First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if
we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”… Vince
in the closing act of my one-life play, I acquire patience.The rush to reach the next unnecessary chore
is no longer a self-deemed necessity and the moment is now appreciably
extended. Meals are the anthesis of fast food and wine gets aged. Bottles today
that were tasted years ago at vineyards and wineries, are now emptied into the wine
glass with full bodied flash backs of those wondrous excursions.People met. Things learned.
among other things, that assumptions are dangerous. You’ll find La Crema not at just your wine
retailer but at the small local grocer too.For the winery, it pays the bills as does the $4-liter bottle of wine at
the large liquor store.I’m not
suggesting that what La Crema produces is in that group. I’m suggesting (trying
to) that if you fixate an impression of the winery based on what you find at
“Happy’s Grocery”, you may be doing yourself an injustice.
I opened a bottle of La Crema’s “Shell Ridge” 2012 Pinot Noir.La Crema was founded in 1979.In 1993, Jess Jackson bought the winery. As
with many acquisitions (and there are SO many), these mostly get transacted
“under the radar”. In most cases, people
employed remain employed in the same position. Change is/can be disconcerting
in the marketplace, but usually what happens is that money simply flows in to
build the brand. The label remains and not a lot is said about it. In La Crema’s acquisition, the quality of
wines was enhanced with winemaker Dan Goldfield. And La Crema became one of the
top producers in California for Burgundian varieties (Pinot Noir and
California’s Russian River AVA, La Crema continued expanding and in 2012 acquired
prime lots in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.Single vineyard and curve wines made from selected lots expressing
terroir and balanced in a Wallenda-like fashion.But this is “Shell Ridge”: Sonoma, from the
Annapolis area of the extreme and rugged coast: steeply sloped, mountainside,
and just one ridge from the Pacific Ocean.To this day, vineyard crews still find ancient sea shells in the soil.
2012 vintage was comprised from select blocks of the 150-acre vineyard and
focused on four clones: Pommard 777 (my favorite), 667 and 115.I remember tasting a Cabernet Sauvignon from
a well-respected maker in Chile.Comprised of grapes from six plots (one a Cabernet Franc), I remember
tasting the wine from each block separately. I remember liking most and (frankly)
thinking another was terrible. I remember the winemaker then blending those individual
wines into what would then be labeled under the finished brand and being blown
away by the excellence, if not the perfection, of that wine.
so it is with “Shell Ridge.”I made
some (thick-cut, bone-in) pork chops with a reduction of organic cherries with some
diced onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar.The chops had been brined and left to tender overnight.Otherwise, things were simple: some pickled organic
asparagus flavored with tarragon and shallot and a light salad of mixed spring
greens and herbs drizzled with an apple-maple vinaigrette.For me, if it’s pork it’s pinot.O.K., some exceptions noted, but generally the
pork/pinot pairing works for me.What I
wasn’t prepared for is how well this already magnificent bottle developed in
just 6 years post vintage.
a few years ago, I would state that there was one, maybe two vineyards in
California whose Pinot Noir could usurp the prejudice of my preferences as a
Francophile.Now it’s three.I’ve had others of La Crema since (both
single vineyard and not) and have consistently been impressed.
to the “old world” style, but not ignoring the best of “new world” potential, La
Crema (as a non-grocery option) subdues its fruit, restraining it from being adolescent
and in your face. The mushroom and barrel of the “old world” is not there. But
the juice is graceful and finessed. In this bottle, expect both red and sweet
dark cherry but enveloped in layers of sandalwood.In fact, that’s what I liked most about it.
The wine (though I dislike the term) is feminine, it’s nose tempting; its
mouthfeel: luscious. It is both sophisticated and classy.Simply, a lovely wine of exquisite balance that
seduces all the senses.It’s nose is
romance and its taste delivers on the hinted
of La Crema’s vineyards are harvested by hand.And, with wines being made respecting its source, their Pinot Noirs
are pure and reflective of origin.I’ve
enjoyed several labels. With “Shell Ridge” being the most recent, this wine was
not only an exceptional experience but an example in a list of many that excel
in personality. Same grape. Same winery.
In "Shell Ridge", expect soft mellow tannins (it’s Pinot Noir). Expect cherry (both red and dark sweet) on
the palate in a luscious mouthfeel of silkiness enhanced with exotic spice. Sandalwood. Layers of sandalwood going deeper and
developing. Anise. Blackberry then reintroduces the fruit. Medium bodied but
palate coating lusciousness, this is romance in the glass. Other tasters refer specifically to
boysenberry, rose petal (I get some of that), dark chocolate and espresso bean.
is no wrong impression. Each palate is personal and correct for the person
owning it.But in tasting this with
others, all the participating palates were joyful.Some noted Cedar (not Sandalwood), and pomegranate,
orange zest, plum and black licorice with green tea. Maybe perfection is not
possible. Each moment has its influences: the meal, the company, the mood and
so many other things that affect our judgement (which alone is subjective
anyway).But this wine was as close to perfection
as I could imagine a wine could be.
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Not better, just different. Don’t miss
TECH SPECS AND OTHER INFO;
Composition:100% Pinot Noir
Oak:100% French (39%
New of Medium and Med Plus Toast).
Aging:9 Months in Barrel
de-stemming, 70% of whole berries are left in tank. Must is left to rest for a 5-day
cold soak at 48F. Fermentation is in open top tanks. Cap is punched down 3
ARP:N/AVintage No Longer Available.Was Between $45-$60.Look For Current Vintages.Recommend 2013, 2014 and (especially) 2015
Note:Your merchant may (or
may not) carry these better labels and may (or may not) be able to order you a
sample bottle.I’ve always been a big
fan of taking a “winecation” and visiting the vineyards and wineries. But you
can also “travel” without leaving home by visiting the winery’s website. Not the sam experience., but it will be the