2018 RAEN, Pinot Noir, Royal St. Robert Cuvée, Sonoma Coast.
The sons of Tim Mondavi, and grandsons of the California legend Robert Mondavi, who helped put the Napa Valley and state on the map in the late 1960s, Carlo and Dante Mondavi created their own winery RAEN about ten years ago and have made it one of the top Pinot labels through hard work and crafting distinctive wines of finesse and beauty, with this 2018 being one of my favorites so far! The 2018 vintage Sonoma Coast Pinot shows off gorgeous aromatics with crushed rose petals, exotic spices and mineral tones leading to a bright medium bodied palate of cool climate influences with seamless layers of black cherry, red currant, cranberry, strawberry and blood orange fruits along with hints of earth, cinnamon, saline, snappy dried herbs, cola bean and very subtle wood accents. The silken texture, low 12.5% natural alcohol and zesty contrasting natural acidity, of RAEN’s 2018 Sonoma Coast St. Robert bottling, really lift the charm and the finish is fabulously lengthy, it is stunning stuff, joining the likes of Anthill Farms, Drew, Cobb, Peay and Radio Coteau, to name a few of Northern California’s most interesting Pinot producers. Carlo and Dante dedicated this special bottling dedicated to their grandfather, Robert, it contains a selection of their favorite barrels from the cool, rugged hills of the (true) West Sonoma Coast, and I found this wine a lovely tribute and an impressive effort in its own right.

Carlo and Dante Mondavi, grandsons of the famous Robert Mondavi, have continued the family legacy with their RAEN winery, which they says is a Pinot Noir focused domaine that make aromatic, lifted wines of finesse and elegance from what they consider to be three “Grand Cru” vineyards in the far west Sonoma Coast, adding that these sites are capable of sitting among the worlds finest, and this 2018 bottling has made me a believer. In the vineyards, Carlo and Dante note, the farming is reverting back to what we might have seen when their family began farming and working with Pinot Noir close to a 100 years ago, and (maybe) perhaps closer to the way the monks farmed it before that. The goal at RAEN, they explain, is not just to honor the fruit they grow but also the nature in which it is growing, by embracing it and highlighting its distinct character and influence. In the cellar the young Mondavi brothers strive to capture the delicate micro flora from the vineyard in their wines, this includes using whole cluster fermentations with indigenous yeasts, that they believe promotes a deeper connection to our vines. These RAEN wines are gently handled and transparency is key to showing off the nuances of the terroir and this 2018 is brilliant in every way. After fermentation the RAEN Pinots are pressed and aged in neutral French oak barrels allowing the wines to evolve in a gentle manner without the oak overpowering the delicate aromatic notes, perfectly displayed in this wine. The wines will age between 10 to 20 months depending on the vintage and site, with this one somewhere in the middle, then bottled without fining or filtration, again to keep these pure delicate notes intact.
($65 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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