2009 Barham Mendelsohn Pinot Noir 10th Anniversary
In 1998, Barbara Barham Mendelsohn and Richard Mendelsohn planted 5 acres of Pinot Noir on Lala Panzi Ranch in the Russian River Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County. This was the same year that Jim Clendenen planted his Le Bon Climat estate in the Santa Maria Valley. The Mendelsohns engaged successful and experienced viticulturalist Fred Peterson to direct the planting of 6100 vines on their rolling ranch land. He recommended 5 clones: the 114, 115, 667, and the 777 clones from the University of Dijon in Burgundy, and the traditional Pommard selection from UC Davis. Clendenen had planted much of the same material in Santa Barbara at the same time. The Mendelsohns questioned leading wine industry figures and compiled a list of the most successful Pinot Noir producers and cross-referenced it down to three names. After an interview process, a joint venture was proposed to Jim Clendenen, owner of Au Bon Climat. During this mutual discovery period Clendenen was impressed by the beauty of Lala Panzi, the excellence of the site, and the commitment to organic farming. The concurrence of Jim’s idea of clonal selection with Fred Peterson’s ideas and the exciting shared vision of food and wine culture that Jim possessed with the Mendelsohns cemented their relationship.
The farming protocol at Lala Panzi remains the same: stringent canopy management, organic farming, manual tilling and weed control, micro-management of ripening assessment, and ultimately a quick, early morning harvest at the best possible balance. Once again, no adulterations were done to the grapes. The 2009 Pinot Noir is a result of the growing conditions extant at Lala Panzi, and careful harvest decisions made by the viticultural team. The wine underwent a 14 day fermentation and was aged in predominately new Allier and Vosges forest wood,coopered by Francois Freres of St. Romain. The wine was racked once after malo-lactic fermentation and bottled unfiltered. The textural, letter-pressed labels are individually numbered and applied by hand.
The ’09 vintage was warm and early for Lala Panzi Vineyard. Phenolic maturity needed some hang time. We waited through some very warm days in late August and reacted quickly once the grapes ripened. The wine is rich from good farming practices, not from desiccation on the vine. Its typical Russian River Pinot Noir richness and ripe fruit aromas mesh with a lovely perfume of bitter chocolate and vanilla from long term surlees barrel aging. Layered and textural, with substantial red and blue fruit, the ’09 is forward enough for early drinking, but will reward substantially those with the patience to cellar it for 5 or 10 years.
2009 Harvest Numbers
Harvest Date-August 18th
Sugar at Harvest-23.8 brix