Wine: Pfendler Estate
Region: Petaluma Gap (Sonoma Coast), California
Grapes: Pinot Noir
The concept of terroir is a tricky one to define, most loosely within the broad confines of place, which, we all know is a concept that varies in subtleties and extremes. Culturally speaking, you can't say Los Angeles and San Fransisco are interchangeable for being within California any more than you can argue New Orleans and Nashville are the same because they're both south of the Mason Dixon. This is kinda how the Sonoma Coast AVA looks right now, which Jon Bonné calls "the big lie" in his book "The New California Wine". It's a 750 square mile swath of land that reaches from the actual coastline to the east side of the Sonoma Mountains, encompassing parts of The Russian River Valley and Carneros. Inside that AVA, which Bonné attributes to a gerrymandering led by Sonoma-Cutrer Don, Brice Jones, in 1987, are many micro-climates that more precisely define terroir as the French (the Burgundians anyway) meant it to be. Most of these areas are still awaiting AVA approval by the federal government, and the Petaluma Gap is a frontrunner. It's also home to Pfendler's 19 acres of estate vineyards.
The proposed AVA's climate as stated by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Association:
"Geographically, the Petaluma Gap borders West Marin and Valley Ford on the west, then follows Chileno Valley and Spring Hill Roads to Adobe Road on the east, Cotati on the north and Lakeville on the southeast. This is not your normal geography. As inland valley air heats up, it pulls the cool coastal air into a naturally formed 15-mile-wide “gap” in the coastal range mountains. The wind flows off the ocean between Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay, builds up speed as it funnels through the gap, then empties into San Francisco Bay. Wind and fog define the area, giving the term “micro-climate” real meaning."
Fog and coastal wind influence grape growing to the point of creating a cool climate atmosphere, a favorite environment for pinot noir and chardonnay. If you've never stuck your toes into the Pacific Ocean off the Northern California coast, this isn't bathwater-warm Miami Beach, or even Montauk in August. It's damn cold, and so are its breezes. The four Pfendler vineyards sit on the ocean-facing side of the Sonoma Mountains, planted from foothill to mountain top. Winemaker Greg Bjørnstad works with proprietor Kimberly Pfendler to produce three wines totaling fewer than 700 cases. It's truly a tiny operation, and the wines can be had outside Cali only through direct order from the winery. Don't be mad, this is the digital age. Full disclosure: this bottle was a sample sent to Pig&Vine for possible review from the winery.
The Pfendler Pinot Noir Rosé 2015 is a pale salmon-hued beauty with a nose of ripe strawberry and raspberries still hanging on the bush. Fog and mountain clouds with mountain fruit (I feel high already) persist on the palate and in the mind. Balanced acidity, alcohol and flavors of delicate nuance slide into a long, delicious finish. I savored it last Saturday afternoon, too stubborn to work and too lazy to leave the house, while watching the final episodes of OITNB Season 4. Paired it with an arugula salad with avocado, cucumbers, sweet tomatoes and feta, plus a little Maldon salt for perfection (just like Judy King).
Get yours here and, if I were you, I"d grab a chard and a pinot, too.