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2001 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grand Valley, Central Coast California

The Arroyo Grand Valley, home to Laetitia, is located just outside of San Luis Obispo, California. It is one of the coolest grape growing regions in California, and is already famous for its cool climate Pinot Noirs that are often compared to Burgundy forbearers.

Laetitia itself has a European heritage, having first been established as Maison Deutz, a French owned wineyard focused on making sparkling with with Methode Champenoise. In 1997 vineyard owner Jean-Claude Tardivat bought out the winery, renamed it after his daughter, and started using the grapes to make vineyard designate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc along with the sparkling wines.

This particular wine was noted by the winemaker as having unusual color even from the moment of de-stemming, and the wine was left in contact with the skins for an extra 2 days (a full 50% longer than usual) in order to extract all the color, and fermentation happened rapidly over three days. The result is a wine with a surprisingly low alcohol content (13.3%) for its color and strength of extraction. Because of the power of this wine even before barreling, the winemaker chose to reduce the amount of new oak used on the wine.

Tasting Notes:
The color of dark garnet, this is literally the darkest Pinot I have ever seen. That inky tone is echoed in the nose which is rich and resonant with aromas as unlikely as the color: licorice, blueberry, bacon fat. In the mouth it has an immediately smokey element which is surrounded by extracted, thick flavors of blueberries, black cherries, and earth. Fruit is the dominant flavor here, from front palate to finish, to the point of being a little heavy handed.

Food Pairing:
This is the first pinot I would even jokingly suggest you pair with venison, but honestly, this wine is so dark and rich you might treat it a little more like a Zinfandel or a Syrah when you're thinking about what to eat with it. Try it with Moroccan spiced beef.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $25

Wine Searcher shows a couple of locations online that have it available

Comments (67)

enoch choi wrote:
07.17.04 at 6:43 PM

their wine's delicious. had it at the macarthur park tasting the last couple years.

bioplate wrote:
08.18.04 at 11:54 PM

Wonderful Pinot Noir. Now other small producers are making exciting wines from the estate, such as the Malvolio wines from Highlands Cellar. (www.highlandscellar.com)

ideas87 wrote:
09.18.04 at 11:23 PM

Malvolio Pinot Noir Wine from Laetitia is outstanding - I agree. Not much left, but available at http://www.highlandscellar.com/malvolio.html.

ideas87 wrote:
09.29.04 at 9:50 PM

Seems that The Wine Enthusiast has a similar opinion. In the October 2004, the 2001 Malvolio Laetitia Vineyard Block I is rated 93 pts.
“Wow, what a delicious Pinot. It's lusciously silky in the mouth, with great acids framing a complex array of flavors ranging from red cherries, black raspberries and oaky vanilla to Asian spices and sweet tobacco. Absolutely addictive and compelling, and shows what this vineyard is capable of.”

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.