A note to musically-inclined wine people: if you help the nice folks at Claypool Cellars pick their consulting winemaker, eventually you’ll get to hang backstage at kick-ass Primus concerts.
And while that might at first sound like a raging conflict of interest, I suppose it’s worth noting that a) that hasn’t stopped me from telling them how I think the wines could be improved, and b) I didn’t charge them any consulting fees (so maybe we’re just about even, actually).
Anyway, long-time 1WD faithful will know that we’ve been following the career of Claypool Cellars (founded by Primus front-man Les Claypool and his wife Chaney, both Sonoma-area residents) with great interest over the years.
And while it might seem strange that a rocker who is performing trippy, virtuosic renditions of music from the 1971 Willy Wonka movie would be attempting to make world-class California Pinot Noir, I can offer this tidbit from Les: “We want it to be like Primus; I mean, we’re goofy, but underneath, it’s pretty serious. We can play.”
[ Editor’s note: for what it’s worth, Les has also told me things such as “have you ever had cannabis wine?” and “hey man, where’s the fanceé booze?!???” ]
I am happy to report that, since picking up Ross Cobb as their consulting winemaker, Claypool Cellars has come closer to achieving their goofy-meets-serious goal, and have in their 2012 releases produced the best wines I’ve yet to taste from them. I recently caught up with Chaney, Ross, and Ross’s winemaker partner Katy Wilson to eat some viddles in Sonoma, and taste through some of their single-vineyard 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinots (yeah, I know, tough life I’ve got here)…
2012 Claypool Cellars CC Pachyderm Rice-Spivak Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $NA)
The first thing I mentioned to Chaney after tasting a sample of this earlier in the year was “dang… sh*t just got serious!” This is probably the best wine CC has yet produced, and certainly has the most going on in general. About as complex as a good prog-rock anthem: aromas of herbs, tea, pepper, spices, and dark berry fruits, with a good deal of enticing juiciness on the palate, all uplifted by excellent acid and an overall sense of poise. It’s balanced, nuanced stuff, but it’s still lithe and energetic enough to remain fun (hey, that reminds me of a band that I know…).
2012 Cobb Wines Emmaline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $75)
Speaking of serious, we got a preview of one of Ross’s 2012 single-vineyard beauties (among other things, such as trying Cobb’s 2009 take on the Rice-Spivak vineyard, which is drinking quite nicely at the moment). Typical of this relatively foggy, shady, and high-elevation site, there’s a good deal of tobacco, pepper, ginger spices, and even citrus fruits on display here. The 2012 is still quite reserved, and it will need time to unfold and integrate, but the constituent elements are all in harmony, are whispering rather than shouting, and all seemed woven up together in the right proportions.
2012 LaRue Emmaline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $70)
Only 50 cases of this balanced, darker, and somewhat more sinister Pinot were made by Katy. Which is a shame, because I know a lot of folks who’d go ga-ga over this wine. Paradoxically, for me, this had the most strawberry and red berry fruits of the 2012 lineup that evening, but also by far the most earthiness as well. It also came off as possibly the most textured of the lineup, and somehow didn’t lack for mouthfeel despite clocking in at under 12.5% abv. This is a wine that somehow keeps the door’s-open-come-on-in generosity flowing, while at the same time having don’t-touch-it-just-look-at-it fine art displayed on the interior walls.