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Wishful Drinking

Only those dedicated Pinot drinkers with fat wallets can drink really good (and usually expensive) Pinot Noir frequently. Most of us wish for a well-crafted, artisanal, complex, thoroughly enjoyable Pinot that we can stock our cellar proudly with at around a Jackson a bottle. Wishful thinking you say? Read on.

Aubin Cellars is an extension of Jérôme Aubin’s passion for wine and his years of experience in the wine industry. He has imported French oak barrels from Rousseau of Burgundy and Saint-Martin of Bordeaux for the last twelve years. Aubin visits more than 250 wineries in the United States and Canada annually and has developed a personal vision of the style of wine he wants to produce. A number of years ago, he met Fred Scherrer when Fred was the winemaker at Dehlinger, and Aubin helped him to run his barrel program. When Aubin founded Aubin Cellars in 2001, he enlisted Scherrer to craft the initial four vintages of Aubin Cellars Pinot Noir. I reviewed the 2002 Aubin Cellars Verve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in the PinotFile (Volume 4, Issue 16) and found it to be quite good, “a Dehlinger knockoff worth seeking out.”

In 2005, Jerome Aubin decided to make his wine in Oakland near his residence and enlisted the services of Loren Tayerle to make the wines. Tayerle’s background includes training in Viticulture and Enology at University of California Davis and Napa Valley College and winemaking positions at David Bruce Winery and Rosenblum Cellars Scherrer crafted the 2004 Aubin Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Tayerle made the 2004 Aubin Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

In 2006, two tons of Pinot Noir were crushed in Oregon and added to the portfolio of wines. A Columbia Valley (Washington State) Syrah is available now, and in 2007, there will be a California Syrah. The vineyard sources for the grapes for Aubin Cellars wines cannot be revealed due to contractual obligations. Each of the appellation wines are from two or three different vineyards to insure complexity in the final blend.

The wines are made in very small lots (not exceeding 2 tons of grapes) in a very hands-on fashion. 100% de-stemmed. Fermentation is carried out in small open top stainless steel fermenters. The must is hand-pressed using a basket press. The wines are aged an average of 17 months in 40% new French barrels (Rousseau and Francois Freres). The wines are bottle aged six months before release.

The wines from Aubin Cellars are actually labeled “Verve.” This is a catchy noun that means energy or vitality in the expression of artistic ideas. The labels also feature beautiful pieces of art which fits the theme of creative enthusiasm nicely.

2004 Verve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 150 cases, $22. 80% Sonoma Coast fruit from a vineyard close to the Pacific Ocean and 20% Carneros Swan clone fruit. Vine age averages six years. Harvested at average 25° Brix. The label artist is Michelle Bonnetain of France. · This is an amazingly pure wine of great vim and vigor. The nose is perfumed beautifully with cranberry, cherry, spice and vanilla oak notes. There are more flavors here than Baskin Robbins: plump crushed cherries, herb tea, mocha, and a little earthiness. My notes say excellent (which is underlined) and that pretty much sums it up. A complete wine and the best California Pinot Noir I have tasted this year for around $20. Jackson would be proud. Pledge allegiance.

2004 Verve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 160 cases, $27. This wine is from a premium vineyard in the Russian River Valley with vines averaging ten years in age. Harvested at average 26° Brix. The label artist is Gerard Schneider of France. · I love the aromatics which feature bright red cherries, Xmas spices and a little bit of what the French call “ca sent la merde.” With air time, the wine improves noticeably, the texture becoming smooth and the cherry cola fruits explode on the palate. Medium-bodied and nicely balanced, this Pinot finishes with lively acidity that is searching for some good food.

Aubin Cellars Verve, 6050 Colton Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611. The phone is 866-353-7398. The wine may be purchased through the website at www.aubincellars.com. Retail distribution is primarily in Northern California. There is a mailing list signup on the website.

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