On a recent jaunt to Napa Valley, I stumbled upon Etude Winery on the very outskirts of the Napa city limits. Tucked off a sleepy two lane country road, I thought I’d stop in and check out the old Remy Martin Brandy Distillery site which is now home to Etude Winery. Out with the Cognac and in with the Pinot Noir.
For a better appreciation of the wines, it’s key to understand the terroir. Carneros AVA is shared by Sonoma County and Napa County and is revered for its cool growing climate, replete with fog and maritime breezes off the Pacific Ocean and San Pablo Bay. The combination of low daytime temperatures, an array of volcanic, coarse sand and gravel soils and the influence of the Petaluma Wind Gap, make for ideal growing conditions for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Etude‘s flagship Grace Benoit Ranch is planted to seven clones of Pinot Noir, nine+ clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and two clones of Merlot and Malbec.
Nothing prepared me for what I was about the discover inside the old distillery.
Not only was Etude‘s tasting room a show-stopping masterpiece, but the wine tasting experience was one of the best I’ve encountered in a long time, thanks to Greg Sweval, Hospitality Sales Manager and the amicable and knowledgeable Wine Club Ambassador, Angel Aguirre-Benites.
With each wine that I tasted, I became more engaged. From the unadorned 2015 Pinot Gris Carneros, ripe with stone fruit, citrus and balanced acidity to the 2013 Chardonnay Heirloom Carneros, crisp Sonoma-style, lightly oaked citrus/orchard fruit loveliness in a glass, I graduated to the Pinot Noir collection. So many clones, so many Pinots, where to start?
The Grace Benoit 2013 Pinot Noir Temblar Carneros was the perfect launching pad. Aromas of Bing Cherry and Raspberry filled the glass, accentuated with wafts of cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. This small lot Pinot Noir was a winner. For fun and different tasting profiles, I pitted a 2014 Fiddlestix Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir against a 2013 Yamhill-Vista, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, favoring the more fruit forward Fiddlestix Vineyard. Not to be outclassed, the 2013 Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand Pinot Noir, knocked it out of the ballpark. Central Otago, NZ is an audacious upcoming wine region, sure to raise some eyebrows and many wine glasses!
Looking forward to visiting Etude Winery again for another unforgettable Pinot Noir experience. www.etudewines.com