Lately we have spent much of the mid-winter checking in on wines we made several years ago. At times we are impatient to see how our Pinot Noir or Syrah or whatever develop because that information can inform what we do in the upcoming vintage (which is why we often taste verticals as harvest approaches). It was with great pleasure though, and patient savoring that we recently cracked a 2009 Nancie Sonoma County Chardonnay, our inaugural vintage (we recently uncorked our 2009 Pinot Noir too).
When first bottled, this wine was reticent if at once richly textured and crisply structured. Those mouth feel characteristics have been happily retained but the aromatics have begun to complexly open and develop in a way that expresses classic Chardonnay. The nose seems Californian with its riper tropical fruit but mixes in hints of wet stone and other “mineral” notes along with citrus and white peach. The palate continues to be where the wine shines and orients itself toward its cousins across the Atlantic. If you have any of 2009 Nancie Chardonnay left, check in on it with some fish or scallops, it won’t disappoint. It should also continue to nicely develop over the next several years.
With the impending release and bottling of the 2011 Two Brothers Pinot Noir, I (Tyler) recently dipped into my allocation to enjoy our inaugural vintage: 2009. The context was perfect: on a ski trip with a bunch of colleagues I have known since my genesis in this industry. The perfect crowd for constructive critique but the perfect setting for utter enjoyment after a day of skiing.
If you are like me, you’ve hoarded at least few bottles of this wine, and yet also have consumed more than you probably wanted. The latter fact is due to the wine’s delicious youthfulness. After reading this note you’ll likely wish you had more. Sadly the wine is very much sold out so grab hold of the 2011 while you can!
The 2009 Two Brothers is a classic for what we think Pinot Noir ought to be: perfumed with fruit and spice, layered, delicate, refined, quite youthful, supple, and finesse driven. Tart red fruit, cardamon, and hints of sweet spice pour from the glass. The wine demonstrates the paradox of light color, delicate texture, but utter depth and complexity. Think of it like lace: gentle, elegant, but intricate. Beyond all that flowery description it is just a darn good drink. The constructive critique confirmed this, and I can officially recommend pairing the wine with a long day of skiing!
The 2012 Harvest is here! We are beginning to harvest our first Pinot Noir of the season. In this video our winemaker Tyler Thomas describes the approach behind our Two Brothers Pinot Noir. Enjoy!
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I once heard it said that if you want your heartbroken make Pinot Noir. I think the wine’s delicacy is a thin veil over vineyard quality and skilled management. Winemakers repeatedly give people the impression that Pinot Noir is one of the hardest grapes to grow and produce. How true is this? Is Pinot hard to make? I don’t think so, with caveats.
As a plant physiologist turned winemaker, I tend to strip understanding of a thing down its core then build up from there. Pinot Noir is still a grapevine like any other grapevine and there are certain vineyard aspects that we know contribute to higher quality wine: cool-ish climates (cool relative to normal ripening temperatures for a variety – cool for Syrah is warmer than cool for Pinot Noir), free draining soils, avoiding climatic extremes, etc. These all apply to Pinot Noir and if you find yourself in a vineyard with these broad characteristics you are more likely than not to produce quality fruit. And with Pinot the basic axiom for all quality wine is true: great fruit can be ushered into great wine.
Beyond these basics, it has been my experience that Pinot is quite easy to work. Flavors arrive in the grape early and taste great, it tastes great when fermenting, tastes great when
aging, isn’t as prone to stinky/savory notes like Syrah that need time in barrel to resolve, doesn’t tend to go through “dumb” periods in barrel or bottle, and generally requires little intervention. Making Pinot doesn’t require frequent handling and intervention; it really is a watch and wait wine.
