2019 Drew, Pinot Noir, Valenti Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge.
The 2019 Valenti Pinot Noir from Jason Drew is just starting to awaken, but is still super fresh, with a touch of Burgundy like reduction and has a tight form which needs time in the glass to open up, starting slowly this 2019 reveals a stony personality, a deep and dark fruited profile and a subtle earthy sultry dimension, all of which hints at this wine’s true potential. After this dark ruby and garnet cored Pinot full opens things get really exciting with a cool climate array of mineral toned fruit, including black cherry, cranberry, wild plum, currant and raspberry, as well as spicy accents, touches of woodsy mushroom, orange peel, delicate florals and tea notes. The structure is firm and there’s more tension and savory elements than would be expected of the vintage, again it bodes well for aging and I look forward to seeing this one again in 5 to 7 years, though that said, this is very rewarding Pinot and gets much better with food. I’ve said more than a few times that Drew is one of California’s best producers, making an incredible collection of Pinot Noirs from the western part of the Anderson Valley, mostly within the extreme coastal area now known as the Mendocino Ridge zone, that is up over 1,200 feet up and within 6 miles of the Pacific Ocean. This Valenti Ranch Pinot, per normal, is delivering all the complexity, pop and depth you’d expect from Drew, who makes a very distinctive style of wine. Jason uses 100% native yeasts and partial whole cluster, between 10% to 25% typically in the fermentation, finishing around 13% natural alcohol, and he ages Pinots mostly in used wood. The neutral French oak elevage provides balance and allows for beautiful purity here, especially in this 2019 that really reminds me of a Gevrey-Chambertin. Drew gently handled this one, as he does with all his Pinots, typically he does two gravity rackings during the 11 months his Pinot is in barrel and bottles unfined and unfiltered. The Valenti Pinot is one of the more limited Drew offerings, with just about 3 barrels made in a given vintage and I highly recommend it, especially for serious Pinot Noir lovers that celebrate transparency and umami laced wines.

The Drew Valenti Ranch Pinot Noir, according to its winemaker Jason Drew, includes Dijon 667, 828, Pommard and the newer grafting section of Rochioli clone, as I’ve noted in my prior reviews. Situated just six miles from the Pacific Ocean on an east facing ridge at 1,400 feet above sea level, the Valenti Ranch, which supplies Drew with Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and Chardonnay, is located along the Greenwood Ridge and the vineyard lies in both the Mendocino Ridge and Anderson Valley AVA’s, but produces the distinctive ultra cool climate profile from the Mendocino Ridge. The constant maritime winds coupled with thin marginal Ornbaun and Zeni series soils of oceanic sedimentary origins, which Drew says lends itself to naturally lower yields and gives the wines their character, concentration and depth with vibrant energy coming from the refreshing acidity. This translates, as Jason adds, into greater intensity at lower sugar levels, with natural alcohols well under 14% and balanced structures. Drew have been working with this vineyard for 13 years now, and he took over the farming lease in 2013, making it almost an extension of his estate and he continues to farm Valenti with organic methods. Jason Drew, who along with his wife Molly started Drew Family Cellars in 2000, again as I’ve mentioned before, has years of experience with cool climate sites and as he puts it honed his skills in vineyard farming and winemaking, having studied in both the northern and southern hemispheres, in Agroecology, Viticulture achieving his Graduate Degree in Enology from the University of Adelaide, in Australia. His attention to detail and work ethic has seen him work for and with some industry icons and wineries in California including at St. Supery alongside Kirk Grace as well as at Joseph Phelps with Craig Williams, at Luna with John Kongsgaard, at Carmenet with Jeff Baker, along with one of my all time favorites Corison with Cathy Corison and at Babcock Vineyards with Brian Babcock, which makes a total of more than 28 years in the business. Drew has focused on his estate and in recent years has offered lots of new and exciting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottlings, which are sublime efforts, elevating an already exceptional collection to new heights, don’t miss any of them!
($70 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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