2017 Big Basin Vineyards, Pinot Noir “Dune and Mountain” Monterey County.
It’s been a scary and tough year for Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, almost losing the estate to the fires and the heart breaking loss his house in those flames. We are all wishing him and the winery well, so it was great to open a bottle of his wine in support. I’ve been a big fan of his wines since I first tried them, especially his iconic Rattlesnake Rock Syrah, but in recent years his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay efforts have really impressed me. That side of his collection have become some of his most sought after wines, even though most people know Big Basin’s Rhones and focus their attention on the Syrah and Grenache based efforts. I love his Alfaro Family and Lester Pinots and the Coastview Chardonnay is mind-glowingly delicious and now this bottling, the Dune and Mountain Pinot Noir, which I had not tried yet, is a beauty with the Big Basin whole bunch signature profile with its racy red fruits, luscious velvety texture and its lingering potpourri of aromas and spices. This 2017 Dune and Mountain starts with dried herbs, mineral notes, crushed raspberry and seeped rose petals before opening up with richness on the medium bodied palate showing off the warmth of vintage with ripe cherry, plum, strawberry and pomegranate fruits along with a hint of earthiness, tea spice and more floral elements. There a graceful creamy mouth feel and layered elegance in this Pinot that is seductive, but there is still an underpinning of energy and juicy acidity that makes this wine so compelling. The name comes from the fact that Brown sourced it from two exceptional sites, the Olson Vineyard, set of pure sandy (ancient sand dunes) soils and Coastview Vineyard, which is a high elevation site with granite, quartz diorite and limestone soils, both of which add to the complexity and balance in this luxurious Pinot Noir.
The Big Basin Vineyards Pinots are meant to age for 5 to years at least, and this 2017 Dune and Mountain Pinot is well structured, though plush and easy to love now, and I can only imagine how great the new 2018 (and 2019) will be. Brown makes incredible and expressive wines and this wine is drinking well in its youth, and it is a really awesome value. Bradley fermented the Dune and Mountain Pinot with 95% whole clusters and with native/indigenous yeast with gentle hands off winemaking techniques. This vintage saw almost of year in barrel, with mostly used French barriques employed and it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, all of which allowed a purity of expression and silky depth of flavors. Brown notes, that this Dune and Mountain is every bit the equal of some of his single vineyard cuvées, additionally he says it is (was) sourced from two extraordinary vineyards that are like nothing else in the Monterey area, with one is a elevation site at 2400 feet up and the other is directly off the middle of the foggy Monterey Bay, making it one of Big Basin’s last (Pinot) picks of the year. Whole cluster and stem inclusion really make this wine pop with vibrance and crunch adding a joyous electric verve to this hand crafted Pinot and makes it great with food, in particular I can imagine it going fantastically well with blackened salmon, ahi steaks and grilled meats, the 12.8% natural alcohol means it is fabulously flexible. It is a good time to support small wineries that have suffered with COVID and the horrible fires that affected many in our (wine) community, so I highly recommend checking out the latest wines from Big Basin and getting a few bottles that hopefully will help them through these rough times. Big Basin just released their Fall wines and there is many in the collection that look like tasty efforts, and savvy buyers will grab 2018 estate grown Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah, the old vine Wirz Carignan along with this Pinot bottling, as well as the mentioned Rattlesnake Rock.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive