Pinot Noir – Wildcat Mountain Vineyard – Sonoma Coast
Situated high on the southern flank of the mountain range defining the western edge of Sonoma Valley, Wildcat Mountain Vineyard is an outlier relative to any other vineyards in the area. The highest vineyard in the appellation at an elevation of 750’, it sits on well drained rocky soils of volcanic origin, exposed to the full brunt of fog and cold airflow that streams off the upper reaches of San Pablo Bay. This is an ideal place to grow top-tier Pinot noir grapes. Formerly grazing land, the vineyard was established by Nancy and Tony Lilly with their partner, Steve MacRostie in 1998. The quality of the vineyard bears testimony to the vision and tenacity of several generations of Nancy’s family, which has been the steward of this land since 1940. It’s wonderful to talk about vintages that are so even-keeled and lack heroic challenges The second year of drought, 2013 was characterized by easy weather, a moderate growing season, and a fairly large crop that was tamed by dropping a painful amount of fruit on the vineyard floor at veraison. All three blocks were picked September 22 and co-fermented in a single fermenter after sorting and gentle destemming. The whole cluster component was about 25%. The balance of the winemaking consisted primarily of thinking long and hard about how to meddle as little as possible on the way from getting the wine from the fruit stage into the bottle – a bit of a soak prior to indigenous fermentation (both primary and malolactic), punch downs for cap management, extended maceration, and then barreling for 19 months with 57% new French oak. The wine eschewed racking until it was moved to tank prior to bottling. This is probably the finest example that Talisman has produced from this vineyard and it is full of classic Wildcat Vineyard aromas and flavors. It’s pretty and spicy, redolent of crushed berries mingled with mineral, mushroom, and forest floor. The mouth is lush and concentrated with black cherry, blackberry, stone fruit, exotic spices, cola, mineral, and dried orange peel. On the palate, it is rich and round with soft tannins and a lengthy finish. 14.2% alcohol. 164 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.