When I moved to Sonoma County 20 years ago, one of the first winemakers I got to know was Mike Lee of Kenwood Vineyards. He had a touch with just about every wine, from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Zinfandel. His Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignons of the mid-1980s were some of the best Cabs in California.
Mike was a good soul. I don’t think I ever heard a bad thing said about him, and Wine Country is rather catty at times. Well, Mike died May 2 at the age of 66. He was doing one of his favorite things: hanging out on the golf course with friends.
I was thinking about Mike a few days ago when I saw a bottle of Kenwood Pinot Noir Russian River 2009 ($16) on a retail shelf. Mike sold his stake in Kenwood in the late 1990s but remained as winemaker until 2003.
I knew Mike hadn’t made the wine, but I was feeling nostalgic and bought a bottle. It was the sort of Pinot he would have made: supple and balanced, with smoky cherry, sage and mineral notes. I rated it 88 points, non-blind. I drank a glass and thought about all those great wines Mike might have made and we’ll never get to try.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the blind-tasting reviews for recent vintages of Kenwood wines.
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among California Pinot Noir.