I don't drink a lot of California wine anymore. I started on French wine back in the early '90s, then got into California wines in the mid to later '90s as I explored my native state. Then I moved from California to Oregon in 2000 and I settled into a diet of mostly European and Oregon selections. I simply prefer the racy freshness of even the richer wines from these areas, compared to the stereotype of hulking fruit and oak monsters of the golden state.
Readers of this blog will know that there are plenty of exceptions. I love the wines of Edmunds St. John. I've also written favorably about wines from several California producers like Tablas Creek, Mt. Eden, Ridge, older Ravenswood, and recently Windy Oaks. Most of these wines fit a more scaled down version of the California excesses, full of what California can offer but usually not over full. Then there are more mainline California producers that I enjoy, including Carlisle and Siduri, mainline not in the sense of general quality but definitely in terms of ripeness and opulence. These wines don't tend to be shy, and yet I find delight and even nuance in the best example. They show to me that generalizations are only so useful, and sometimes overblown to the point of being ridiculous.
Case in point, A.P. Vin. Andrew Vignello is famous for being an internet wine geek full of passion for California wine (and beyond) who threw his day job aside some years back and got into the wine producing business feet first. I've never met Andrew but he's an inspiration to me, that someone full of passion for winemaking can dive in and produce quality wine that finds an audience. I also love that he makes wine in an urban facility in San Francisco. Urban wines are the new wave.
Today I found a bottle of his 2006 A.P. Vin Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch from the Russian River Valley at a local LA wine shop. I'd never tried his wine and bought it with curiosity of what this producer might have done with grapes from this acclaimed site. The results were surprisingly nice. I actually expected a dark colored, highly extracted show piece of a pinot noir. Instead, there was a pretty ruby color with a pleasing herbal cherry and earth aroma. Had I smelled this blind, I would have quessed high quality New Zealand pinot, which seems to give more herbal expressions of pinot than the pure fruit Cali style I commonly find. Was there whole cluster here? No, apparently, but the spicy peppery notes gave that kind of complexity.
The flavors were more fruit centered with some oak toast, but the acids were bright and the tannins provided a lovely texture and grip. This isn't too tannic, rather it's not sweet and cloying. I loved the balance in this wine and the relative restraint. There's some alcohol on the finish. This isn't lightweight pinot. Sitll, this wine had terrific grace and interest. And where so many people criticize "big" wines for lacking perfume, this wine had terrific perfume. Nice job Andrew.