Pinot Noir – Red Dog Vineyard – Sonoma Mountain
Located high on the northwest flank of Sonoma Mountain, this panoramic mountainside site is the recipient of coastal fog and cool air flowing from the chilly Pacific through the Petaluma Gap and slamming directly into the upper reaches of Sonoma Mountain. The soils are low-vigor loamy clays, thus the grapes on this site ripen very slowly, providing perfect conditions for complete and complex flavor development. Fog often persists in the mornings when the sun has risen above the eastern slope and by the time the afternoon sun has made its impact on the western slope, the cold air and fog begin their journey back from coast to mountain.
Both the west-facing slope planted to Pommard clone and the east-facing slope planted to Dijon clones 115 and 777 were picked on September 18. Despite dropping lots of fruit on the ground at veraison to ensure even ripeness and flavor development, the crop was a bit larger than most, although that’s all relative, given that in some years the crop load at Red Dog was not much more than 1 ton per acre. The Pommard clone was fermented on its own in a 5-ton open top fermenter. The Dijon clones were fermented in small 1-ton fermenters, both solo and co-mingled. After indigenous yeasts fermentation, all of the lots underwent an extended maceration (around 35 days on the skins) before pressing and barreling. This bottling is predominantly Pommard with some Dijon 777 and a smattering of Dijon 115 thrown into the mix. It was aged for 19 months in French oak barrels – 62% new.
This wine has a remarkably complex nose, loaded with some of the aromas one usually only hope for; a great balance of plum, cherry, and strawberry played against rose petal and the comforting smell of a damp redwood forest. The wine is lush, rich and texturally elegant with noticeable persistence. 14.4% alcohol. 413 cases produced.
About the Producer
Scott and Marta Rich launched Talisman in 1993, with just 204 cases of Madonna Vineyard Pinot Noir. They continued with only one Carneros bottling until 1999 when they expanded with a Russian River offering from Klopp Ranch - thanks to Merry Edwards, who offered them a share of that vineyard until her program grew. In 2001 their third wine came from Thorn Ridge, a fabulous site on the north edge of the Petaluma Gap on the Sonoma Coast. Soon thereafter Steve MacRostie approached them with the idea of a Talisman Pinot Noir from his very unique Wildcat Mountain site. Adastra vineyard joined the family with the 2005 vintage and Talisman was off to the races, adding a new vineyard every year or two to expand their offerings. In 2012 they finally crested 2000 cases. Their cuvées are typically 100-300 cases, though in recent vintages they've had a lot of fun crafting many tiny bottlings of specific vineyard blocks, clones or winemaking techniques. They continue to stay small and grow slowly, as they find vineyards of interest, with unique site characteristics and the potential to convey distinctive and singular terroirs. Talisman’s goal is very simple: the creation of exquisite Pinot Noirs that are true to their roots and accurately reflect their places of origin.
Scott Rich attended graduate school in the enology program at U.C. Davis and has worked as a research enologist for both RH Phillips and Robert Mondavi. He has been winemaker at Mont St. John, Carneros Creek, and Etude, where he made highly-acclaimed Pinot Noir and Cabernet. Currently, Scott's time and energy are spent as winemaker/owner of Talisman, as well as winemaker for Moraga Vineyards in Bel Air, California. Moraga produces sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Marta Rich actually has no memory of life without wine. Her father made wine in their Minnesota basement, using virtually any form of grapes or juice he could get. Yearning for warmer climes and more interesting terrain, Marta fled for the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned her degree in Psychology. After taking up residence in Napa Valley, Marta began an 18-year stint at Robert Mondavi. She worked her way up the ladder, first scheduling grapes during harvest and eventually running Mondavi's Northern California sales team. She was well-prepared for both of her current jobs, Director of Sales for Calera Wine Company, one of California's Pinot Noir pioneers, and Director of Sales & Marketing for Talisman Wines.
About the name: Scott's American Indian mother (an Arizona native) once gave him a special charm or talisman, that had been made and blessed by a medicine man. One of the elements of this talisman was the medicine wheel. This is now Talisman's logo. The elements of the medicine wheel represent the circle of life and the four directions, reminding us of our place in the universe. The rays around the wheel represent the sun, which provides energy for life on Earth and ripens grapes, allowing us to revel in the pleasure of life, including fine wine.
Sustainability: Talisman ditched capsules to be more eco-friendly. They buy their non-bleached, craft paper boxes from a solar-powered company. They are part of the 10% of small wineries that continue to use traditional glue labels. Most wineries have switched to pressure-sensitive (PS) labels which are basically stickers on a roll of backing. While PS labels are much easier to apply, there is a tremendous amount of waste associated with printing PS labels, and the backings most commonly used for PS labels are not recyclable and end up in the landfill. They just recycled an old labeling machine from Jaboulet and are now labelling in-house.