Any lover of Pinot Noir would benefit from reading The Heartbreak Grape, A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins. This is a wonderful true story that starts when Devillers becomes captivated by a wine served at a holiday party. The story evolves as his journalistic curiosity leads to researching the wine and its origins - the story of Josh Jensen and Calera winery. He tells of the challenges and travails of developing the Pinot Noir grape in California, and then turning it into a business, an industry, and pursuing a dream. The name Heartbreak Grape speaks to the challenge of pioneering bringing the Pinot Noir grape varietal to America - finding the right terrior, climate, terrain, soil, drainage - all the elements required to produce this wine. It then follows the story of an entrepreneur following his dream to build a business and a brand.
The book talks about the difficulties associated with this particular grape varietal. I've contended that, as written by Devillers, Pinot Noir is the most finicky of grapes and one of the hardest to find a high QPR - (Quality to Price) ratio value - a moderate priced pleasant drinking label. The book talks about the challenges and difficulty of growing this grape and producing great wine. My experience with this wine is further evidence to this truth. Being a wine aficionado and frequent taster of fine wines, I find this challenge is exacerbated by the characteristics of Pinot Noir - its sutble fine nuances and subtle delicate nature. Its harder to discriminate between the subtleties of one fine Pinot to another. As my wine palate has matured and become more sophisticated, I've come to appreciate the delicate refinements of Pinot, but I must admit, I find a truly great Pinot harder find than a Cabernet or a Shiraz, but I am partial to the bigger more expressive forward fruit of these other varietals. In the end its all about price and for enough money its easy to find a great wine. The search for a great one at a modest price is the fun of tasting and collecting wine.
According to my tasting notes log, this is the third bottle I've tasted and this experience was in line with the earlier tastings combined. The tasting profile is as noted in my most recent tasting, but there remains a funkiness to this wine as experienced in the earlier tasting. Its not that offensive barnyard animal taste one occasionally encounters. Rather its a high alcohol taste one might find in fruit that has begun to ferment. It was more subtle with this bottle than the earlier one but there none-the-less.But hey, this is was a fifteen dollar bottle - for a Pinot at that price it was drinkable and acceptable.
My earlier notes and I'm sticking with 'em.
6/27/2012 - 87 Points
Medium bodied, black cherry fruit with hint of earth, cola, red berry and spice. Tasted from 375 bottle at home with grilled steak and roasted potato dinner. Better than earlier review, lost the awkwardness, more polished, balanced and approachable than as reviewed last year.
1/10/2010 - 85 Point Slight funky off taste that turns to spicy pepper and wet earth.
12/2/2012 86 points - Similar profile to earlier tasting but the fruit gives way to a tone of fermentation and alcohol. It might be that its beyond its drinking window - its my second to last bottle.