Domestic Selection: Pinot Noir, 1987, Congress Springs

The Congress Springs Winery, situated on the Santa Clara side of the rugged Santa Cruz mountain is surrounded by such illustrious neighbors as David Bruce, Martin Ray, Mount Eden and Ridge Vine­yards. Dan Gehrs and his wife Robin rebuilt the winery (which dates from the 1890’s) in 1976. Dan’s winemaking philosophy… “We don’t try to make the most wine, just the best,” is well reflect­ed in this month’s selection.

Pinot Noir grapes, originally from France’s famed Bourgogne (i.e. “Burgundy”) region, present the challenge to wine-makers world wide. It is such a difficult grape to grow and vinify that each hopeful tries to second guess Mother Nature. Initiative abounds, yet, alas, too frequently the results are disappointing. The quality which our wine possesses reflects a remarkable bit of original tech­nology.

In wrestling with Pinot Noir over the years, Dan had noted an impor­tant factor contributing to final fla­vors; the aroma and taste of the grapes change dramatically (“chameleon-like, says Gehrs) as they ripen on the vine. One detects at first a strawberry-raspberry complex. As the grapes ripen a bit further the strawberry disappears, the raspberry remains, and a cher­ry fruit character emerges. With a bit more ripening the raspberry de-parts, the cherry persists, and a purple plum note emerges. Should one wait too long before picking, all is dominated by prunes! Gehrs therefore hit upon the idea of har­vesting the grapes “progressively”; not all at once but over a one or two week span – yielding fruit and a consequent wine which displays a complex melange of all these fla­vors… fascinating.

His resultant 1987 vintage went on to win a gold medal at the Dal­las Morning News Wine Competi­tion, a silver at the El Dorado West Coast Wine Competition, and a bronze at the Farmers Fair of Riv­erside County. 1300 cases only were bottled.

The color of this wine is a clear lightish garnet red. The nose, fair­ly burgundian in character, exhib­its a woody, cedary note mixed with aforementioned berry impres­sions. On the palate it is silky-dry and tangy, finishing long, smooth and clean. Serve at cool room tem­perature with game birds or roast pork.

Cellaring Notes: Should devel­op with five year’s ageing a “robe” of velvet – that is quite a prognostication – but it is eminently drinka­ble now.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper


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