Poe Mendocino ‘Manchester Ridge Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2012

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Mendocino County is increasingly the home of some exciting, elegant California Pinot Noir. Anthill makes a wonderful couple of wines from the Anderson Valley, but this Poe ‘Manchester Ridge’ is the most inspired Pinot Noir I’ve had from Mendocino.

Enough with ‘Burgundian’ Already

Owner Samantha Sheehan has the right philosophy for great Pinot Noir winemaking. She focuses on single vineyards from sites that are capable of expressing their distinct characteristics vintage to vintage. Comparisons to Burgundy are so staid as to be meaningless, and so I usually cringe when winemakers say they are inspired by it to produce a ‘Burgundian’ style. Firstly, there is no one Burgundian style. And, second, comparing oneself to Burgundy is a set up for second best and devalues what might be worth discovering about Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy.

That said, I think Sheehan’s professed love for and inspiration by Burgundy is genuine and expresses itself not in any attempt to mimic flavour or style, but rather in the belief that great Pinot Noir should show consistency of site expression. I agree with this. Pinot Noir is not a designer wine and cannot be made great the way Bordeaux has manufactured house style. Great Pinot Noir is all about transparency of place and a choice of style that provides consistency to that transparency.

Ethereal and Mouthwatering Pinot

With all this in mind, Poe’s Manchester Ridge is an excellent achievement in Pinot Noir winemaking. Sheehan worked with winemaker Jonathan Keyes in 2009 and 2010. Keyes worked with both Thomas Brown and Manfred Krankl, which explains the ‘felt’ approach to winemaking. Now Sheehan does all the winemaking herself. She prefers not to pick by “numbers” but instead to taste the grapes for ideal quality and ripeness. Sheehan varies winemaking year to year to adjust for vintage characteristics but still let the site express itself. For instance, in 2012 Sheehan increased the use of whole bunches (15%) to balance the ripeness of the fruit in the warm and powerful vintage. Her judicious use of whole bunches in the ripe vintage also avoids stem aromas dominating the wine and instead results in far greater complexity.

Manchester Ridge is located at 2,000 foot elevation above Anderson Valley and is 400 feet above the fog line. The elevation allows for later picking (often a full month later than the valley floor). The vineyard is surrounded by pine forest.

Despite the powerful vintage, the wine is made in an ethereal style, with strawberry, dill and earth. Its elegance and aromatics proffer contemplation and reflection. It stays just the right side of ripeness and exhibits outstanding restraint. This is mouthwatering.

$100 at Kits Wine


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