Dark cherry, Asian spices, undergrowth and raspberry on the nose. The palate is mid-weight, with replays of the aromas mingling with dried flowers, black tea and vanilla. The tannins are apparent, but supple, with a good dose of acidity. The finish is long and fruit-driven. Chill lightly and enjoy on its own, or serve with a roast chicken dinner or planked salmon.
Pinot Noir—chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France— is grown around the world, mostly in cooler climates. The grape’s tendency to produce tightly-packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural hazards involving rot that require diligent canopy management. When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, Pinot has the potential to develop more vegetal and earthy aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine. Thin skins and low levels of phenolic compounds lend Pinot to producing mostly lightly-coloured, medium-bodied and low-tannin wines that can often go through phases of uneven and unpredictable aging.
The Russian River Valley appellation is home to over 15000 vineyard acres and 70 wineries, lying in the geographical heart of Sonoma. 15 miles long, it winds its way through Mendocino County, Alexander Valley and Healdsburg, before heading out to the Pacific. Warmer than the Coast, but cooler than areas further inland, such as the aforementioned Alexander Valley, the area’s dense morning and evening fog banks have become synonymous with the region, helping cool the grapes from the warm days. It is this diurnal change that allows for the production of world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while still being warm enough to grow fantastic Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are varied soils within this appellation, but most share large amounts of gravel and some measure of clay.
The original Estate Vineyard of Senses, Hillcrest soils are the famed “Goldridge Loam” of Green Valley. Composed of fine sandy loam that is fluffy, with excellent draininage, there is a layer of silt as well as clay underneath that has some water retention to allow deeper rooted vines access to water during the inevitable California droughts. This vineyard has been selling fruit to Sonoma giants like Littorai, Flowers and Gary Farrell for years under its “Day One’ bottlings.
Hand-harvested in the evening and early morning so that the grapes stay cool, the fruit is brought to the winery in small bins to be hand-sorted, to ensure there is no questionable fruit in the press. The grapes are gently pressed and cold soaked in open top containers, with daily manual punchdowns of the cap. The wine undergoes fermentation using indigenous yeast in French oak cooperages, 30% new, spending 10 months aging in those barrels before bottling.
Founded in 2011, Senses quickly became one of the most exciting wine projects out of the Sonoma Coast. Occidental natives and childhood friends, Christopher Strieter, Max Thieriot and Myles Lawrence-Briggs partnered with world-class winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown to produce coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Beginning with only 100 cases in their inaugural vintage, Senses currently crafts a few thousand cases of single vineyard and appellation wines. Grapes come from many renowned and family-owned vineyards including the B.A Thieriot, Terra de Promissio, Dutton Palms and Charles Heintz sites. The wines are complex, intense in flavour and beautifully balanced. All wines ferment via indigenous yeasts and are neither fined nor filtered. In the past two years, their presence in the marketplace has expanded to include placements on the menus of many Michelin-rated restaurants throughout the United States, including The French Laundry and Le Bernardin.