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WINE REVIEW: Root & Rubble 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA ($39)

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

by Andrew Chalk

The Italian film director, Michelangelo Antonioni once said that, once you knew the rules, you could break them. So it is with winemaking. Usually, a pinot noir that is pink, and translucent, is down marked as lacking color saturation reflecting poor winemaking. However, Adam Lee has made pinot noir for 35 years from just about every distinguished vineyard in California and many in Oregon. His winemaking skills are unimpeachable so now, having passed the winemaking baton on to Matt Revelette at Siduri, he has become a skunkworks, trying all the things that may not have gotten past the accountant’s green eye shades in the past.

This wine is a case in point. It is fermented and aged in concrete. For six months no less. No oak. No stainless steel. Just the semi-permeable nature of 1,200 gallon square tanks permitting a hint of oxygenation through their structure. He was fussy about the choice of clones and chose 828 and Martini 23 on account of their thick skins.

The inspiration for this particular experiment was a trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape where he saw the practice being used for grenache. It is even more extensively used than that. On a 2016 visit to the necklace of villages that stretch east from Chateauneuf-du-Pape to Gigondas I found the practice widespread.

The results are a light wine with a perfumy bouquet, fruit-driven flavors expressing the pure flavors of the grapes, and a long finish of charm and finesse.

So I judge this example a success. And, at under $40, reasonably priced for a pinot noir from the world-class winegrowing region of Sonoma Valley. I hope that it does not inspire knockoffs that discredit the concept, but time will tell. Only 500 cases produced so order here.

In the meantime drink this wine now. It is intentionally crafted for early consumption.

Adam Lee has done just about everything with pinot noir that he can do here. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to take over the winemaking for a vintage at a down-at-heel Burgundy première or grand cru and see what he can do. Jus’ sayin’.


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