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.
“Seeing one-third whole clusters and 12 months in barrel, the 2014 Pinot Noir Estate has a subtle, nuanced style as well as terrific notes of dried strawberries, red currants, spice-box and forest floor. It’s elegant, seamless and silky on the palate, with fine tannin and impeccable balance. Give it a few years to develop more complexity (although I’d happily drink it today) and it’s going to keep for 10-15+ years.”
95 points, JebDunnuck.com, Aug 2017
“Wild strawberry and plum mix with subtle yet sultry notes of nutmeg, mace, loam, graphite and game on the nose of this bottling. Sizzling acidity leads the palate, carrying cherry, plum and red apple flavours, followed by layers of eucalyptus and pine forest.”
95 points, Wine Enthusiast, Dec 2017
“The 2014 Pinot Noir is a pliant, deep and expressive wine. Sweet red cherry, rose petal, mint and wild flowers gradually reveal themselves, but the wine needs a few years in bottle to shed some of its baby fat and for the tannins to soften. In this vintage, Mount Eden’s Pinot Noir is a wine of real gravitas and power, with perhaps a bit less of the immediate charm other recent vintages have shown. 2020 – 2034”
93+ points, Antonio Galloni vinous.com, Aug 2017