Most descriptions of Saintsbury Winery will include the word “pioneer” somewhere within the first paragraph. Go one and google it: you will get over 3.5 million pages describing how the winery is a pioneer in California. Saintsbury does have a place in our wine history books (if such a book existed) for planting Pinot Noir in Carneros. They helped launch the Carneros as a sub-region in Napa Valley when Richard Ward and David Graves launched the winery in 1981.
This bottle has been their flagship wine for the past decade. Originally a horse ranch, Saintsbury’s Brown Ranch Vineyard was planted in the mid-nineties t0 two clones of Pinot Noir (667 and Pommard for you geeks out there). It’s one of the coolest spots in Carneros with enough sunshine to even ripening. In other words, perfect pinot country.
It’s ownership over the past decade has become murky. At some point, it was sold to Silverado Premium Vineyards in a very discrete sale. SPV is the closest the Cali wine trade has to a shadowy organization, pulling strings in the back rooms and wine cellars. Or so goes the gossip. To be honest, they are just a private company that acts like a venture capital firm for winery acquisitions and mergers. In turn, they sold the winery to Renteria Vineyard Management Company in 2013, at which point many of the major players in the winery (including their wonderful winemaker Jerome Chery) were let go.
All of this may be the reason why all of a sudden why the PLCB wine shops in Pennsylvania are suddenly awash in heavily discounted Pinot Noir from Saintsbury. The sale probably meant that the winery had to dissolve of a lot of back inventory fast. Well, the vino VCs play out their games. We ended up with some fantastic Pinot Noir to enjoy.
The 2009 Brown Ranch is a singular Pinot Noir that is worthy of its reputation. Deeply hued with a rippling of Kola nut, dark cherry, and toasted spices. The palate is medium bodied with a concentration and concentration that is rare in Carneros Pinot. Flavors of fresh red fruit, cardamom, and savory vanilla fold into forest floor and wild flowers. The finish turns toward spice and mulberry with very linear but evolved tannins. A wonderful Pinot.