TN: 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)

  • 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (2/5/2016)
    Spoiler alert: This is delicious and I can’t think of any other domestic Pinot better than this for the money! All but one glass consumed on day 1 over four hours; clear, light ruby in color; floral and gently-sweet red fruit nose; delicate strawberry and light cherry taste, with baking spice; after an hour, more of a baked ginerbread nose and flavor; really pretty; very balanced, no rough edges and a touch of minerals; such balance here; you can taste the use of whole-stem in every sip; 12.3% ABV is wonderful. (92 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Trent, thanks for posting this note. As I commented to you over on CT, you have it right here: this is a terrific wine and every year, a helluva value. Beautifully made, low alcohol yet not short on flavor. I’ll offer my recent note in support of yours, posted below.

  • 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (1/10/2016)
    Open and immediately poured a taste. Pure aromatic, no stem or whole cluster to speak of (yet I know the wine contains 100% whole cluster), with light crushed rock, spice and strawberry. Just delicious right out of the chute with pure and vibrant red cherry, blueberry and strawberry and a brushing of whole cluster. Really quite approachable with no air. Finishes with light minerality.

Posted from CellarTracker

Big fan of this wine in every vintage. Question for you guys, which of you is correct on the whole cluster %?

From Jamie’s notes, 2013 SC was 100% whole cluster, as was 2012 SC. 2014 is 60%.

If you can taste whole cluster in every sip, then it is almost definitionally not subtle. And Kutch uses whole cluster like Dominique Laurent uses oak (though I’m intrigued that he finally dialed it down in 2014. Maybe worth a revisit.)

Bob, good point on the 100% vs the 40% whole-stem I originally noted. I went back to Jamie’s notes to verify. I was probably reading other notes while writing this.

David, I see your point on my use of the word “subtle” and how it may be confusing. I’ve removed in my edit but what I meant was it wasn’t an overblown, pronounced “stemmy” or green flavor but rather a subtle flavor in the background of each sip. Something I enjoyed.

Had one of these on Saturday, contrary to Frank’s note I really think these need some air time to come together. On PnP the acidity can be a bit overwhelming to everything else underneath, I decanted 4 hours and thought everything showed more in balance. Good wine that could become really good wine with another 3-4 years in bottle.

Wonderul pinot. Had 2 bottles so far. I did have an off bottle of this the other night. Almost spritzy.

I have had 2 bottles of the 2013 that seemed a little “bright” but after 30+ minutes of air they came around very nicely. Love this wine. I think a couple of years in the cellar will do it a lot of good.

I would enjoy adding a few things on a slow Monday post San Francisco Super Bowl.

Waxing poetically here…

For my own taste the majority of California Pinot Noirs bring an image impression of a round circle without edges. That is not the case with the small handful of producers who use stem inclusion. The stems add an edge to the wine. They take that round circle and turn it more into what might be perceived as a bicycle gear with edges but still with it’s original round shape. For me, the wine with edge, is far more complex and intriguing than the perfectly round circle wine.

Another thought:

A lot of wines after fermentation are like paintings that hang on a wall without a frame. They look or appear unfinished. A frame pulls the painting together. Often, with some wines that are rather simple, 100% new oak is added to frame the wine. The wood can often though scar the wine as the oak can be smelled and tasted. That new oak barrel isn’t a part of the original terroir of the vineyard and can overtake the wine actually overshadowing the terroir. Maybe the producer feels they need to add structure to their wine and they in turn use that new oak which adds wood tannin but at a cost. What’s great about stems is that they are a part of the terroir, part of the plant. Falstaff has stems that taste more stemmy than McDougall’s stems. That is the signature of the terroir. Stems are obviously wood and add a tannin but that wood or tannin is integrated during the fermentation, not after the wine is made like what happens when aging in new oak. In 2014 and 2015 we completely removed any new oak from our wines to 100% neutral oak for this reason. We don’t need the additional structure. Our wines get framed during fermentation and don’t need framing during elevage which for my own taste again often leaves a wine scared.

