Welcoming a Pioneering Wine to our Portfolio
The time has come! We’re thrilled to finally unveil a project that Andy and Fred have worked on for years. This wine is special in a dozen different ways, but most significantly because it’s a brand new addition to our portfolio of estate wines. (We haven’t introduced an entirely new wine since our Napuro in 2016.) Along with releasing the wine itself, we’re also telling the story of this inaugural release, why this grape is a unique choice for a Spring Mountain AVA winery, and how our debut 2019 vintage is tasting. So, without further ado, please welcome to the family the first-ever Schweiger Vineyards Pinot Noir!
Estate Pinot Noir
In a way, the creation of Schweiger Pinot Noir began back in 1999, exactly twenty years before this vintage. Ironically, Andy confesses that before ‘99, he didn’t care for Pinot Noir, but on a trip to France, our cork supplier took Andy to the Corton region of Burgundy. “The light came on!” he explains, “I LOVED Pinot. I just hadn’t had the right ones. Since then, I’ve sought out artisan Pinot makers.” Flash forward to 2016. There was an area of Chardonnay planted on the estate that was so cool we often had to pick it in the middle of our Cabernet harvest. After kicking around several ideas for what other grape would grow best in that two-acre block, we finally realized Pinot Noir would be a natural fit. As with most wine varieties, Pinot-lovers go crazy for specific regions, such as the Central Coast, Santa Lucia, etc. But Andy says, “They forget some of the most interesting plantings of Pinot Noir originated at elevation in Switzerland.” Right now, only one other winery in the Spring Mountain District is producing Pinot Noir, so the release of Schweiger Pinot is a massive deal for us and even for our community. It’s truly the beginning of something new and significant. Andy muses that maybe we’ll help ignite a trend since “we aren’t in one of the ‘perfect’ regions that cult aficionados pursue…we’re the new Pinot hot spot!”
Our property is 2,000 feet above the floor of the Napa Valley. On the mountain, our Pinot Noir takes on a much different look from our other varieties in this high, rocky elevation—extremely small and tight clusters (often smaller than a kitten’s head) with a color that’s equally as intense. Mountain climate and terroir can create an overly aggressive flavor if you’re not careful, so Andy’s attention to detail with tannin management makes a world of difference with the fruit. Even so, Pinot Noir requires a softer style of winemaking than Andy’s used to practicing with our Bordeaux varietals. When you compare Pinot Noir with Cabernet, it’s more fragile, and the crop yields are much lower, meaning it’s also a more expensive grape to farm. In the end, Pinot Noir is all about the clones, and there are hundreds of them. With nobody else in our neck of the woods really growing Pinot Noir, we had to do our own research, and eventually, we selected three clones—Swan, 777, and Pommard.
The summer of 2019 was our second run at Pinot Noir. The previous year in 2018, the crop level was too high, and Andy wasn’t pleased with the characteristics, so we sold the resulting wine. In 2020, the Pinot Noir crop was much smaller and we lost about 15% of that harvest to heat damage from the wildfire. Unlike the rest of the 2020 vintage, the Pinot from that vintage has shown no signs of smoke taint thus far. We’re very optimistic it’ll turn out clean and delicious. In the meantime, Andy says, “I picked up a few new tricks and ideas that I implemented for the 2021 Pinot Noir. It’s already in barrel and is flipping awesome!” (Andy didn’t actually say ‘flipping”). But back to 2019. That year, Andy approached the Pinot Noir with a far more judicious mindset than we had in 2018, and it did the trick. The 2019 vintage would be the first of its kind and a pioneer in our Pinot Noir program, with major flavor and an eye-catching ruby red color. You get tart, refreshing layers of cranberries and raspberries on the nose, with subtle dashes of vanilla spice. Upon entry, this wine has an ultra-fine silkiness that hovers above nicely balanced tannins and acidity. It’s both mouthwatering and easy to sip. The tangy berry aromas lingering around the glass don’t fade in the mouth but instead take the shape of pomegranate and fresh cherry flavors. Andy paired our 2019 Pinot Noir with a dry-brined New York Pork Loin covered in his Memphis Rub. He also suggests rich dishes like Lobster Bisque and Grilled Salmon or well-seasoned recipes for Paella and Jambalaya.
Harvesting grapes and making wine is always amazing. But the pseudo-secretive process of planting a brand new varietal on our estate, then experimenting with the farming, picking the fruit, handcrafting it into wine in the cellar, and then getting to announce it to the world? It’s a priceless, proud, and overwhelmingly cool experience for our family. Due to the very limited nature of our Pinot Noir, it will not be available for general purchase at this time. However, if you’re one of our members, you’ll be receiving at least one bottle of the inaugural 2019 vintage in your Fall Wine Club shipment. We’re very grateful for all of your support and kindness, and we’re extremely excited to hear what you think of Schweiger Vineyards Pinot Noir. Cheers!