Adventures in my wine cellar: 1997 Flowers Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir

An occasional look at how some older wines have aged.

Flowers Vineyard and Winery, where the first vineyards were planted in 1991, is on a ridge overlooking the Pacific near Cazadero – an area that some refer to as the “true” Sonoma Coast of California. My recollection of some of the early vintages was that they could be fairly concentrated and tannic when young. This bottling was made from grapes grown at Hirsch Vineyard, also in the more extreme part of the Sonoma Coast AVA.

Aging any California wine can be a crapshoot, and that’s certainly the case with California pinot. I’ve tasted my share of bottlings that have fallen apart after a few years. This, however, was a revelation. If you had handed it to me without telling me the vintage, I would have figured it was just a few years old. It was incredibly fresh and vibrant, with lively red berry fruit, some baking spices and a silky, supple texture. That texture, in fact, was probably the main thing that had evolved over the past 20 years. (In “North American Pinot Noir,” John Winthrop Haeger has a tasting note from 2001 for this 1997 wine, and he calls it a “long, firm wine with gradually resolving tannins.”)

Seventeen more years of aging have worked their magic.

On the subject of aged pinots, I also recently tried a 2003 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. It was definitely showing some age but was still lovely: silky and a little earthy, with red fruit and notes of forest floor and damp earth.

Open That Bottle Night is this Saturday. It’s a good occasion (or excuse, if you prefer) to open an old pinot that you’ve been saving or have overlooked. But be sure to have a backup bottle on hand. You may not be as lucky as I was with the Flowers.



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