But if we believe in democracy, don’t we believe that the majority is correct at least some of the time? And if so, then why do so many people think Pinot is hard to make unless it is actually difficult to make? As noted above, I think the answer is that Pinot’s delicacy is a thin veil over site quality and deft management. You can be exposed – and thus heartbroken – very easily by Pinot Noir. This is for a couple of reasons. First, true believers in Pinot tend to hold the wine in such high regard because when it is great it is ethereal. All of the best wines of my lifetime have been either red or white Continue reading
One of the best parts of our job is that we are required to drive to beautiful places and meet interesting people in order to produce incredible wine. At Donelan, we are primarily concerned with finding a tremendous site, period. We will worry afterward whether it is in a convenient AVA, easy to get to, etc.
Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir represents such a search and has everything we look for in a vineyard. Oh, and it is farmed in the coastal mountain wilderness of southern Mendocino County. Rocks? Check. Wind? Check. Cool Temerpatures? Check. Committed grower whose over arching desire to create one of the best vineyards in all of California? You bet!
We have been working with Perli Vineyard for a few vintages and a recent visit reiterated one of the unique properties of this site: it is wilderness. Bears, boars, and all sorts of unusual “pests” grace the vineyard and provide their own set of unique challenges. What we know is that the red, quartz filled soil produces a uniquely flavored Pinot Noir that at once seems Oregonian and Californian in its ethos. It is the core of the Two Brothers Pinot Noir and you should give it a try. Join our community for free to purchase or let us know when you are in Sonoma County and come by to try the 2011 Perli Pinot Noir directly from barrel. Enjoy!
How is it that we know that a vineyard will produce exceptional grapes and terrific wine? Our winemaker Tyler Thomas provides some principles that we utilize when scouring Sonoma County for the best new terroirs.
Risotto is like winemaking. I love preparing dishes that provide flexibility and freedom within a standard framework. Cooking is not unlike winemaking, where principles are applied similarly to each variety and vintage. But within each vintage or variety, there is plenty of room for creativity and nuances based on the producer’s choices. Risotto is such a dish.
During winter, we love making dishes that are hearty, go well with red wine, and stick to your ribs. Risotto is such a dish and yet paradoxically seems lighter and less exhausting to the palate than something like Beef Bourgone (another favorite). With a big salad and good crunchy bread, risotto makes a wonderful mid-week dinner on its own (even if usually served as a primo). My favorite Donelan wine to enjoy with this dish is the 2009 Cuvee Moriah. Its bright red fruit, herbs-de-provence characters along with its supple, firm structure pair so comfortably with the lighter flavors but rich textures of the risotto.
Risotta confines you to the stove once you begin preparing it, which can make serving it for dinner parties more difficult. Since we always find our friends in our kitchen regardless of the dish, what difference does it make! Much of the chopping and prep can be done in advance, though once you start cooking you’ll be locked in.
The following recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef and my Father’s methods Continue reading
In this series we will track the whereabouts of our intrepid traveler Tripp Donelan. Based in Healdsburg, CA Tripp’s office is really his suitcase + laptop + Blackberry. Think the life romantic? Follow Tripp’s adventures, dining, tastings, and sightings.
While the production team was busy with harvest in October and November, Tripp was on the road – checking in with accounts, expanding Donelan’s relationships with exclusive restaurants, and making a stop at the James Beard Foundation’s Taste of Nantucket.
At the Taste of Nantucket in New York City, Tripp sat with Orla Murphy-LaScola from Nantucket’s American Seasons and connected with Scott Osif of the Galley Beach, Tom Barry of the Great Harbor Yacht Club, and Seth Raynor of the Pearl and the Boarding House – all of which were featured restaurants at the dinner. The Donelan 2010 Nancie Chardonnay was served with hors d’oeuvres and the 2010 Two Brothers Pinot was paired with squab, a black truffle marshmallow, and sweet potatoes sarladaise (potatoes cooked in garlic and . . . fat).
After a brief return to the winery, Tripp hit the road again – this time for Colorado, making stops in Denver, Vail, and Aspen, where he dined at Donelan supporter Cache Cache. Watch for Donelan’s 2010 Nancie Chardonnay and 2009 Cuvee Christine at the Vail Valley Medical Center Family Dinner Dance on Dec. 28th at the Cascade.
Somewhere in between all of the jetsetting and winemaking, Tripp managed to squeeze in Continue reading