SIDURI POURS IT ON
1998 Barrel Tasting Report
(March 21, 1999) So these two kids from Texas catch the wine bug and head to
California with stars in their eyes. They get jobs at wineries, dream, scheme, save their
pennies, work like fiends late into the night -- and before you know it, theyre
making their own Pinot Noir!
And what do you know? The stuff is good. Word of mouth
spreads. Parker gives their first vintage 90 points. Wine Spectator gives them a feature
page, with pictures, no less.
They get married, work even harder, move into their own
Nope, its not a fairy tale. Its Siduri.
Adam and Dianna Lee, beside their lone barrel of 1998
Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir. Yields were down for them this year, but quality was up.
See below for notes on all the 1998 Siduris.
Is America a great country, or what? In the space of five
vintages, Adam and Dianna Lee have bootstrapped this operation into one of
Californias hottest new Pinot Noir producers. Their 1997 vintage has already
garnered high praise from the press (and
...and Im here to tell you that 1998 may very well be
their best yet.
Really? 1998? Uh-huh. You may have heard some moaning
about the vintage in general for Northern California. But the Siduri wines in barrel are
dark, rich-tasting, deep and complex, across the board. I tasted the delicious 97s
last year at a similar stage of evolution. Without question, the new ones are a notch
How come? I can think of four reasons. First, from what
I tasted at other wineries this week, 1998 produced some ace wines for folks who did the
right things. Yields slumped as much as 50%, but quality could be terrific. Remember too
that 1998 was generally a cooler year. So the growing season or "hang time" was
often considerably longer. Thats supposed to be good for flavor intensity.
Second, the Lees do all the right things out in the vineyard.
They purchase their grapes, but they do so by the acre instead of the ton, so they can
control their yields. They green-harvest, so the grapes ripen more easily. They sort fruit
like fanatics -- and in 1998, they have already performed a further barrel-selection, with
lighter barrels going into a lower-priced, California-designated blend.
Third, they have their own winery now! Dianna tells me this
gives them a lot more control over when and how they crush and make the wine. The new
facility is gravity-fed -- from destemmer to press to barrel. They have an ultra-gentle
new press. And theyre able to do slower, cooler fermentations, theoretically
extracting more color and flavor.
OPUS ONE IT AIN'T. Not from the outside view, anyhow.
But, like Opus, the new Siduri facility is set up for gravity-fed winemaking.
Fourth...okay, maybe they got lucky too. If so, they deserve
it. Anyhow, heres what I tasted:
*1998 California Pinot Noir. This is the new blend I mentioned earlier,
containing lighter barrel selections from Pisoni, Hirsch and Van der Kamp Vineyards.
Although its the lightest in color, its still a lot darker than the 97
Oregon. Nice brambly flavors with a hint of cherry.
***1998 Muirfield Vineyard (Oregon) Pinot Noir. Surprise! Muirfield vineyard
supplied most of the grapes for the 96 and 97 Oregon -- but what a leap
forward in quality this year. The wine is not completely through its malolactic
fermentation, but never mind. Judging this one aint brain surgery. Very, very dark,
with floral aromas and amazing flavor intensity. Pure blackberry juice that finishes long.
TIED FOR WINE OF THE TASTING.
**1998 Hirsch Vineyard (Sonoma Coast) Pinot Noir. In character with previous
vintages. Very showy red raspberry and cherry flavors. Kirsch aftertaste. Sexy stuff
without the hard tannins that Hirsch vineyard wines from other producers sometimes show.
***1998 Coastlands Vineyard (Sonoma Coast) Pinot Noir. A new site for the Lees
and seemingly a great one. Fabulous extraction, wonderful finish, what a Pinot Noir! But
ooh, what a tease. The grapes were afflicted with uneven set and harvest yielded just 0.4
tons per acre -- so little fruit that the squeezings fill just one barrel. Available only
to the futures list. Wont be sold retail. TIED FOR WINE OF THE TASTING.
**+1998 Pisoni Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noir. Close to the
Muirfield in quality, but possibly more backward right now. Very pure, intense, with a
hint of blueberry shading the black fruit.
*1998 Van der Kamp Vineyard (Sonoma Mountain) Pinot Noir. Like the Muirfield,
this wine seems considerably more extracted than its 1997 sibling. Doesnt have
quite the pizzazz of the Oregon wine, but its very dark, thick and showing more
berries than earlier vintages.
**1998 Archery Summit Vineyard (Oregon) Pinot Noir. Showing its site. A very
different wine from any of the others in the tasting -- equally dark, but dominated by
black currant and ripe blueberry flavors.
Finally, an Un-Pinot...
** "Novy" Sonoma County Syrah. This wine will not be released
under the Siduri label, say the Lees, but may form the basis for a new venture. Its
jet black. I was expecting a California fruit-bomb, but no -- its loaded with
varietal character. Lots of pepper. Hints of meat. I find it tough judging a Syrah in the
company of Pinot Noirs, but it seems like a winner to me that should please fans of
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