Meeting up with a few friends tonight at Table 6—my favorite eatery in Denver—the owner/sommelier, Aaron Foreman, introduced me to a wine I have never had: the 2008 Ghostwriter Pinot Noir out of the increasingly popular Santa Cruz hills. He knows my palate, so I always trust his selections.
I was blown away.
It’s not everyday that I can say I love a California Pinot. In fact, it may be the first time in the past couple years. But this was sensational.
Although the nose certainly intrigued me—a symphony of strawberries, cherries, cranberry, rhubarb (?) and cinnamon—what struck me most was the balance it maneuvered on my palate. It was soft, silky and effortless. It felt like a melody you could swallow. The acid, tannin, length, and alcohol harmonized. No one tried to sing above the next.
There was a mineral element this particular Pinot had going for it… a trait I don’t often with new world Pinot, let alone one from Cali. It was a mixture of wet stone and earth, an almost peaty soil smell just after the rain. It was fresh and youthful.
A modest 12.9% alcohol didn’t miss me. It was incredible how much this allowed me to break down the layers. Sometimes I find that Cali Pinots actually burn the roof of my mouth—physically leave sores, so scorched by the sun are the grapes that reach 14+ alcohol by volume. The fruit it loud, and the subtleties are lost in translation. The wines are without character or birthmark.
How did this particular Pinot achieve such distinction from the masses? Like any great wine, it is a combination of several factors. Ghostwriter is the product of winemaker Kenny Likitprakong who has one singular focus: to grow Pinot and Chardonnay in some of the best soils of Santa Cruz (north/northwest facing vineyards) with little to no interference. Most of the work is done in the vineyard. He took over farming a magnificent plot of 10 acres owned by the Woodruff Family. He has devoted 4.5 acres to Pinot and 3.5 to Chardonnay.
He doesn’t wow his consumers with technical notes on clone types or the age of the vines. Quite frankly, he doesn’t even know! But he knows how to farm and tease the fullest expression from his grapes. I dare say he has cultivated a ‘terroir’ from these hills—a feat I rarely see accomplished by new world wineries.
The formula is simple. The Pinot is destemmed, keeping a few in whole clusters, and punched down twice daily. No cold soaking, inoculation or temperature control is used to stimulate to fermentation process. The ‘must’ is the source for the speed at which it occurs. Wines are pressed directly into the barrels (30% new oak) and take on malo in their own time. They sleep upon their lees until it’s time to bottle. Unfiltered. Unfined. Voila. Near perfection at $40 a pop.
If you can find it, get it. It’s difficult to locate, but worth every drop.