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