Pinot Noir, 1979. The Firestone Vineyard| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | January 1984

After spending 12 years in the family tire business, Brooks Firestone decided that was not for him. “I’m a slow learner,” he now laughs. “It took me that long to figure out I wasn’t made for it.” He was restless and ready to move on to something new.

At about that time, his father Leonard Firestone (son of Harvey Firestone, the tire magnate) was buying parcels of land that had been used as cattle ranches in the Santa Ynez valley. Firestone Sr. asked Firestone Jr. to check out what the best use of the property might be.

Voila. It turned out that the wine experts at UC Davis and Fresno State thought quality wines could be made there. (There had already been vineyards in the valley, but no wineries. The growers had shipped their product to wineries upstate.)

So, with the help of his father and a third partner, Keizo Saji, president and chairman of the board of Japan’s Suntory Liquor company, the Firestone Vineyard was born. The first vines were planted in 1973, and the first crush was in 1975.

Total dedication to quality, evokes this statement from Brooks, with a grin: “Someday, when you think of Firestone, you’ll think of wine, not tires!” It is well on its way. They specialize in six varietals, and do them all well. Domestic and International competitions have produced harvests of honors.

One of the six varietals they produce is especially significant. It is not necessarily the best varietal they make, but it is consistently one of the best in the state. Pinot Noir has been the “problema” of California vintners. Except for isolated and occasional instances, good wine from Califor­nia Pinot Noir grapes has eluded them. (and continues to do so.) But not for Firestone it seems. They have been somewhat consistent in conquering this noble grape of Burgundy.

I was swept off my feet with their 1977 Pinot Noir Reserve a couple of years ago. It was beyond the budget of our program. Last year I tried to bring you the 1978, that was showing beautifully then, and still is, but, there was not enough wine left. (If you see it on a shelf or a wine list.., try it. You will be rewarded) The 1979 was released and it had equal merit (with some interesting differences) so here it is.

The wine is bright scarlet red in color. It has a clove-like, spicy bouquet, with the intense varietal aroma of fruit showing through. The flavor is delicate, with all the attributes of a well made Pinot Noir. It has a full body, glycerinny, with signs of velvety texture developing. Dry, and well balanced for acid, it has some rough edges of tannin at the finish. The fruit flavor is closed in, and masked by the tannin. Serve at room temperature with pâté, chicken livers en brochette, veal, pork. It would be classic with duck.

Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and develop for 5 to 10 years. Well worth laying down for this price.

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