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Sampling of Pinot Noir under Diageo Ownership

Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines is a large global premium drink business encompassing numerous brands of spirits, beer and wine. The company has offices in over 80 countries and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (DEO). Diageo was formed in 1997 with the merger of Guiness and GrandMet and is headquartered in London. The name Diageo comes from the Latin word for day (dia) and the Greek word for world (geo).

Recently I was offered samples of Pinot Noirs from three Diageo properties: Acacia, Beaulieu Vineyard, and Orogeny. The Acacia label was started in 1979 by ophthalmologist Robert Sinskey and subsequently sold to Chalone who managed it through many successful years. There have been a long string of distinguished winemakers at Acacia. Acacia owns over 150 acres of prime vineyards in Napa Carneros. Beaulieu Vineyard, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour, is a Napa icon, known for its long and venerated history and Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon offerings. Beaulieu planted vineyards in Carneros in the 1960s from which they currently source their Pinot Noir. Orogeny is a newer label founded in 2002, sourcing fruit from vineyards managed by the Dutton Company in Green Valley and Mark Pasternak in Marin County.

2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $18. Not a name that comes to mind when you think of Pinot Noir, but the last two vintages have been quite good and this is a label to seek out. The Reserve in 2005 was particularly memorable. I received no specific winemaking information, but from the website it would appear several days of cold soak is followed by fermentation in 18-ton stainless steel fermenters with pneumatic punch downs. Some 25% whole cluster is used. · Deep, dark ruby color. Brims with lovely aromas of sweet crushed berries, black cherries, and dried roses. Dark red and black fruits cascade nicely through the palate with complimentary flavors of mocha and oak. Nicely balanced and offering an appealing fuzzy texture. Impressive wine for the money and the best for drinking now in the Diageo lineup.

Beaulieu Vineyard is located at 1960 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford. The tasting room is open daily from 10-5. Tasting charges vary from $10 to $25 pp. Production is a startling 1,400,000 cases annually. A team of three winemakers is headed by Joel Aiken. The website is www.bvwines.com.



2006 Orogeny Green Valley of Rusian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc.,10,200 cases, $40. Winemaker for Orogeny is noted cool-climate specialist, Dan Goldfield (also Dutton-Goldfield). · Mineral-inflected and crushed berries and cherries with spice. Demure dark red Pinot fruits nicely accented with oak. Very silky in texture with moderate tannins indicating a bright future. Nice drink.

2006 Orogeny Fox Den Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 330 cases, $37. An 8 acre vineyard owned by Ed and Sue Smith on the western edge of Green Valley. · The nose is more typical of white wine showing tropical fruits, citrus and vanilla. Black cherry core with noticeable oak char and tannins, finishing with citrus tang. This one is disjointed and unwelcoming.

2006 Orogeny Redding Ranch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 600 cases, $60. The vineyard site has been in the Redding family since 1873. Located at the top of a steep ridge above the fog line. Rocky soils, maritime breezes, very low yields, and small berries. · Noticeably deep color. Beautiful rich and concentrated dark stone fruits and berries with a hint of roasted marshmallow. Highly extracted plumy fruit wrapped in oak is front and center, exhibiting a poached flavor. Interesting and complex, with hints of roasted nuts and tangerine peel. Smooth and creamy with nicely restrained tannins. This wine has a lot of cajones and was actually drinking better two days later from a re-corked opened bottle. This one will reward the adventurous.

Orogeny wines are distributed through retail channels and are not sold on the website at www.orogeny.com. The name, orogeny, comes from the Greek words oro (mountain), and - geny (birth). The last orogenic episode geologically in Sonoma County created Green Valley. The business address is 240 Gateway Rd. West, Napa. 1-877-254-4250.



2006 Acacia Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 54,000, $23. Sourced from estate grapes and nearby Winery Lake Vineyard and Lone Tree Vineyard. · Leading off are aromas of red cherry, pine sap, oak, and animale. Redder fruits including red current and cranberry are featured with a heavy dose of oak. Light and elegant with minimal tannins. The oak overwhelms the fruit.

2006 Acacia Horseshoe Bend Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 357 cases, $65. · Very shy aromatics offering black cherry, sage, hay and a touch of alcohol. Dark stone fruits and berries on the palate with a dry and hot finish. Light and elegant.

2006 Acacia Lone Tree Vineyard Estate Grown Napa Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,690 cases, $55. · Reticent perfume dominated by pine and herb scents. Relatively closed at this time with pleasing flavors of cherry, savory herbs, and a citric tang on the finish. Noticeable tannins to shed.

2006 Acacia St. Clair Vineyard Napa Carneros Pinot Noir

13,8% alc., 200 cases, $75. · The best and most flamboyant nose in the lineup showing hi-tone strawberries and pleasing oak spice. The aromas are duplicated in the flavors. Light and feathery, yet showing a fair amount of tannin and ending with a tangy acidic edge.

Acacia Vineyard single vineyard Pinot Noirs have a distinct stylistic bent. They tend to be restrained and austere and lack the velvety texture that some drinkers may miss. I suspect that they will age very well. That said, these are very young wines which are not at all showy at this time. I plan to revisit them 6-9 months down the road. The noticeable acidity in the wines demands food if drunk now. The winery and estate vineyard are located at 2750 Las Amigas Rd, Napa. The winemaker is Matthew Glynn. Production is 300,000 cases annually. There is also single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Beckstoffer Vineyard ($75), DeSoto Vineyard ($55), and Winery Lake Vineyard ($55). The wines are sold on the website at www.acaciavineyard.com. Tasting is available daily by appointment. 707-226-9991.

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