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Elk Prairie Vineyard: Native American Pinot

A few issues back, I featured a winery in Humboldt County named Whitethorn. In the same vicinity, is Elk Prairie Vineyard. Alan Estrada, a Luiseno and member of the San Luis Rey tribe (his ancestors tended the vines at California’s San Luis Rey Mission), and his wife Sandra ignored much skepticism and planted the Elk Prairie Vineyard on Fruitland Ridge in 1992. The 10-acre vineyard and winery is situated at 1,200 feet elevation in heavily shaled soil above the ancient redwoods in southern Humboldt County. Fruitland Ridge gets its name from Dutch immigrants who successfully farmed fruit orchards here. Today the Ridge is closely-planted to grapes which are dry farmed and hand cultivated.

The site is a unique microclimate with warm days tempered by morning fog rising from the Eel River below. After harvesting the grapes at Elk Prarie, the wines are fermented in small 1/2 ton macro bins located outdoors in the shade of the winery. The cap is punched down by hand. Aging is in 30% new French oak. Handling is minimized and the wines are unfined and unfiltered.

Production is about 700 cases per year. Some grapes are sold to nearby Briceland Vineyards and Woodenhead who both bottle a vineyard-designate Elk Prairie Pinot Noir. All of the wines feature some earthiness, darker fruits, and good acidity.

2004 Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

13.0% alc. $22. · The nose is more red fruits - raspberries and strawberries and the flavors trend toward black raspberry. There is appealing notes of earth and minerality. The lingering finish features taut and dusty tannins. A very nice Pinot.

2002 Briceland Vineyards Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.. Briceland Vineyards is located at 5959 Briceland Rd, Redway, CA 95560. 707-923-2429. Tasting by appointment. Several white varietals and sparkling wine are also produced. · The nose is oak-driven with flashes of heat. A decent core of fruit features dark cherries and plums with a kiss of earth and shrooms. The finish is clean and bright.

2002 Woodenhead Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc. Woodenhead is a small artisanal producer of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel sourced primarily from vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley. The owner and winemaker is Nikolai Stez. The phone is 707-887-2703. The wines are offered on the website at www.woodenheadwine.com. · The aromas trump the flavors here. The perfume of deep, dark cherries and spicy oak draw you in. Blackberry and black cherry compose the flavor profile accented with a char note. A touch of phenolic bitterness mars the finish.

2002 Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $22. · The distinctive aromatics feature black raspberry, raisin and oak. The dark fruit core is highlighted by herbs and mocha and the finish is brisk. Some slight oxidation is creeping in.

Elk Prairie Vineyard is located at 11544 Dyerville Loop Road, Myers Flat, CA 95554. The phone is 707-943-3498. The wines may be ordered from the website at www.elkprairievineyard.com.

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