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Nathan Wesley worked for Wine Spectator's tasting department from 2005 to 2013.
Nathan Wesley

A Private-Label Red for Spago

Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Meliora 2009

Nathan Wesley
Posted: April 8, 2011

More and more restaurants, especially Grand Award-winning restaurants, are bottling private-label wines. Addison in San Diego currently offers two by the glass. Canlis in Seattle last month announced a partnership with the famed Austrian dessert winemaker, Kracher. And I recently tasted a private-label Pinot Noir from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills, a new Grand Award winner in 2010.

The Brewer-Clifton Meliora, from California’s Sta. Rita Hills appellation, is made by Spago’s wine director, Christopher Miller, who has been making wine for the past five years (although he admits this is his first attempt with Pinot). Miller, who even harvested the grapes, added, “Greg [Brewer] makes sure that I don’t do anything stupid (an increasingly easier task, but he has the patience of a saint), acts as my assistant winemaker/consultant, and his cellar guy babysits my juice through élevage.”

For the wine, Miller chooses “extended lees contact instead of early sulfur additions,” which he says lowers the overall sulfur level and makes the wine approachable when young, without compromising its ability to age.

The wine itself was silky, with a vibrant core of wild berry, boysenberry and raspberry fruit that slowly revealed nuances of sage, tar and wild flowers, as a firm note of hot stones filled the long finish. I rated it 91 points, non-blind.

Spago offers the wine for $20 a glass or $85 a bottle. With 280 cases produced, Miller says, the wine is also available at Addison and the WineSellar & Brasserie, another Grand Award winner located in San Diego), as well as at Covell wine bar and retailer Wally's in Los Angeles, with additional distribution in the works.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Pinot Noirs from California’s Sta. Rita Hills.

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