Garnet-ruby in color with intense aromas of strawberry, pie cherry and red currants. On the palate, soft tannins and vibrant acidity lead into flavors of juicy cherry and red raspberry. This elegant wine seamlessly transitions between young red fruit, delicate hints of violet and a touch of toastiness. The 2010 Kiana will age well for 5-7 years, we recommend decanting at least an hour prior to serving if opened within 1-2 years. Pair with rich foods like Goat Cheese Gnocchi or Tagliatelle with a Wild Boar Bolognese.
A lovely nose of fresh plum and cherry accented by black tea and meat stock greets me from the glass of WillaKenzie 2010 Pinot Noir Kiana, but while the fruit displays tart juiciness mid-palate manages largely to accommodate the tannic effects – as well as flavors of resin and caramel – from roughly one-third new barrels, there is a faintly drying note from oak tannin to the finish. Happily, the carnal savor here extends to a mouthwateringly bacon-like smokiness and salinity that helps lift the finish over the slight road bump of barrel. Given how delightfully multi-faceted the nose is here and the overall level of energy conveyed, I have high hopes that this will become better knitted in another couple of years, and I would expect it to be worth following through at least 2017. “We really pushed the envelope in 2011 to achieve full ripeness,” explains Thibaud Mandet, “so we picked a lot in the first week of November, and continued until the last week of November.” This suggests that he and his partner, WillaKenzie founder Bernard Lacroute, may have set the record in this extreme harvest. “It was a little bit stressful,” adds Mandet with evident understatement, “because as you know the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the weather can change suddenly. But luckily it stayed dry and breezy compared with many vintages. In the end we did only a little bit of chaptalization.” “Of course,” adds Lacroute, “this all depends on maintaining the health of your vines and fruit, because if you get a little bit of rot inside the clusters, it’s ‘game over,’ and you’ve got to pick.” Amazingly, considering the lateness of harvest and the fact that the 2011s here also went into barrel late and were slow to undergo malo-lactic transformation, Mandet and Lacroute elected to bottle their top tier of Pinots a couple of weeks earlier than usual, already in February and March of this year. The 2010 vintage was late here too by long-term standards, but nonetheless finished on November 1, at which point in 2011 most of the harvest action still lay ahead. What’s more, alcohol levels – naturally in the mid to upper 13% – were nearer normal. But then, 2010 yields were very low. Whether the phenolic evolution in 2011 was superior, I won’t be able to judge until next year, because most of the WillaKenzie Pinots are only released and shown to me in their third year. In lieu of acidulation, incidentally, Mandet says he will often harvest a small portion of a given vineyard early to generate a higher-acid lot that can then be used for blending. Additional experience this July with WillaKenzie’s very limited reserve bottlings certainly showed me the potential here for positive bottle maturation as well as for moderation – given time – of both vintage extremities and new oak influence. (Mandet and Lacroute were not, however, ready to show me their 2009 Reserve; and indeed, the 2008 is only just being released. For more about this estate and the personalities and vineyards behind it, consult my introduction in Issue 202.) -David Schildknecht
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