Straddling both Napa and Sonoma counties, Carneros AVA grows some of the most concentrated Pinot Noirs in California. Often more voluminous in flavor than their Coastal counterparts, Carneros Pinot Noir typically has a deep berry (red cherry) flavor, hint of herb, and are made in a style that utilizes oak treatment to balance the intensity of their fruit flavor. Carneros’ climate is cooler than it’s Northern Napa Valley neighbors as it benefits from coastal breezes blowing north from the San Pablo Bay. It’s sandwiched between two coastal mountain ranges, giving it high daily temperatures that are tempered by summer morning fog. This allows for a long growing season that produces grapes with bold flavor.
Etude Winery exemplifies the best of Carneros Pinots; they are round in fruit flavor, spice, and depth. They can hold up to Cabernet in a tasting and pair nicely with a variety of meats, veggies and cheese, or my personal favorite pairing, duck breast.
During the 2017 Wine Blogger Conference in Santa Rosa, I had the opportunity to meet Etude’s Senior Winemaker, Jon Priest. Knowledgeable and approachable, Jon walked us through a tasting of several of Etude’s signature Pinots, which express the exact site where they are grown. My favorite, the Grace Benoit Ranch 2014 Heirloom Pinot Noir, from the Carneros Estate, was grown from several very old Burgundy vine clipping that has very small and concentrated berries. Known for low yields, these vines produce wines that are unique in flavor for Sonoma County. Deep red currants, smokey tea, tobacco, and earthy leather, this wine evokes a feeling of old world eloquence coupled with new world flavor intensity.
Etude’s wines are classic Carneros – beautiful Pinot Noir with a level of sophistication that can only be found from the highest level of winemaking.