2019 I. Brand & Family, Pinot Noir, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley, San Benito County.
The 2019 Enz Pinot Noir, yes Pinot, is one of my favorites in the I. Brand & Family lineup, and while this vineyard is legendary for its old vine Mourvedre, the dry farmed and small yielding Pinot Noir vines here produce a singular and thrilling example of Pinot that surprise for its energy and beauty, especially when fermented with some whole cluster and native yeasts. This is the first public release of Pinot Noir from Ian Brand, who has made many delicious Pinots for other people over the years, but who long resisted doing one one under his own label, preferring to focus on his Rhone style wines, in particularly his divine old vine Grenache and Mourvedre bottlings. This 2019 vintage, with its longer and cooler growing season made for almost perfect conditions for this Enz to shine with elegant lower natural alcohol and depth of flavors with layers of black cherry, raspberry, pomegranate and strawberry fruits, delicate florals, sage/lavender, peppery notes, orange tea and faint wood toastiness and a touch of toffee, all in a silky medium bodied Pinot Noir that is tasty and vibrant in every way. A few years back, I had Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon version and I absolutely loved that Enz Vineyard Pinot, and knowing Ian helped farm this site in Lime Kiln Valley I asked him about the terroir here and frankly asked him, with as good as this wine was that he hadn’t done one himself, only to learn he had, though just not under his own label (yet), and that it also was fabulous stuff, so I’m really glad now that this wine has found a spot in his collection, a place it deserves. With air this wine, which is only a restrained 13.2%, really turns on the charm, it is very expressive with a little whole bunch pop, a bit Grenache like, and adds a nice sultry earthiness in contrast, making for a balanced food friendly wine.

Ian Brand, as I have called him, (is) a vineyard whisperer and has chosen to search out, as he puts it, remote and challenging vineyards, with hard depleted soils, in areas that have intense sunlight that are tempered only by the coastal breezes of the central coast. These vineyards, he adds, are capable of producing only the most idiosyncratic wines, which is certainly case with his Enz Vineyard wines, the Mourvedre and this dark ruby colored Pinot Noir. The Enz Vineyard, originally planted in 1895, with its famous Mourvedre planted in 1922, is a magical dry farmed and organic site not far from the famous Mt. Harlan where Calera and Eden Rift are, in the Lime Kiln Valley AVA, which was formed in 1982 with similar soils that are combination of limestone, dolomite and a touch of decomposed granite with a sandy/gravelly loam covering. This wine appeals to me, it is wild and unashamed California Pinot Noir, it is not ultra cool climate stuff, nor is it Burgundy like, and the better for it, it is a wine that defies expectations and rewards the adventurous. Brand, who is a practical and low intervention winemaker, uses gentle winemaking methods, going for vineyard expression over flashy techniques employs native yeast fermentation, hand punch-downs and foot trodding being the norm and he raises his wine mostly in well seasoned French oak. In recent years, Ian has taken on some new challenges and started producing some wines that push the boundaries, he just released a hibiscus infused Sauvignon Blanc Piquette (Pet-Nat lite) sparkler and a Ramato style skin contact Pinot Gris, a fine set of Cabernet Franc(s) as well as a long lees aged Melon de Bourgogne, all of which intrigue. If you haven’t yet had Ian’s wines, it is a great time to discover them and this Enz Pinot is one, I recommend not to overtook.
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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