2009 La Follette Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard

Year: 2009
Appellation: Sonoma Mountain
Country: USA - California
Wine Spectator: 90
Wine Advocate: 92+
Connoisseurs' Guide: 89
Wine Enthusiast: 93
Red Wine
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"Firm and spicy, with juicy wild berry and raspberry fruit that shows a touch of jam. Medium- to full-bodied, this glides along on the finish where the berry flavors have subtle pockets of flavor. Drink now through 2019. 429 cases made." (WS)

"The 2009 Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard shows the deeper, wilder side of Pinot. Sweet herbs, tobacco, licorice and mint add complexity to the fruit in this highly expressive, singular wine. The Van Der Kamp stands out for its structured personality. There is less early appeal here, but no shortage of potential. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2019.

I was very impressed with the wines I tasted from La Follette. The Chardonnays are aged on their lees in French oak barrels with batonnage. The wines show a lot of site-specific character and are very reasonably priced considering the quality of what is in the bottle. The Pinots are fermented first in open top vats, then finish fermenting in French oak barrels. Both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations are carried out with ambient yeasts and bacteria." (WA)

"Not-so-subtle suggestions of dried herbs, pine and balsam in the nose steer this one a little wide of the classic varietal mark, and, if fairly fruity with a bent to ripeness once in the mouth, the wine once again shows a slight herbal edge. It is supple at entry, but acidity comes on strong to firm and then stiffen things at the finish. There are interesting pieces at work here, to be sure, but time in the bottle and perhaps a bit of luck are needed to bring cohesion and focus to what is now a scattered wine. Reviewed: February 2012" (CG)

"Earns its high score by virtue of sheer power. Just explodes in the mouth with raspberry and cherry fruit, as well as spicy complexities of cola, red licorice and smoky oak. Dry and full-bodied for a Pinot Noir, it’s a little brawny now, but should develop bottle complexity over the next 6–8 years." (WE)

Winery Notes:
The Van der Kamp family has been tending the vines from this north-facing vineyard, the crown jewel of Sonoma Mountain, for over four decades. At 1400 ft. elevation, the ranch overlooks the valley and the hamlet of Kenwood. The patchwork of soil types includes loam with volcanic material and decomposed river bed. Six different clones of Pinot thrive here, with the oldest plantings dating from the early 1960s. Cared for with organic treatments, including some dry-farmed blocks, the vineyard sits next to the family home, fruit orchard, goat pen and vegetable garden.

The Van der Kamp family and friends picked a total of five lots over three weeks for La Follette in the 2009 vintage. Often the harvest was executed vine by vine, depending on the ripeness of smaller sections within a block; truly remarkable in this day of commercial viticulture.

Picking usually began at midnight to deliver fruit cool to the winery in the early morning. Each of these lots were fermented and aged separately, to allow for more choices in crafting the final blend. We fermented a percentage of fruit whole-cluster to add a fresh, fruity note to the overall blend. Cold soaks and primary fermentations were done in our open-top, modified dairy tanks and the tanks were drained and basket-pressed before dryness into French oak barrels.

This intensely aromatic wine displays sage, rosemary, pine duff with a touch of leather. A gentle entry of red currant, cocoa powder, and tamari evolves to an earthiness and cinnamon stick. The palate layers textures of mountain tannins entwined with velvety malolactic notes. With time in opened bottle, the wine displays more red fruit and spice characteristics. A structured, Old-World-style Pinot, this offering will further appreciate with cellar time.