With harvest 2007 completed, there’s a pause in the action at Donum Estate in Carneros, and yesterday I joined Anne Moller-Racke and Kenneth Juhasz to taste a vertical of the winery’s Pinot Noir.
Donum is a fairly new winery, with its first vintage in 2001. But the vineyard dates to the 1970s, when it was part of the bigger Buena Vista winery estate, which is next door. The property is now owned by Racke International and has been managed by winegrower Moller-Racke since the early 1980s, when she worked with BV. Juhasz is the winemaker.
Donum Estate is 120 acres in vines, with 90 planted to Pinot Noir and the rest to Chardonnay. The goal so far has been to select the best portions of the vineyard for Donum, with other selections headed to the Robert Stemmler line of Pinot Noirs.
As Moller-Racke explains in this vlog, the winery is pinpointing its best sites. Since the 1990s “everything [in the vineyard] has changed [except the soil],” she said. “We had all these vineyards and [some of the grapes] come from older selections and some from newer selections.”
“The two things we always try to put together [in our wines] are power and elegance, but to make sure we don’t lose the elegance.”
I think that in coming years Carneros Pinot Noir is poised to close the gap with the state’s other top appellations, such as Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara. The main reason is many of the vineyards that were planted in the 1970s and 1980s have been replanted, with new vineyard methods and clones and winemakers are much closer to the grapes than they’ve been in the past.
All five vintages showed very well and all five showed how different the vintages have been. The winery also has its first bottling of a Russian River Pinot with 2005. All of the other notes refer to Donum Estate bottlings.
The 2001 has a touch of maturity, but exquisite balance and ripe, rich maraschino and black cherry fruit, with a nice loamy earth edge and a long layered, graceful finish. Drink now through 2012.
The 2002 is from a warmer year and has a lifted raspberry aroma, tight, compact blackberry and black cherry fruit that ends with a more abrupt finish than 2001. Drink now through 2012.
The 2003 is a winery favorite from a cooler vintage. It exhibits an earthier profile, with a savory game, cola and cherry flavor, with rich, firm tannins. Best now through 2011.
The 2004, from another warmer year, has bright, rich, clean cherry and berry aromas and a complex red candied-apple spiciness. Young and tight, it’s ready now through 2012.
The 2005 Donum, the newest release, was my favorite, displaying the youthful exuberance I prefer. It’s rich, with effusive, plush blueberry and boysenberry flavors and a hint of sweet vanilla. Drink now through 2013.
The Russian River bottling, from a winery-managed property, offers classic RRV bright cherry and raspberry fruit that’s both tight and vivid, with a delicate edge.