Halleck Vineyard earned the recognition as the #1 Pinot Noir in the United States in 2002 with its first 2001 vintage, competing in the Pinot Noir Summit. We have never entered this wine into a competition since. We make too little. But there is one journalist to whom we submit for comment.
Dan Berger's credentials and integrity are unassailable.We respect his opinion. After tasting our 2009 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Dan looked me in the eye and said, "I would challenge any reviewer who rates wines on a 100 Point Scale to take a single point away from this wine." Dan does not use the 100 Point system, but instead writes about wine. His column is below. We are honored and humbled to have made this wine. It has not been released. It will be shortly and sold only to our Wine Club members. This might be the time to consider joining.
2009 Halleck Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Estate Grown ($100): A remarkably complex, tart wine, and is probably the best from this tiny producer. Only 35 cases made. Should age nicely. For details see below. Tasted open.
Dissecting a Wine
Thirty or so years ago, I was prompted to laugh out loud when a wine writer described a Mersault and used at least 30 different descriptive terms to detail what he smelled.
Michael Pakenham of the Philadelphia Inquirer said the first whiff was like this, and then ten minutes later he noticed a few other things, and a half hour later there were nuances of that. The number of terms went on and on. I thought it hilariously affected.
But I'm not laughing any longer.
What Pakenham was saying, in effect, was that if you give a great wine the time it deserves (which is a lot more than a fast sniff-and-spit), the result can be a lot more rewarding than you can imagine.
With care in the analysis, one can make a more accurate judgement, and otherwise good wines can pale in comparison to the truly great ones.
Sure, Pakenham may have gone a bit overboard when he praised the Meursault. His effusiveness seemed excessive. Wouldn't the work "complexity" convey the same basic message?
Maybe, but 30 years after the fact, I think I now understand what he was getting at.
Take for instance the lead wine, 2009 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a really great Pinot Noir.
On first whiff, I knew it was special. There was an earlier-picked (faintly under-ripe) tone to it, but the complexity was dramatic. There was, at first, hints of Burgundy and especially its red cherry with a faint underbrush note.
The spice element that showed up after 15 minutes in the glass was wild and fascinating. The faint earth quality I got at the start was then replaced by truffle and hints of black pepper.
As the wine gained its legs, the complexity overcame whatever delicacy there was there at the start and the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
And the structure was near perfect, with an alcohol level (14.2%) that doesn't intrude. The acid and pH are there to help the aging, and the tannins are perfect.
Not all wines are this time consuming to unveil. Some wines' aromas are so lacking in varietal character, show dominant elements that are uninteresting, or have flaws that allow the evaluator to turn a thumb down within seconds.
However, this wine showed remarkable depth in its earliest delicate stage, even though its true greatness was only slightly evident at that point.
As it got air, it began to develop and it was most complex after 90 minutes. It still wasn't where it will be in a few years, the the wine's character was that much better than its brethren that it warrants special attention.