Tasting Note: 1996 Carneros Pinot Noir, Saintsbury

The one advantage to having been held at home for the day by today’s snowstorm, instead of flying to join my family in Switzerland for the Christmas holidays, is that I got to eat dinner with my parents. A nice, quiet dinner, where we got to talk and talk, and catch up on a lot of things. Blessings in disguise.

I took the opportunity to pull a bottle out of the cellar, and knowing we were having braised veal, I figured an older wine would do nicely with the delicate flavors of the meat. When I pulled a 1996 Carneros Pinot Noir from Saintsbury out of the rack, I pretty much knew that I had my wine.

Now, if you think that a 12-year old pinot is going to be tired, think again: this wine had an incredible amount of fruit, still dominating the aromas, right after decanting. Very nice, ripe cherry, with a little bit of well-integrated, toasted oak flavors, over a silky smooth mouthfeel. Remarkably fresh, with restrained alcohol and still just enough acidity to give the wine some lift.

It went very well with the veal, and handled the more intense flavors of the parsnip and celeriac extremely well. The mix of flavors of the dish and the wine was very smooth and fine.

I tasted the wine again, at the end of the evening, and the extra hours of decanting had helped the wine develop more complex aromas, with a bit of leather, some floral components (a bit of violet), spicier notes, a touch of tobacco and some mushroomy, woodland flavors. All that with the cherry still showing well too. A bit of caramel, on tasting, and fine, fine tannins. Not incredibly deep, but obviously, a lot of fun and dimension there.

I haven’t bought any Saintsbury pinots, in recent years, but seeing that the alcohol levels are still reasonable (13.5% on the 2006 Carneros pinot noir) and that the use of wood is careful and moderate (9 months in French oak, 30% new, again for the 2006), I’d be enclined to give this wine another go. And to keep it for several years, no doubt.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted December 22, 2008 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Ciao Rémy!

    Saintsbury is a perennial winner among California Pinot. Not only are the wines good (relatively restrained and not OTT) but the prices are honest (relatively restrained and not OTT), and the people behind the label are nice! Great to hear that your ‘96 pinot was in good shape. I’ve never had a truly mature wine of theirs, but I can imagine them lasting for some time. If you’ve got more, save a bottle! I’d love to taste it.

    Cheers, et joyeux Noël.

    doug

  2. Posted December 23, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Tasting aged Pinot Noir is always a treat. It seems they hold up a lot better than most people would think. The high acidity is what does it I think. Thanks for the savvy wine review. Lets link up!

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