Robert Brittan is best known as the winemaker responsible for Stags’ Leap Winery’s Petit Sirahs. Those inky monsters redefined the grape as a luxury Napa Valley wine. Robert was the head winemaker throughout the nineties and became the winery’s president when it was sold to Beringer Wine Estates in 1997. He was at the wine trade’s zenith.
In 2004, he resigned and left Napa and Petit Sirah in the dust. In a few months, he resurfaced in Oregon. He had bought a vineyard of Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley. On the surface, it seemed like a crazy move. Anyone who has visited both wine regions will attest, there are no two wine regions as different as Willamette and Napa. And there are no two grapes as enologically divergent as Pinot and Petit Sirah.
For the first few years, he and his wife spent their time replanting and expanding the Brittan Vineyard. After a few more years he also started making wine for other wineries, including Ayoub, Fairsing, and Winderlea vineyards. Some big, juicy 90+ wine ratings started trickling in from the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast. By 2010, he was making it rain in Willamette (pun intended). It was increasingly clear Robert was the “Bo” Jackson of American winemaking: he excelled in two very different worlds of winemaking.
Let’s talk about this wine. It is a masterpiece, so instead of the usual descriptions, I’m going to use another modern masterpiece of popular culture as a metaphor. Imagine if Wile E. Coyote filled a hundred barrels with flowers and chocolate. Let’s say he took those barrels and squeezed them until they were small enough to fit each one into a blueberry. He places them on a bullseye, with an anvil dangling high above.
The plan is for the Road Runner would stop and take a nibble,.. and KAPOW! Does this work? Does Mr. Coyote dine on a roulade of ground bird? Of course not. The stuffed berries are too delicious, he forgets himself and eats the blueberries. And for a minute, he is very very happy. And yes, this is a metaphor for this awe-inspiring Pinot Noir. And yes, after a sip you will be hit KAPOW with an anvil-sized bolt of acid and mineral. And yes, you will still be very happy.