2001 Tandem Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Tandem is a relatively new label started by Greg Bjornstad and Greg La Follette, formerly of Flowers. They are committed to making small production artisanal wines in a close collaboration with each other, as well as the individual fruit they source from some of the best vineyard sites available today. In addition to being nice guys, they also happen to be totally committed to the enjoyment of their wines — so much so that they brazenly offer a 100% money back guarantee on their wines. Don’t like it? They’ll take it back and give you your money back.

For this wine, they have sourced grapes from perhaps the single most legendary and highly sought after sources for Pinot Noir grapes in the United States: The Pisoni Vineyards in the Santa Lucia highlands.

The Santa Lucia Highlands sit to the west of the Salinas River valley in the foothills of the mountains that separate the cool Monterey coast with the warmer farms and fields that surround Salinas. It was on these farms that Gary Pisoni grew up and began to realize the possibilities that this land held for cultivating grapes at the same time that he developed a fanatical obsession for Burgundies. He acquired this vineyard in the early 1980’s with the intent to grow Pinot Noir that would rival the great fruit of Burgundy, and with what seems to be a characteristic abandon and stubbornness he directly planted cuttings from La Tâche, which he purportedly smuggled back to the States in his pants. He has both succeeded and failed — succeeded in creating a vineyard that churns out world class fruit, but it is fruit that could only come from the new world — lacking the earthen, herbal tones of the great Burgundies, but more than making up for that in a concentration of fruit flavors impossible to find in even the best Burgundies (in my experience). The parched warm soil of this site and the scarcity of water reduces the yield of the individual vines and concentrates the fruit.

Gary also makes his own wine as well as sells grapes to Testarossa, Patz & Hall, Siduri, Capaiux, Arcadian, Roar, Morgan, Ojai, Miner, Flowers, Pessagno, Miura, and of course, Tandem, among others. Practically a who’s-who list of California Pinot Noir.

I’ve had the Patz & Hall, The Morgan, and the Siduri and I think this is my favorite. Definitely won’t be returning it for a refund.

Tasting Notes:
Light blood red in the glass, this wine has a luscious nose of juicy fruit that includes rasberry, guava, and some floral notes of lavender. In the mouth it is succulent and smooth, with tart flavors of redcurrant, passion fruit, papaya and a long finish mixed spices and gorgeous acidity. The fruit flavors are similar to the Adrian Fog which I reviewed a while ago, but slightly more restrained and more balanced by the herbal components to the wine. This is a gorgeous creation.

Food Pairing:
Last night Ruth made a fabulous dinner which included this roasted pork loin with garlic and rosemary, along with goat cheese mashed potatoes and sautéed snap peas. This wine went perfectly with the pork, its fruit and acidity nicely complementing the salty aromatic richness of the pork and the creamy potatoes.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: $54

I get mine from Porthos.