In a rental tent over their crush pad at Foursight Winery in Boonville, Joe Webb and his wife Kristy Charles, and Kristy’s parents Bill and Nancy Charles, hosted a ten year vertical tasting, 2006 through 2015, of their Pinot Noir wines, made with fruit from the Charles Vineyard.
The light April rain that fell couldn’t dampen the spirits of the assembled tasters, or the enthusiasm of the event hosts, “it seems shocking this is our tenth vintage, it seems like we just started,” Bill Charles shared.
The event proceeded with each vintage being poured, Joe Webb describing the winemaking choices, Bill Charles describing the choices made in the vineyard, and Kristy Charles describing the wine flavors. The wines were poured in order from 2006 to 2015, with one exception; the 2008 vintage was poured last, as fires throughout California led to wines from Mendocino County with egregiously smoky forest fire notes.
All of the Foursight Pinot Noir come from the Charles Vineyard, of clones 777, 115, 114, and Pommard 05, with wild yeast and wild malolactic fermentation, are unfined and unfiltered (except the 2008 which say filtration), spend 10 months in French oak with varying percentages in new oak, and are made with 10-50% whole clusters.
The 2006 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard showed the ten years, with a slightly brickish rim and an aged wine sherry note.
Joe described the vintage as riper, and felt the wine had peaked.
Bill told of planting the vineyard in 2001, and explained that 2006 was the first year of commercial grape production, with the vines taken to trellis completely, and the vintage producing a large crop, necessitating dropping lots of fruit.
Joe shared that the family used the dropped fruit for a home wine, a sparkling Blanc de Noir.
Kristy said the wine was released in 2008 at a pouring in New York City, right as the economy was crashing, but that the wine was, “an amazing start to a first decade.”
2007 Foursight “All-In” Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard was holding up well, with a lighter rim than the 2006. For Joe this was his favorite of the early vintages, 2006 – 2009.
Joe noted this was the first vintage where he used whole clusters, and upon tasting it he noted it is , “turning savory.”
Bill described the vintage as, “unexciting,” from a growers standpoint, “which was great,” yielding, “one of my favorite wines, early, intense flavors in fruit, a good vintage.”
Kristy observed, “quite a bit of cellarability left.”
I picked up woody notes, pomegranate, light rhubarb, cranberry, cherry, raspberry, and bright acidity.
The tasting moved over the 2008, from 2007 to 2009.
2009 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard was described by Joes, along with 2007, as the, “vintages of the decade.”
Joe used, “Slightly more whole clusters, “ with this vintage and, “built more structure with stems, used less new oak, for structure and acidity.”
Bill shared that he used sprinklers for 72 hours for frost protection during the year but, “picked early, which was wonderful.” Joe then explained that he sees average 55 degree diurnal temperature swings daily.
Kristy observed that 2009 was, “the year we (Kristy and Joe) were married, the year the winery was built, the first year we poured at the [Anderson Valley] Pinot Noir Festival.”
Kristy pulled, “brown sugar, anise, and baking spice,” notes, to which I would add deeper black cherry and slight vinuous stemmy notes. The wine has some age worthiness left to it, still tightly wrapped and dense, a good wine to pair with food to coax those hidden notes free.
2010 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard was a medium colored, translucent wine, clear at the rim.
The nose showed cherry, cola, berry, spice and herb, with clove and cranberry on the palate. This was my favorite of the early, 2006 – 2010 vintages. I do love feminine Pinot, and this was a cool vintage, yielding just that.
Joe said he used, “less whole clusters and wasn’t getting as much tannin out of the press, so a little more new oak.”
Where other vintages come in around 175 days between bud break and harvest, Bill said this was a, “cool long vintage,” and took 203 days to bring in.
Interestingly, Bill described two days of extreme heat in August that sunburned the exposed lower tips of bunches, and required cutting off all sunburned grapes with little snips.
Kristy noted, “earth, oak, dark berry fruit, and good acid.”
