The Pinot Czarina
Lane Tanner is a California treasure. Working at Konocti
Winery in Lake County on the bottling line in the mid 1970s,
her employer found out she had a degree in chemistry and
put her in the lab. The first day she was in the lab, she was
introduced as the new enologist to the winery’s consultant,
Andre Tchelistcheff. The only problem was that Lane had
no clue what an enologist was. Andre kept telling the winemaker,
“Have Lane test this, have Lane test that.” Fortunately,
Andre liked her spunk and her future career was
born. Her experience with Andre has led to her current
alias, “Pinot Czarina.”
Lane moved on to Firestone Winery in Santa Barbara County
and then started her own label, Lane Tanner Winery, in
1984. She was previously married to the owner of the
Hitching Post restaurant and made the house wine for that
restaurant made famous in the movie Sideways.
She now produces about 1,500 cases of Pinot Noir and Syrah
at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria. Her style of
winemaking is distinctive. She strives for elegance and
avoids high and intrusive alcohol at all costs. Oak treatment
is understated, with 20-30% new French oak used during a 12-18 month period in barrel. She
remains a one-woman show and does everything from start to finish herself. You won’t find her wines
prominently promoted, but pinotphiles know to buy everything she makes every year. The 2005
lineup is the best since 1986 according to Lane and she calls them the “Yum Yum Lineup.”
2005 Lane Tanner Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 556 cases, $24.50. The back label
says, “Dogs, Men, Wine, I Love Them All.” A drop of Syrah in this one.
Terrific aromatics of toasty
spiced cherries. A wine of finesse with tart cherry, pomegranate and oak spice flavors. Very light on its
feet and thoroughly satisfying. As Lane says, goes with everything and everyone.
2005 Lane Tanner Bien Nacido Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 264 cases, $30. The back
label says, “When are we going to live, if not now?” Sourced from 30 year old vines in the Bien Nacido
Vineyard (almost as old as Lane).
This Pinot has a really nice perfume of ripe cherries, cassis and toast.
The wine has more backend power than the wine above with a sexy cherry kiss at the end which lasts an
eternity. Very nicely composed and balanced. Who says great Pinot Noir can’t be made at 13% alcohol?
I have seen the Chapel of Love and it is good.
2005 Lane Tanner Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 375 cases, $33.
is the richest wine of the lineup but still has lively acid for balance. Decant this wine or wait an hour after
pouring a glass or you will be cussing Lane that she sold you a bill of goods! Once it flowers, it offers an
attractive nose of plums and currents with a plump mouth feel and a fruit and herbal finish. A little alcohol
peaks out on the nose with time. I would drink the above two wines and cellar this busty one for later enjoyment.
Lane Tanner Winery wines are available in Santa Barbara County retail stores and on the winery
website at www.lanetanner.com. Join the Pinot Czarina Wine Club for discounts.