Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Azari Vineyards and secure a large allottment of their award-winning and softly elegant Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Azari Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2009 Corkscrew Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Backgrounder: The Sonoma Coast AVA is the 750 square mile area with the Pacific ocean on its western boundary, the San Pablo Bay to the south and Mendocino County to the north, headed inland to the other designated AVAs in Sonoma County. The region is heavily influenced by the cooler ocean climate, increased rainfall and fog that lingers long on the coastal mountains. The specific climate suits the demanding Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay very well.
Look – Dark burgundy, with beautiful, even hues from core to edge. Very slightly opaque, the wine settles quickly when swirled. After it settles, thin legs appear high up on the wall of the glass – where they hang for a moment, before descending slowly downward.
Smell – Lush and very fragrant on the nose, this wine leads with sweet, spiced cherry, young wild strawberry, red currant and dried cranberry. These are followed by soft spice, cigar box, tobacco leaf, fresh forest floor and a hint of flinty minerals.
Feel – Ultra-soft and round at the tip of the tongue, then round and plush as th wine cruises across the mid-palate. A moment later, the wine gains some weight, settling onto the mid and back palate, coating the mouth with fruit, earth and soft spice. Soft tannins add a gentle dryness.
Taste – Delicious and very flavorful, with dark cherry, dark wild strawberry, black tea leaf, tart dried cranberry and red currant. These are perfectly balanced against earthen black cherry, dried dark leaves, subtle tobacco leaf, soft spic, flint and a hint of cedar.
Finish – Long and very flavorful, leading with red fruit that quickly yields to darker fruit. This dark fruit is sustained for a long time, slowly giving way to spice, earthy flavors and soft, flinty minerals.
Conclusion – What a delicious 2009, this Pinot Noir is! With the shortages among 2008, 2010 and 2011 vintages, could the 2009 vintage be our salvation? Today’s wonderful 2009 Corkscrew Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast makes us think so. Today’s wine is juicy and delicious, with just the right balance of complexity and elegance. An approachable, easy drinker, this wine is so tasty and so easy to drink that we find ourselves taking big gulps of the wine, in order to deliver flavors to the far reaches of our palates. We enjoyed our review bottles with a fresh, hand-rolled pizza with Serrano ham, endive and black olives. The pairing was perfection. Drinking beautifully right now, we recommend that you cellar a handful of bottles for the next few years.
WINE EDUCATION: I am in constant education mode—there is always room for growth as a winemaker. My wine knowledge has evolved over time, beginning very unofficially as a child in France, it continues to evolve here in California. It has been very hands-on from the beginning.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I have worked for Azari Vineyards since I first arrived in California. It has been a wonderful, educational experience from the very beginning.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I want to activate as many of the senses as possible – emphasis is always on the smell and taste of the wine but the visual component is also important. Showcasing the accent flavors is also important to me. Whether it be fruit or spice or nut, I want each wine to have its own identity. I don’t want to hide anything…
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Please your palate.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, NICO. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Corkscrew Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
NICO: Thanks for having me. I have to say, this is my first interview ever in english. Let’s see how it goes…
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
NICO:Well, I’m French; we like to think we’re born experienced! But I was in fact steeped in the wine culture from a very young age. I remember accompanying my father on his frequent visits to the wineries around our house. We lived in Uzès, a small village in the Côtes du Rhône area, close to Avignon and Nîmes. My father would have me smell each wine before tasting it, asking me to associate the varietal with a familiar element—for example a specific fruit or spice. This experiene became significantly more interesting when I turned 18 and could actually taste what I had been smelling for so many years. (Yes we can drink at 18 in France:)
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
NICO: The domaine of Réméjeanne in the little town of Sabran, France. I have know them since my early age. They have beautiful blends of Reds and Whites. Great Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC wines!!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
NICO:You know, unfortunately, in France we have a very poor selection of Californian wine. My wife, who is a native of Sonoma county has emphasized the need in France for better representation. So I guess my initial target market was for «my people» back in France. I would like to show les Français that we make good wine here too!
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
NICO: This wine is very versatile and lends itself to a variety of food pairings. It has a Burgundy touch with hints of cherry and white pepper.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
NICO: From experience, I can tell you that this wine pairs beautifully with thin crusted goat cheese and fig pizza, waldorf salad or as an aperatif, with a selection of cheeses, flatbread and preserves. Also a great pairing with charcuterie.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Coast region such a special place for Pinot Noir?
NICO: I think it’s the climat. Early-to-mid-morning at the vineyard, is crisp and cool, and the vines are usually blanketed by fog. By late morning the fog has burned off and temperatures rise. By mid-afternoon, however, the cool breezes return, west to east, increasing in velocity as the afternoon progresses, bringing in the nightly fog. There can be daily temperature swings of forty to fifty degrees.
This geographically-created cooling “wind tunnel” reduces vineyard yields but allows grapes to ripen later, and develop full rich flavor and fruit characteristics, while maintaining ideal levels of acidity. It is this combination that imbues the small, thick-skinned grape clusters of Pinot Noir with a depth of flavor, rich dark color, intense aroma and velvety texture; the perfect recipe for intense but well-balanced wines.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
NICO: We are sitting the barrels before bottling.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
NICO: with a corkscrew.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
NICO: In 2010, Corkscrew Wines was founded in order for Azari Winery to explore the creative side of wine. It is our honor to introduce these wines to you.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!