2002 Papapietro Perry “Peters Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA

Most of us are guilty of taking wine too seriously. I know I am at times. Certainly when talking about it and writing about it here. The drinking part is easy, but when it comes to discussing wine, marketing wine, and pouring wine for the public, so many wineries are deadly earnest and often formal. It’s hard to remember sometimes that wine should most of all be fun.

The folks at Papapietro Perry don’t ever seem to forget that. I’ve tasted their wines at probably 10 different public tastings, and the folks at their table (usually the Perrys or the Papapietros or both) are always clearly having a great time and in the process of chatting with them about wine, I always do to. It’s clear that these are folks who just love what they do.

The story of the Papapietro Perry Winery is the story of two friends and their families and their shared love of wine. Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry worked together for years at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, back when it was the owner and publisher of both the Chronicle and the Examiner (San Francisco’s two local dailies). In addition to sharing the same employer, they also shared a love of wine, and a history of home winemaking. Both remembered sipping their grandfathers’ wines at the dinner table, and both had a desire to carry on the tradition. When they met another fellow employee, Bert Williams who was already making wine in his garage in what would be the beginnings of Williams Selyem Winery, they offered to pitch in and help, which they did in the last few years of the Seventies.

One thing led to another and starting in the early Eighties, not only were they helping with harvest and crush, and racking and whatnot, but they were also buying their own grapes and making their own small batches of wine, focusing on Pinot Noir because of Ben’s abiding love for the great Burgundies.

Throughout the the middle and later part of the 80’s and into the 90’s Ben and Bruce gradually built up enough relationships to have access to some of Sonoma County’s best Pinot growers, and their winemaking was getting good enough that their friends and family were pushing them to get some wider attention to their wines.

In 1998, after Bruce retired from his long career in publishing, they finally decided to take that advice and became a bonded winery, producing 75 cases of Pinot Noir, and quickly winning acclaim for later vintages. Soon after, Bruce’s wife, Renae, found herself gradually assuming the role of chief marketer, and a family business was born, and very much continues in that form today. Both families have left the city for the Sonoma Wine country, but other than that, Bruce and Ben continue to make small lots of Pinot, and Renae continues to sell it and promote it.

This wine comes from the Peters Vineyard (named after its owner, Randy Peters) a plot of land a few miles west of Sebastopol, in Sonoma County. Originally an apple orchard, this vineyard has lots of hot, daily sun exposure but is close enough to the coast to get morning and evening ocean fog, making for excellent Pinot Noir growing conditions. The vineyard contains two different clones of the Pinot grape (Pommard and 777) which are harvested, sorted and fermented separately during winemaking. All the grapes get a cold soak for two or three days before fermentation to bring out the rich color and flavors from the skins. During the fermentation, the grapes are punched down (a process that involves pushing the cap — the floating grape skins, flesh, and stems — down into the fermenting juice to mix them together) several times daily to cool and slow the fermentation process and aid in the extraction of flavors and color.

The wine is pressed into French oak barrels (François Frères – 50% new) and aged for 11 months. 1080 cases are produced.

Finally, don’t you just love the name. I think this wine has more “P” in its name than any in history.

Tasting Notes:
Somewhere between light and medium garnet in color, this wine has a delicate nose of raspberries, sour plums, and dried herbs. In the mouth it has bright acidity with raspberry and pomegranate flavors that also show a hint of umeboshi or Japanese pickled plum, and a touch of rosewater. It walks the line between restraint and extracted lushness fairly well, but those who like earthy Pinot may not find it attractive, as it leans slightly sweet. The wine finishes just slightly hot on the palate.

Food Pairing:
This wine goes particularly well with flavors like those of these rosemary lamb kebabs with tapenade-rosemary aioli.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $33

This wine can be purchased easily on the Internet. The winery has also recently opened a tasting room in Healdsburg.