Tuesday, March 17

Kent Rasmussen on Pinot Noir and Carneros (Two of His Favorite Subjects)

by Kent Rasmussen

In the tradition of Peter Wellington and Scott Harvey, please welcome another occasional Wine.Woot guest blogger. Kent Rasmussen of Kent Rasmussen Winery has graciously agreed to share his insights into the winemaking life. Thanks, Kent!

Once upon a time, when the Boomers were young, the mere mention of “California Pinot Noir” would make a wine-geek go running for a bottle of Burgundy (there weren’t many wine-geeks in America back in those days). Pinot Noir just didn’t do it in California. We were making great Cabernet and Zinfandel, and if I am not mistaken, Louis Martini had just bottled the first varietal bottling of a grape called Merlot (in 1968?) But Pinot just hadn’t arrived. When Pinot was good it was usually because it was half Petite Sirah (in those days varietals only had to be 50% of the named variety) and thus not really Pinot. Pinot Noir, the ultimate cool weather grape was grown in such not-so-cool climates as Calistoga—and Fresno! Winemakers felt that a good Pinot could be made just like a good Cabernet; heat it up, put it in the percolator, and extract, extract, extract. The results? Well . . . we were not making much of a name for ourselves—more of a groan.

But there where Pinot Noir visionaries back in those early days of California viticulture. They understood what a great grape it is—probably the greatest of all grapes…and that something had gone horribly wrong with it in California. They saw how wonderful the Pinot Noir was in Burgundy and they knew they could change it all and make California the greatest place on earth to grow the greatest grape on earth. And they were right!

The first thing those folks realized...

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