1999 ‘Big Brother’ Pinot Noir and 1999 ‘Little Sister’ Pinot Noir: both of these wines were essentially born of a neighboring winery’s clonal trial in the Russian River Valley. They did not have the red wine making experience to fully evaluate their trial and approached me with an offer impossible to refuse. We have all learned something from the process.
While the best Pinot Noir sites I had worked with in my past life at Dehlinger were primarily grown on the rare red clay outcroppings with AXR-1 as the rootstock, the vines that made up these 1999s were mostly grown on 3309C rootstock in the sandy Goldridge soil type. This is a common soil type in the area.
There were about 16 fermentation lots, mostly from the clonal trial. Blending these 1999 Pinot Noirs was a real challenge. First, there was no single fermentation lot that was a complete, balanced wine to start adding elements to (like a makeup artist would merely highlight the natural beauty of the subject). Second, having no previous experience with these clones in these sites made it less certain to predict how they would marry and develop over time. It soon became apparent that there were two distinct flavor profiles and balances that otherwise fought in a single blend. Hence, the two Russian River Wines. ‘Little Sister’ is a prettier, more zippy, red-fruited expression of the Pinot Noir, and ‘Big Brother’ has a more dark-fruited, brooding and mysterious side, as though pretending to originate from the clay. Both wines exhibit their goldridge origin, nonetheless. Their names describe their personality tones rather than sheer size. While they will not require aging in order to be enjoyed, they will probably age quite well.