by alluringly briny green Sicilian olive notes along with layered hickory smoke, green peppercorn, clove and savory grilled beef aromas, with the floral notes eventually turning more toward the violet end of the spectrum. On entry this is a bit tannic and chewy with bright acids supporting blueberry and blue plum skin fruit. This needs some time but already shows an attractive level of richness with a bit of a northern Rhône texture that’s a touch austere. The flavors are slightly reticent, but mimic the nose with its blend of ripe fruit and savory, peppery characteristics. Super promising and decidedly Old World. 92 points