Sometimes, winemakers must trust their instincts.
“It’s not necessarily an epiphany as it’s more of an affirmation, but trusting your gut is key,” said Katey Larwood, winemaker of Philo’s Goldeneye Winery. “Being nimble in wine growing is always critical, regardless of a pandemic or natural disasters.”
Larwood is behind our wine of the week winner — the Goldeneye, 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, $58. It’s an earthy pinot with aromas and flavors of wild strawberry, cranberry and a hint of tobacco. Buoyed by bright acidity, this pinot has great balance and an enticing intensity. It’s striking.
Other tasty pinots include Calera, 2017 Ryan Vineyard, Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir, $75; Foursight, 2018 Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, $40; MacRostie, 2018 Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, $58, and Marimar Estate, 2017 Christina, Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $74.
As for the winning Goldeneye, Larwood said the style she’s shooting for is bold, expressive and rustic.
“This wine truly represents Goldeneye and Anderson Valley,” she said. “It spans the entire valley, both east to west and from valley floor to ridgetop sites. It expresses the broader terroir of the valley in its lush and deep fruit, savory notes of herbal tea, leather and anise and bright acidity throughout the palate.”
The most challenging part about crafting pinot is the patience it requires, Larwood said.
“Pinot can be quite strange when young and it’s commonly described as going through the stages of a puppy,” she said. “It begins with the cute-and-cuddly-puppy stage at fermentation where the wines are fun, exciting and sweet. Then there are the terrible twos, and the awkward teenage phase hits at the beginnings of aging. The wines can be all over the place and lanky and odd. Then comes early and late adulthood where it’s finally found itself and comes together harmoniously.”
The goal, the winemaker said, is to wait out those teenage years so you don’t have any sleepless nights.
Larwood, 32, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and oenology. She said wine beckoned her.
“I’m pretty connected to my senses and even from a young age loved to smell and taste things,” she said. “But really what draws me to the profession is all the hard work of physically making wine, the mental fortitude of conceptualizing wines while the fruit is still on the vine and the pure pleasure of creating something that can then be shared and discussed by others. It’s so much fun.”
The challenges of 2020 haven’t dampened Larwood’s enthusiasm in crafting wine.
“A silver lining is that we became a stronger winery team by talking through things on a regular basis — the state of the world, injustices and stresses,” she said. “Even though we had to physically distance, the shared experience of 2020 ultimately brought our team even closer together.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.