Domestic Selection: Pinot Noir, 1988. Paraiso Springs

Paraiso Hot Springs are situat­ed in the Santa Lucia foothills, 40 minutes south of Salinas in North­ern California’s Monterey County. While establishing the Soledad Mission, Franciscan padres used the springs’ curative waters for healing purposes. The monks also planted early vineyards there. Two hundred years later (1973), current owner Richard Smith planted mod­ern vineyards, eleven of them, to­taling 300 acres.

Paraiso Springs Vineyards lie approximately two miles west of the junction of the Arroyo Secco and Salinas Rivers. Smith makes his home high up in the western hills overlooking the fertile Salinas Valley. His home estate vineyard there yields exceptional Pinot Noir fruit, providing the basis for this month’s domestic selection.

Smith had been supplying grapes to fine wineries (Jekel, Wente, Mountain View, Glen El­len and Kendall Jackson, among others) for many years. Yet he har­bored the desire to showcase the unique qualities that Paraiso Springs fruit has to offer. The ex­cellent 1988 vintage provided him the opportunity to release excep­tional wines from these grapes, for the first time under their own proud label. He placed Philip Zorn (winemaker for Mountain View) in charge of production. Testimony to their outstanding quality is the fact that not only his 1988 Pinot Noir, but also his 1988 Pinot Blanc (#1090A) were to become WOMC selections.

Pinot Noir, the classic red grape of France’s illustrious Bourgogne (“Burgundy”) region, fares best in colder climates. Major success for this grape is reached in the Willa­mette Valley and neighboring areas of Oregon, the Carneros district spanning southern Napa and Son­oma Counties, and several areas within Montery County. At their best Pinot Noirs exhibit a richness of texture with a degree of delicacy unexcelled in any other red wines.

This example exhibits a brilliant garnet hue, which is deceptively light in intensity, considering what is to follow. The nose is quite typi­cal of Pinot: wild strawberries, raspberries, and a slight hint of wet clay. The surprise is the body: big, full, round and mouth-filling. Rich and smooth. A dry, clean fin­ish retains a pleasing hint of fruit.

Serve at room temperature with steak, roast beef, roast leg of lamb or eggplant baked with sweet soy sauce and garlic.

Cellaring Notes: At its peak now, should pour nicely for two more years at least.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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