A new wine, but not a complete stranger

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

This week we’re going back to visit an old friend. And one of their new wines. To begin, as usual, we’ll learn a few things. Some salient facts about where this new wine comes from, its producers and their story, foods we can enjoy it with. All the regular tidbits that make each wine what it is. And helps us remember them all. By doing all this, we are doing so much more than just drinking. A good thing!

Our wine comes from the B R Cohn Winery. This is a Sonoma winery, established in 1984, by Bruce Cohn. Partly, it is Bruce’s story that makes B R Cohn wines so interesting. Bruce’s family was originally involved in farming. In the early 1950’s, they opened the first Grade-A goat dairy farm in northern California. Bruce lived in San Francisco when he went to high school. Needless to say, much of the lifestyle and energy of the Bay Area had its effect on him -especially the music. In the late 1960’s, Bruce managed a rehearsal studio. In 1970, he began managing the Doobie Brothers, a popular local band. He and his family still manage them.

In 1974, because life on the road with the band could be exhausting, he returned to Sonoma County and bought an old dairy farm and vineyard. Once the vineyard was replanted, Bruce connected with Charlie Wagner from Caymus. Caymus actually used grapes from Bruce’s vineyards! After that, Helen Turley was B R Cohn’s first winemaker. Followed by Merry Edwards and Steve Macrostie. Not many wineries can claim this many stellar winemakers in their history. Tells us something about their wine quality, doesn’t it?

Our new B R Cohn wine this week is their North Coast Pinot Noir. Which means we have to learn a bit about this AVA. This is a particularly large AVA. About three million acres of grape growing areas spread over six counties – Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano. As a rule, the North Coast AVA covers wines that are made of grapes from several of these counties. This list of AVAs that are in all these counties is long, about 45 of them. So, as an example, you can get a wine labeled as “North Coast,” and it can have grapes from Mt. Veeder AVA in Napa and from Alexander Valley AVA in Sonoma and from High Valley AVA in Mendocino. All really good AVAs, which blended together can make just as really good wines. And not always as expensive as single AVA wines. Good news!

Now, quickly, a bit about Pinot Noir. A variety that has found its own place in United States wines since the 2004 movie “Sideways.” In 2004, there were only 70,000 tons of Pinot grapes crushed. Ten years later? It was more than 245,000 tons. Pinot Noir grapes are generally difficult to grow. Wrong temperatures, too much or too little water, too hot sun on the wrong days – many things make it hard. When Pinot wines are good, though, they are very, very good. Just like the little girl in the old nursery rhyme. Pinot wines’ profiles include raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and cherry fruit flavors. Vanilla, from oak barrels, clove, licorice, coffee, cola, tobacco, black pepper, mushroom and caramel flavors are there, too. Their tannins are on the low side. Their acidity can be higher. They can age, depending on style, for up to 20 years. Or not at all. They are usually best served not too warm. (A bit of a chill helps tweak the acidity and makes the wine taste much better.)

With food, Pinot Noir wines are very adaptable. They are light enough to go with fish, like salmon and tuna, and can also pair well with richer meats like duck and game birds. Anything you make with mushrooms is a good match for a Pinot. Anything with bacon is a good match. Goat cheeses, risottos, white pizzas, soy sauce and fish sauce. So much more. It is definitely time for our wine now.

Our B R Cohn Pinot Noir is in their “Silver Label” tier. Less expensive than some of their wines, but one we can enjoy every day. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. Grapes from all over the North Coast AVA are used, making it a perfect example of how good this area’s wines can be in the proper hands. The grapes for it are whole berry fermented. With the stems removed. Fermentation temperatures are warm and the punch downs are gentle. It is aged in French oak barrels. All of which makes a medium bodied wine that is rich and smooth textured. It has black cherry, raspberry and currant flavors with toffee and vanilla undertones. It is a lovely wine for just sipping and perfect with lighter style, summer meals. Yep, a new wine from an old friend is a good thing. For $19.99. Enjoy.