If two chefs have two pieces of beef from the same cow and are asked to cook the beef for a cook-off, and are given no other ingredients, I want to eat the steak from the chef who realizes that he had a few salt packs in his pocket. The salt brings out another flavor dimension which is unobtainable without salt. Making wine isn’t much different than cooking albeit it’s much slower. Stems are my salt and add a wealth of flavors and complexity and character which is achievable without them. It’s an extra ingredient. It adds a third dimension. It acts as a natural preservative, protecting against oxidation. Can the steak taste salty? Sure it can. Can the stems smell stemmy, sure they can but they can also take a wine to heights that are achievable without using stems. Could that be why DRC, Leroy, Dujac, Roumier and others often use 100% stem inclusion? I am not sure but with California’s exorbitant sunshine, we are gifted with phenolics which stems love. Ever wonder why DRC uses 100% whole cluster only in highly phenolically ripe vintages? Should I be comparing Burgundy, probably not but there just aren’t enough wines, producers and track records here to do the same. That said, the best and greatest California Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted included producers who used 100% whole cluster. OLD bottlings of Mount Eden, Chalone, Calera, etc.

When one makes a Pinot Noir at 12.1% alcohol, the wine can often taste light in body. The alcohol or glycerin seizes to provide the backdrop of length and stick to the sides of the mouth. To counter-balance and add power, length and body, I let high levels of stem inclusion do the work. They take a round wine and broadens it’s shoulders, building it up. I have done the experiment multiple times in multiple vintages & in multiple vineyards and always received the results. It goes like this: 5 experiments: 100% de-stem vs. 25% whole cluster, vs. 50% whole cluster, vs. 75% whole cluster, vs. 100% whole cluster. All from the same vintage, same vineyard, same pick date, same clone, same exposure. Fermented identically. Elevage in the same aged barrels, same cooper. When it comes down to tasting, complexity goes up and up and up and up from the de-stemmed wine to the 100% whole cluster wine. The de-stemmed wine just isn’t even close to the whole cluster wine in terms of complexity. Those experiments have caused myself to not enjoy making de-stemmed wine. For my style, with my own hands and my vineyards, I find them inferior.

There is no wrong or right in wine. Everything above is an opinion. Drink what you like. My journey of 11 years making wine and 20 years of hardcore exploration and drinking has taken me to this point. I make wines for my own taste. Hopefully others find as much pleasure in them as I do.

Thank you for explaining your philosophy in more detail Jamie. Your comments about the circle ring true for me. In the past I have enjoyed California Pinot, but found it too smooth - lacking edges. Your wines, Rhys, some Littorai (not sure how they do it, as I thought they were no stems) and a couple of others have more of the structure, the edges that I like to grab onto, and that I think are crucial for development over the longer term.

Good stuff, Jamie.
Nothing really comes close than actually TASTING a wine and then forming opinions.

Jamie, thank you for bringing those comments to the thread here. I learned from your post and appreciate it and your wines, man.

Great post, Jamie! Thank you.

What a fantastic post. Thank you for taking the time as a winemaker to share your philosophy and how you bring it to life it in the cellar.

There is a bit of hot air, gas and speculative noise on this board about vintners’ motives and practices (I’ve added my share no doubt). So to hear a producer explain what they do and why they do it in such a clear, direct manner is very refreshing.

“Stems are my salt.” Brilliant.

Thanks Matthew for the compliment and others for the kind words. My new years resolution is to share more here and be completely transparent.

I reread the op a few times and I get it. I have had this wine numerous times and still have plenty in my cellar. The ‘stems in every sip’ is in no way a negative thing. I get a bit tired of this drive-by Zykleberg dude and really can’t understand why he harps on things with a near vendetta. If I not mistaken we/ he had a similar posting just about a year ago and while the tone may have been more subtle the message is received loudly. Jamie, check under your car for blood because if I am not mistaken, you probably ran over his puppy.

I think WC is a fascinating conversation whenever it happens. The insight is awesome and not quite something you find in many places other than this forum and for that I am thankful as it all gives me so much more information for which to venture into the cold dark world with. :slight_smile:

This is exactly what I was trying to convey in my initial CT post. There is a subtle nature of flavor/depth/nuance that I like and I can tell it’s from the integration of stems via the use of the whole-cluster.

Jamie, thanks so much for your comments in this thread. Similar to what others have said, understanding the thoughts of the winemaker and his transparency just add to the enjoyment of actually drinking the wine.



I consider myself fairly intelligent when it comes to stem inclusion and have done my research with far more money than a humble winemaker should. Both on opening bottles and visiting wine regions around the world. Comparing 100% stems to 100% oak just didn’t sound like smart logic and I needed to express why it is I do what I do.

As for the Davidz, we had a similar volley last year here, 8 months ago:

It seems rather obvious that he is isn’t a fan of our wines.

8 months ago in that thread, I professionally offered to send him a bottle of 2012 Falstaff for free that he said was unbalanced because it was 100% whole cluster and from a cold climate. He had said he never had the wine before but was keen to call it unbalanced. He passed on the offer…