2015 Kutch Pinot Noir
I have written extensively about the journey of Jamie Kutch from a novice winemaker to a current producer of
ultra premium Pinot Noir of the highest regard.
In his 2017 Spring Release Letter, Jamie noted that the quality of the 2015 Pinot Noirs “was astonishing even
with the diminished yields.” He reported the earliest and shortest harvest on record. Yields ended up down 40%
overall versus the winery’s historic averages and at McDougall Ranch, yields were down over 60%. Jamie
claimed, “2015 is truly distinct in character and will hold its own among the so called ‘great’ vintages we have
After making a number of inquiries for several years, Jamie was able to acquire some coveted Pinot Noir fruit
from Signal Ridge Vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge AVA. This vineyard is planted at the highest elevation of all
Sonoma and Mendocino County vineyards at 2,800 feet. There are just 17 acres planted (see photo below).
The superb Pinot Noirs in this vintage exhibited true vintage character. The wines were less extracted than the
same wines in 2014, and although fermented 100% whole cluster, the whole cluster character was well
integrated, adding nuance and texture without being the dominant feature of the wines. I asked Jame to
comment on my observations.
“The low yields had a big influence on the chemistry, intensity, character and quality of the wines. Because
yields were down so much and because there were so few grapes on each cluster, we chose to perform extra
gentle extraction so as to not over extract what I believed was an ultra intense vintage. We did not cold soak
and punched down far less than in previous vintages. We also got the juice off the skins as early as we could.
The implications were that the wines had less whole cluster character even though they were vinified with
100% whole cluster inclusion. In very intense vintages where there is very little juice in the berries and in
relation large amounts of skin, logic would say to under extract as the fruit and juice is already so intense. This
is what we set out to accomplish. It was the correct decision in striving to make the most balanced expression
of Pinot Noir we can from the sites we work so closely with.”
The wines all showed gorgeous color, enviable vibrancy and admirable balance. They are enjoyable now, but
still need more time in the cellar to fully integrate tannins and reach ideal harmony. The wines were better and
better over several days after opening. The tannins add textural interest rather than astringency. One of the
best things you can say about the wines is that the fruit is not over ripe.
The wines are sold through a mailing list. Tastings are available by appointment: email
2015 Kutch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 750 cases, $39. Sourced from two distinct vineyards
representing the extreme northwestern edge of the AVA and the southernmost tip of the AVA. 3-day lag time,
100% whole cluster, fruit crushed and punched down by feet, native yeast primary fermentation and native
malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged 17 months in the lees in neutral French oak barrels without racking.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. More fruity nose upon opening with
aromas of tutti-fruity, cherry, rose petal and spice, evolving to a more savory aromatic profile over time. The mid
weight core of lovely black cherry and black raspberry fruit is accented with cardamom spice and a floral
infusion. Satiny in texture with a somewhat sinewy tannic backbone, the wine finishes with a noticeable grip of
tannin. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 Kutch Bohan Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.46% alc., 125 cases, $49. George
Bohan farms the original vines his father planted 40+ years ago. The original plantings are dry farmed
and on their own rootstock. Soil is sandstone. 3-day lag time, all fruit crushed and punched down by
foot, native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged 17 months
on the lees in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. An
impressive terroir-driven wine that leads with attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, mushroom,
sous-bois, spice and floral notes. A bit rustic and earthy, while still offering a delightful array of dark
red fruits. The sinewy tannins are in harmony with the wine’s juicy acidity as part of impeccable
balance. The silky texture is dreamy as is the elegant demeanor. The best thing you can say about this wine is
that you want to keep on drinking it. Stunning when tasted four days later.
2015 Kutch Falstaff Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.3% alc., 250 cases, $62. Vineyard is located at
the extreme western edge of the AVA, 8.4 miles from the Pacific Ocean on the second inland ridge. The
vineyard, planted in 2001, is the coldest site Kutch works with. Clones “828,” 777 and 115. Soil is marine quartz
sandstone and Goldridge. Berries are often the size of peas and yields are often below 1 ton per acre. 3-day
lag time, fruit crushed and punched down by foot, 100% whole cluster, native yeast primary fermentation and
native malolactic fermentation, aged for 17 months on the lees in 100% neutral French oak without racking.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is quite alluring, with
fruit (black cherry, ollaliberry, exotic spice, floral and savory (wet mulch, underbrush) aromas. A generous
charge of black cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors flood the mouth with pleasure framed by
supportive tannins. The most sappy wine in the 2015 lineup, although the natural acidity offsets and offers
vibrancy and even a bit of tartness on the finish. The wine enters better than it finishes, but when tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the finish was more lingering and further time in
the bottle should righten this shortcoming.
2015 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.78% alc., 350 cases, $59. This vineyard is a mere 3.5 miles
inland from the Pacific Ocean at 935 feet elevation. Farming is
directed by Ulises Valdez. Planted in 1998 to clone 114 in
Graywacke and sandstone soil. 3-day lag time, fruit crushed
and punched down by foot, 100% whole cluster, native yeast
primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation in
barrel, aged on the lees for 17 months without racking in neutral
French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Enticing aromas of cherry, rose petal and spice are echoed in the teasing
flavors that bring an uncommon goodness to play. The wine delivers a
special experience from the attack, through the circus of fruit on the mid palate, and on the enduring finish that exceeds all the other wines in the 2015 lineup in
length. There is a tug of tannin on the finish but this will ameliorate with more time in the bottle. When tasted
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the aromas of cherry, spice, rose petal and
burnt tobacco were seductive and the infusion of whole cluster character into the fruit profile was orgasmic.
2015 Kutch Signal Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $52. 100% whole
cluster, native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation, aged 17 months in
100% neutral French oak barrels without racking. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
purple color in the glass. This wine shows that Jamie knows what to do when he gets special grapes,
even though this is his inaugural effort from this vineyard. Haunting aromas of black cherry,
blackberry, spice and brioche create a party in the nose. Fresh black cherry extract floods the mouth
complimented with hints of oak and earth. The tannins are sturdy enough, but more modest in this wine. The
striking finish has intense cherry goodness and impressive length. This wine is a real charmer and very
approachable now. The wine still showed exceptional balance when tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle indicating potential for longevity.