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04.06.2004

2000 Hartford Court "Velvet Sisters Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

I love wines with a story, and I also love wineries that have a sense of humor. "The Velvet Sisters" is an obscure reference to three colorful characters from the Anderson Valley. If you're not familiar with the odd cultural and sociological eddy that spins around the towns of Philo and Booneville in the heart of the Anderson Valley, I suggest you read the hysterically funny novel/memoir called Booneville. But for our purposes it is enough to know that since 1800 the locals have spoken an obscure English dialect called Boontling and these Mendocino County towns are populated with some of the more eccentric and insular folks you're liable to meet, from the Squirrel Lady to the "Velvet Sisters" whose name now graces one of Hartford's vineyards. These sisters, Vera, Lois, and Zelpha Rawles, were given their name (in Boontling) because of their perpetual and unchanging wardrobe: three velvet dresses they bought on a trip to British Colombia.

The naming of this vineyard and the vineyard designate wine that is produced from it, are both a nod to local culture as well as a lovely descriptor. Even though they have a winery with a lofty sounding name like Hartford Court, Don Hartford and his wife Jennifer seem to be focused on making wines that are the fruits of humble work, good soil, and in this case, local color.

I served this wine at a blind tasting with some winemaker friends and it placed in everyone's top 3 out of over 12 wines.

Tasting Notes:
This wine shines a bright beryl red with a surprisingly floral nose with jasmine components along with bing cherries and a hint of pine. Velvety, even silky (as promised) in the mouth, the pinot fruit comes through with rasberries, red currants, and a hint of sweet oak. There's a slight bitterness in the finish that I didn't like, however, which kept this from being a solid nine.

Food Pairing:
I'm thinking about grabbing some more of this wine and saving it until November, because this is a great wine for classic roast turkey with cider sage gravy and all the standard accompaniments.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $42

I got mine at The Wine Club in San Francisco.

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