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Aubert Hi-Octane, Hi-Regard Pinot Noir

Owner and winemaker Mark Aubert has had a distinguished winemaking career including a 12-year stint at Peter Michael in Knight’s Valley where he followed Helen Turley. Aubert succeeded Turley again several years later at Colgin Cellars. He grew up in the Napa Valley where he was more likely to drink wine and Champagne than beer. His father was a pharmacist who crafted Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon at home. Aubert graduated from California State University at Fresno with a degree in enology and minors in chemistry and viticulture. He began his winemaking career at Monticello where he made their first lees-stirred Corley Reserve Chardonnay. He subsequently struck up a friendship with Helen Turley, who was consulting for Peter Michael at the time. When the assistant winemaker at Peter Michael departed in 1989, Turley hired Aubert. In 2000, Aubert left Peter Michael to become the winemaker for Colgin and concurrently, started his own label, Aubert Wines.

Aubert acquired a 7-acre Chardonnay vineyard in the Vine Hill area of the Russian River Valley in 2001 and renamed it Lauren Vineyard after his daughter. Nearby he planted another vineyard with 6 acres of Chardonnay and 1.5 acres of Pinot Noir and named it Reuling Vineyard.

Aubert formed a close relationship with noted vineyardist, Ulises Valdez, and Valdez became his vineyardist and viticultural partner. Valdez crossed the border from Mexico at the age of 16, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen and now directs a successful vineyard management firm and vineyards including the UV Vineyard. Aubert crafts the wines for the Valdez label. Currently, Aubert has three vineyard designated Chardonnays (Ritchie Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, and Lauren Vineyard, Sonoma Coast; the Quarry Vineyard bottling was discontinued after the 2005 vintage), and two Pinot Noirs (Reuling Vineyard and UV Vineyard, both located in the Sonoma Coast appellation). Both the Reuling Vineyard and UV Vineyard, which are juxtaposed, are farmed organically, and the plantings include Old World Pinot Noir selections including a famous source in Vosne-Romanee (Calera clone). Newer plantings of 15 acres of Pinot Noir are scheduled to produce a wine in 2008.

Aubert has a love for Burgundy, particularly Chardonnay, but with red Burgundies he is a fan of Dujac, Jayer, Leroy and Meo-Camuzet. Aubert’s first release under his own label was a Chardonnay from the now famous Russian River Valley Ritchie Vineyard in 2000. His initial Pinot Noir release was the 2003 Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. UV Vineyard Pinot Noir was added in 2004. A proprietary Bordeaux blend wine from Howell Mountain was added with the 2006 vintage. Aubert still doesn’t have his own winery, instead crafting his wine at a custom crush facility, Laird Family Estate Winery, in Napa Valley.

Aubert Chardonnays are extraordinary and rank in the upper echelon of California along with Kistler, Kongsgarrd, Littorai, Marcassin and Peter Michael. The Pinot Noirs are highly praised by many wine writers who value a fruit-forward and opulent style. I love the full-throttle Aubert style in Chardonnays, but not as much in Pinot Noir.

Aubert wines are truly cult wines highly coveted and tightly allocated. None of the winery’s 4,000 case annual production is sold to retail wine stores. On the secondary market, the wines sell for triple or quadruple the mailing list price of around $80 per bottle. The waiting list is filled with hopefuls who must wait years to be allocated a few bottles. 707-963-4569. Sign up for the waiting list at www.aubertwines.com.

The Aubert Pinot Noirs from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages reviewed below are all similar exhibiting a ripe, lush, fruit-driven hedonism with reigned-in tannins, high natural acidity and unusually high alcohol levels. Obviously there is no watering back practiced in these wines. The wines would not be considered nuanced or subtle, or classically styled Pinot Noir. They manage to hold onto their balance pretty well but as they warm in the glass, the alcohol begins to stick out and they become “boozy.” I like to use the analogy of a one-night stand: long legs, sexy and exciting on embrace, but leaving you with an empty feeling after the affair. Upfront pleasure followed by a slam down. I prefer the Reuling Vineyard bottlings in every vintage tasted, all of which show a tad more restraint. The wines were tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and although they held on to their pretty fruit, the alcohol was more evident on the nose. These are wines to drink young. Over time the fruit will fade, but the alcohol will never change and become a more prominent feature.

2007 Aubert Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.6% alc., $80. · Very dark purple color. Complex nose of purple fruits, spice, sage, cola, charcoal and oak. Full-on attack of saturating plum reduction sauce on the palate with some sweetness. Fruit-driven and linear with restrained tannins and a long, dry, decadent finish. Very good.

2007 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.8% alc., $80. · Moderately dark reddish-purple in the glass. Scents of deep, dark berry jam, forest floor and spice with a hint of alcohol. Rich and mouth coating cherry and berry core with an appealing velvety texture. A hint of dark chocolate and cola adds interest. Hard not to like the flamboyant fruit. Liquid viagra. Very good.

2006 Aubert Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.6% alc., $80. Aged 14 months. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Intensely fruity aromas augmented by a loamy, funky and toasted oak undertone. On the palate there is slightly candied and loamy strawberry and cherry fruit that is very clean and juicy. Harmonious t n ‘a. Goes down easy. Very good.

2006 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.8% alc., $80. · Deep reddish-purple robe. Slightly stewed dark fruit showing scents of raisins and prune. An underlying earthiness is evident in the aromas and flavors. Full-bodied and intense overripe fruit with a hint of tea, encased in moderate tannins leading to a dry finish. For fans of the ripe style of California Pinot Noir. Decent.

2005 Aubert Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.6% alc., $80. Aged for 14 months. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromas evolve with time revealing black cherries, plenty of toasted oak and Asian spices. Rich, luscious core of cherry and berry fruit with a slight smoky edge. The sandpaper tannins are restrained and the finish is fruity and dry. A linear, fruit-driven unctuous wine. Very good (-).

2005 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.8% alc., $80. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose evolves over time developing attractive black cherry and blackberry fruits. Intense and fruit-driven dark cherry and berry core that is earthy and meaty. Relatively thick in the mouth with grainy tannins and good balancing acidity. Even more intensity and cajones than the Reuling bottling. Very good (-).

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