2011 was a funny vintage, cold and rainy, and presented difficulties for grape growers and challenges for winemakers. Grapes that require lots of heat, Cabernet and Zinfandel come to mind, from the vintage yielded sub par wines in the vintage, but careful attention in the vineyard and good winemaking choices allowed some of my favorite wines to be made from cool climate areas,
2011 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard, with one deep inhalation, is a reminder of why I liked this difficult vintage. The color is light, light, light.
Joe said this was, “the coolest (temperature) vintage in California wine,” but Foursight, “brought in everything before the winter rains,” at Charles Vineyard.
Heat thickens skins, which give both color and tannin to a wine. Joe noted, “thin skins, pressed as hard as we could for color and tannin…old world techniques…no racking of this wine at all.”
Much of the vintage was used for a Rosé of Pinot Noir.
Bill brought the fruit in after 184 days, and saw rain from June 2-5, but missed the torrents of October.
Kristy said the wine was, “amazing in the mouth, lighter, smoother, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, softer,” than other vintages. I picked up bright sweet tart strawberry pie, cranberry, and vine.
2012 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard marks the first of four consecutive drought vintages.
This wine shows tons of nose and mouth, lovely integration, layers of fruit, tannin, strawberry, and cherry. Tons of ageability.
Joe noted he used, “30% whole cluster and 40% new oak, but reduced toast on the oak.”
My favorite note was Bill’s, “I don’t think I worked this year.”
2013 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard is the current release and available in the tasting room now.
“2013 was the first real ‘welcome to the drought’ year,” Joe told the tasters, “all the rain came in December and none after that, January and February were sunny every day.”
Joe noted, “the quality of the stems was higher than previous vintages, 40% whole cluster, backed down on toast on oak again, relied on skin and stem for tannin.”
Bill, “added more water because I had it, the pond did fill, stretching the stressed vines to 177 days, readings were really dry, it was a pretty good year from a grower’s standpoint.
I picked up cranberry and strawberry with clove spice. This is a studly wine with serious mouthfeel.
2014 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard has not been released yet, and was bottled in August 2015.
Joe shared that, ”stem quality saw me hit my upper limit for whole cluster at 50%.”
Bill shared that he, “double pruned the vineyard, and, “the fan was a tremendous help that saved the crop.”
2014 was the first year Charles Vineyard used a fan for frost mitigation, saving a ton of non existent water in the third of four drought years, in an ecological friendly, water conserving, growing manner.
“The vines knew it was a drought,” said Bill, continuing, “ 165 days and they knew they were in trouble,” leading to a short but flavorful vintage for the crop.
The 2014 showed intense dense candied fruit flavors, and will benefit from additional time in the bottle. I liked it very much.
2015 Foursight Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard was an assembled blend of barrel samples, served from Erlenmeyer flasks.
Brilliant color with light sediment, it tasted of yummy juicy-juice, Pinot flavored grape juice. I really liked this too, and though not close to a finished wine, it offers incredible promise of another great wine a couple of years from now.
Joe said the, “darker color was due to increased skin to juice ratio,” that resulted in smaller berries from a fourth year of drought.
Bill noted this was his, “second year of double pruning, “ and “a reduced crop load, 10-15% off average.”
2008 Foursight “All-In” Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard – I almost left this wine out. I just do not like it. There are very few Mendocino wines from the catastrophic 2008 vintage that I do like.
As a result of the 2008 vintage, smoke insurance has been added to insurance policies, like insurance against floods or earthquakes, and smoke taint has been added to contracts as a trigger for rejection of grapes by buyers.
Joe filtered this wine, using reverse osmosis, dumbing down the fruit a bit.
The wine is dark and rich in color and aroma, ripe and pungent, but marred by smoke taint.
Bill in the vineyard and Joe in the winery did everything they could to make a good wine, and there are people who will like it, or who have found perfect food pairings for it, but with nine wines in the line up that I enjoyed, I can honestly say this is my least favorite, and owing entirely to circumstances beyond control.
After the vertical tasting, guests were invited to rinse their glasses, choose their favorite wine from all poured, and fill plates for a delicious and visually gorgeous, colorful, lunch.
Thanks to Joe, Kristy, Bill, and Nancy for including me in a really lovely, educational, and enjoyable glimpse into ten years of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from Charles Vineyard at Foursight Winery.