“Pale to medium ruby, the 2017 Pinot Noir Terra de Promissio Vineyard opens with savory notes of charcuterie, olive and woodsmoke, giving way to exotic spices, licorice, dried leaves and blackberries. Medium-bodied, it’s very savory in the mouth with lots of smoky spice, lifted by juicy acidity and finishing long.” – Erin Brooks, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: 91 points
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.
Sonoma Coast is one of the largest AVAs in Sonoma, covering the mountains along the Pacific coast from the border with Mendocino County to the top of San Pablo Bay. Despite its name, the Sonoma Coast AVA stretches quite a long way inland. Climatically speaking, the Sonoma Coast is decidedly maritime and is cooler and wetter than the rest of Sonoma County. This is, perhaps obviously, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the cooling fog that creeps into the coastal valleys via the Petaluma Gap during the summer. As a result of the cool climate, the distribution of grape varieties differs noticeably from that found in the drier, warmer climes inland. The Burgundy family are out in force here – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay together account for more than 75 percent of the AVA’s wines.
Known as “The Land of Promise”, Terra de Promissio has an ideal terroir for Pinot Noir. The soil, southwest sun exposure, hill elevation, vine density and the wind and fog of the Petaluma Gap allow the grapes to have a slow maturation and extended hang time, which allows optimum ripeness. In 2017, vines leapt into action with replenished water tables after years of drought. Early vegetative growth was strong, but not excessive, and crop yields were moderate. Warmer summer temperatures ended up compressing harvest for most producers. The coast was relatively protected from strong heat waves and delivered typical acid-driven fruit with great phenolic ripeness.
Grapes are hand-sampled and harvested at ideal ripeness, cold-soaked for a few days, fermented with yeasts indigenous to the vineyard and ultimately pressed and barreled into a selection of the winery’s favorite French cooperages. The wine was aged for 10 months in barrel, with a quarter of it new wood.
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.