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Kutch: Dedicated Work in Vineyards Made Difference in 2011

I first profiled Jamie Kutch in May 2005 after our first meeting (“Following Your Pinot Dream”, www.princeofpinot.com/article/235/). He was a greenhorn winemaker, an escapee from a lifetime in New York City and a tedious job at an investment bank, learning the vintner’s craft at the side of Michael Browne of Kosta Browne. Upon the encouragement from others who had left high-profile jobs to pursue winemaking careers such as Andrew Vingiello (A.P. Vin) and Brian Loring (Loring Wine Company), as well as Michael, he had quit his job,

talked his girlfriend into accompanying him, and moved to San Francisco to work in the nearby wine industry. In 2006, Jamie moved his production to Deerfield Ranch Winery in Sonoma Valley where Michael Browne first gained his winemaking experience under managing partner Robert Rex. Relying on his own resources and a loan from his father, Jamie launched his eponymous label, Kutch, and became an independent producer with no investors or employees. He crafted an Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, a McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Rosé from the 2006 vintage.

Before long, James Laube of the Wine Spectator, and other publications found Kutch’s story compelling, and considerable national publicity for his wines ensued. The first vintages were decent, but not riveting, and this was understandable as Jamie had little winemaking experience. He was obviously bright and passionate about making Pinot Noir, and caught on quickly after eagerly seeking out the advice of well-known Pinot Noir winegrowers and winemakers. He tasted hundreds of old California and Oregon Pinot Noirs, traveled to Burgundy on several occasions, and consumed as much Burgundy as possible to guide him in making his vinification choices.

From the beginning, Jamie was aware of the importance of obtaining premium vineyard sources for his wines, and sought out cool climate sites in the North Coast of California that he considered ideal for Pinot Noir. He also realized quickly that the growing cycle in California vineyards did not need to be prolonged since excessive hang time led to a loss of purity, freshness and brightness in the resultant wines. He turned to careful crop management and minimal irrigation toward the end of the growing cycle, finding that phenolics became ripe naturally at lower Brix.

Jamie only works with vineyards where he can become significantly involved in the farming and ones that allow him to buy by the acre. 2011 was the last vintage with Savoy Vineyard since placement in the vineyard and the farming and watering regime did not meet his lofty ideals.

Jamie hit the mark with his 2009 vintage Pinot Noirs. The very cool 2010 vintage was much more challenging and the wines, though good, were not as stellar. Applying the viticulture lessons he learned in 2010, he intensified his work in the vineyards in the similarly cool 2011 vintage, and notes, “In what many felt was a difficult vintage, we really made some amazing wines due to massive work in the vineyards.”



In 2012, Jamie moved into a new winery in Sonoma located on 8th street east, just south of the Sonoma Square. He bought 30 new tanks and processed a total of 58 tons or 3200 cases in 2012, a significant increase in production. Also in 2012, Jamie found a new fruit source in Hirsch Vineyard, working as he put it, very closely with David Hirsch. He now obtains more fruit from the esteemed McDougall Ranch (he shares this vineyard with Dan Goldfield of Dutton-Goldfield).



Practically all Kutch wines production is sold directly through a mailing list at www.kutchwines.com. Because of the increasing production, the list is still open. The winery is not open to the public. Jamie does not participate in large Pinot Noir events, believing that serious appreciation of the wines is not possible under the frenetic circumstances of this large venues. Look for him at the more intimate third annual Pursuit of Balance tastings in San Francisco, February 4, 2013, and/or Los Angeles, February 6, 2013 (visit www.inpursuitofbalance.com).

The reviews that follow are among the first to appear for the 2011 Kutch Pinot Noir wines. The mailing list members have not received offerings yet. Release dates are February 2013 for the Sonoma Coast and Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley bottlings, and August 2013 for the McDougall Ranch and Falstaff wines from the Sonoma Coast. These are ridiculously good wines and I encourage you to join the mailing list to grab a few bottles before the word gets out.

2011 Kutch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 1,160 cases, $39. Release February 2013. 7-day cold soak, native fermentations, 75% de-stemmed (twice daily punch down) and 25% whole cluster (crushed by foot), gravity movement of all wine, aged sur lie 10 months in 30% new and 70% used French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Beguiling aromas of black cherries, clove, nutmeg, orchid and redwood cask with aromas dancing in and out over time in the glass. Earthy flavors of black cherries, plums and black raspberries with a hint of oak anise in the background. Not the finish of the vineyard-designates, but very appealing now. Still fine the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.

2011 Kutch Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., 245 cases, $55. Release February 2013. 7-day cold soak, native fermentations, 50% de-stemmed (twice daily punch downs) and 50% whole cluster (crushed by foot), aged sur lie 10 months without racking in 100% neutral oak. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark red fruits, rose petals, jasmine, fruit leather. Moderately rich essence of black raspberries with an earthy soul. Caressing tannins, very smooth and polished, with some delicacy, finishing with uncommon persistence without weight. Very good (+).

2011 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 345 cases, $55. Release August 2013. 7-day cold soak, native fermentations, 50% de-stemmed and 50% whole cluster, all fruit crushed and punched down by foot, aged sur lie for 10 months without racking in 50% new and 50% used French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Striking nose offering extroverted scents of black cherries, spice, briar and rose petal. Mouth watering flavors of ripe black cherries and dark red berry jam, with a joyful hint of spice. Very soft and smooth, almost ephemeral, but with eye-opening fruit intensity. There is an extra depth of flavor on the finish that keeps rolling along just when you think it must be finally done. I was really taken by this wine, and as I sat in my chair, I kept looking at the glass and shaking my head in wonderment. Even better the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle. Similar in some ways to the great 2009 vintage of this wine, but more approachable and elegant in style.

2011 Kutch Falstaff Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.7% alc., 50 cases, $55. Release August 2013. 7-day cold soak, native fermentations, 50% de-stemmed and 50% whole cluster, all fruit crushed and punched down by foot, aged sur lie 10 months without racking in 50% new and 50% used French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose picks up intensity and interest over time in the glass, slowly revealing attractive aromas of blackberries, black raspberries and candied plum. Intensely fruity on the attack and mid palate, the broad flavors finishing with impressive length. Deep plum and dark berry flavors caressed in supple tannins with a velvety smooth mouth feel. A very subtle stem note in the background disappears and the flavors really blossom the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Give this wine some time in the cellar and you will be a happy camper.

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