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Sunday, June 21, 2015

One Cool Cat: Pinot Noir & Steve MacRostie

Grapes are grown across Planet Earth so there is no shortage of growing sites. What is lacking is near perfectly suitable growing sites. Several years ago I visited Steve MacRostie at the base of his Wildcat Mountain property in Sonoma, overlooking the San Pablo Bay. We drove up a lengthy hill to the top of a sparse parcel of land where meek looking grapevines were planted. I wrote about the experience for
A wild cat & Wildcat Mountain Pinot
"I felt Wildcat would push the envelope, something untried. The cooler climates, the stressful site, the thinner soils; this is not a safe place to set up a farming operation. In a business sense it was probably rather stupid," he said plainly. Stupid or not, MacRostie planted 4 acres of Syrah, 23 acres of Pinot Noir and 23 acres of Chardonnay, all on volcanic soil with elevations ranging from 500 to 700 feet. From the very top of the vineyard, assuming it's a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Oakland and the Mayacamas mountains to the west. But it is the fog, funneled through San Pablo Bay from the cold Pacific Ocean that is the most frequent guest on Wildcat Mountain. "Often we're not above the fog or below it," says MacRostie with a grin, "we're in it." And if it's not the fog, it's the wind. The vines are literally windswept, bent back by the consuming force of wind off the bay, running up the mountain and pummeling the vines like a boxer with too much confidence. Though it is an odd choice for a vineyard, isolated and abused by Mother Nature, once you find yourself standing in its midst, it seems that it's the perfect place, where soil, prevailing breezes for cool climate varieties and well drained soil all complement each other to bring forth great wines. "What I didn't know was how windy it would be here and how difficult that would make the farming," he adds. "The vines read the climate as being cooler than it really is and they slow down their activity.  We don't have monstrous crop levels and we don't drop fruit. In fact, we're challenged in the other direction, how to get more crop."  (read the entire article HERE)
Fast forward to 2015 and I have the 2012 Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain in front of me. There is a luscious spicy black cherry and blueberry cedar and vanilla component to this wine. It’s earthy, mineral driven, with a mild acidity that can only come from the beat up vines on Wildcat  Mountain. The velvety viscosity, earthy richness and specific flavors are unique to what MacRostie gets from this fruit. Only 878 cases so go on the prowl and find it.

ORIGIN: Sonoma, California
PRICE:  $48 - 750/ml
ALCOHOL: 14.5%

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