Gold Country Wines Still Bring Surprises

Deaver's 2009 Pinot NoirThere are general rules of thumb about wine grape varietals and where they thrive best: Gold Country is great for Zinfandels and Barberas.  Napa is the home of the oaky and buttery Chardonnay and the sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon.  The best Pinot Noirs come from Oregon or the Santa Cruz Mountains.

But now and again you run into an exception to the rule that kind of blows your mind.  My mind was blown the other evening when I popped open a bottle of Deaver Vineyard’s 2009 Sierra Foothills Pinot Noir.  It had arrived in our regular Deaver Wine Club shipment.  Although, I have great admiration for Deaver’s red wines, I didn’t have high hopes for a Gold Country Pinot Noir.  The climate isn’t right for growing Pinot Noir grapes.  It’s too hot and too dry.

So, at the end of a long and frustrating day, I popped the cork on this wine.  I was surprised to find that there was silt around the neck and some poured out into my glass with the wine.  This suggests that at one time the wine may have been fairly tannic.  It had a wonderful fruity nose with a hint of something like violet.  I took that first sip.

Suddenly, my day was so much better!

I was shocked, pleasantly so, to find that this wine was velvety smooth, rich and complex and almost perfectly balanced.  It was a fantastic wine by itself and only enhanced our run of the mil goat-cheddar cheese.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Deaver doesn’t make bad wine.  But I was.  A Pinot Noir from Gold Country?  Seriously?

Yup.  And a really good one at that.  The tannins were soft and pleasant.  The acid wasn’t overwhelming, enough to balance the full fruit.  Eminently drinkable.

They must have these grapes growing in some secret, cool damp valley.  Since it says it comes from Sierra Foothills, the grapes are unlikely to be grown in Amador County.  They are more likely to be grown either in El Dorado County or Calaveras County.  But either way, my basic rule of thumb “good Pinot’s come from Oregon or Santa Cruz” has been shot down.  And I can’t be more happy about that.

Pour me another!

About dslocicero

David is an author and architect living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes about wine, food and travel. His first book is Pour Me Another: An Opinionated Guide to Gold Country Wines, now one of the highest rated books about California Wines.