Martin Ray planted Pinot Noir at Mount Eden in 1945. The budwood came from Paul Masson’s original vineyard near Mount Eden. Because Masson was a good friend of the Louis Latour family of Burgundy, it is likely the selection came from one of Latour’s finest vineyards and was brought by Masson to California during the 1880s. The faith Ray demonstrated in this difficult red wine variety, at a time when America had little appreciation of fine wine, was remarkable. Today, Pinot Noir vines occupy seven acres of the estate vineyard and typically yield a meager one to one-and-a-half tons per acre.
Pinot Noir is the first variety harvested at Mount Eden, kicking off the vintage season. Using natural yeasts, fermentation is conducted in small open-top fermentors and extends ten to fourteen days, with the must punched down by hand. The new wine is immediately put into 75% new and 25% one-year-old French Burgundy barrels. It matures for eighteen months before being bottle unfined and unfiltered. Nothing is added; nothing is taken away.
Due to the soils in the vineyard, the Estate Pinot Noirs’ elegant, transparent style is more Burgundian than Californian, emphasizing wild strawberry, earth, blueberry and dill varietal characters. Cellaring the wine from five to twelve years pays handsome rewards.
The 2014 has yet to be reviewed, but the 2013 received the following:
“The 2013 Pinot Noir Estate is one of the stars from the appellation, and the vintage. Offering fabulous notes of black cherries, currants, crushed rocks and sous bois, this beauty hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, building tannin and a killer finish. This is a sensational Pinot Noir that can be enjoyed today, or cellared for a decade or more.”
96 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2016
“Mount Eden’s 2013 Pinot Noir is going to need at least a few years to come into its own. Dense and powerful, yet also very tightly wound, the 2013 is in no mood to show all of its cards. Still, the intensity of the vintage is impossible to miss. The 35% whole clusters are nearly buried by the sheer intensity of the fruit. This ample, large-scaled Pinot will reward those who wait. I will not be surprised if the 2013 is even better in another few years, as it holds considerable promise.”
94+ points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, July 2016
“The 2013 vintage of the “Estate” pinot noir bottling from Mount Eden is outstanding. The wine is the same octane as the fine 2012 version, but both the nose and palate seem more seamless and refined, indicating just absolutely perfect ripeness in 2013. The perfumed bouquet offers up a youthful blend of cherries, strawberries, cocoa powder, a fine base of soil tones, just a touch of nut skin, fresh thyme, incipient cinnamon and a touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, pure and beautifully balanced, with an outstanding core of fruit, stellar transparency, ripe, suave tannins, tangy acids and exceptional length and grip on the nascently complex finish. This is a very young and very, very fine bottle of pinot noir in the making. It will be approachable in a few years, but I would try very hard not to touch a bottle until it has had a full decade to evolve in the cellar! 2023-2065+”
94 points, John Gilman, “View From the Cellar”, July/August 2016