Well, it’s been a bit since I’ve done a “A wine you should know…” article, so I figured it was high time to get back in action and drop some more knowledge on you juice drinkers! In light of the fact that I just had dinner with this gentleman last night, it seemed the right choice to pick one of the many delicious wines of Sean Minor to write about. You may remember that I had previously featured Sean’s Vin Gris, which can be found here: https://perfectpairingsathome.com/2014/03/30/a-wine-you-should-know-sean-minor-four-bears-vin-gris/
So to refresh your memory… Sean has been in the wine industry for quite a number of years, with much of that time spent as the operations manager for vineyards such as BV in Napa, and King Estates in Willamette Valley. In 2005 Sean and his wife Nicole decided it was time to finally take the plunge and go off on their own, so they created Sean Minor Four Bears, a négociant based out of Napa. Their primary goal was, and still is, to create well made, varietally and regionally correct wines that are of extraordinary quality for their price point… and boy oh boy have they succeeded.
The Carneros Pinot Noir (current vintage is 2011) is absolutely everything a Carneros Pinot Noir should be. The wine is sourced from top vineyards on both the Sonoma and Napa side of the appellation, and aged for 16 months in French barrels, approximately 20% of which is new. In the glass you find a medium bodied wine with faint purple hues that soften along the edges. On the nose you find aromas of dark cherry, ripe strawberry, birch beer and that tell-tale Carneros smokiness. On the palate the wine is a veritable roller coaster… The opening is subdued, with nuances of strawberry, but the mid palate really brings you for a ride with bursts of ripe cherry intensified by notes of spice and earth as well as cranberry-esque acidity, leading into a long, lingering, slightly spicy finish, all framed by subtle tannins giving backbone and depth.
Side Note… Have you ever noticed how all wine reviews are loaded with run-on sentences? hahaha.
Anyway, back to the wine.
One other important thing to note is that Sean’s Pinot is 100% Pinot Noir, and he does not utilize the additive known as Mega Purple in his wine. You must be thinking “Wait, what? Of course it’s 100% Pinot, aren’t they all? The what in God’s name is “Mega Purple”!? That sounds like a Transformer or Barney the Dinosaur on steroids.”
First of all, no, not all California Pinot Noirs are 100% Pinot Noir. It has become a common practice for many producers to add significant quantities of Syrah to their Pinots to add body, dark fruit notes and ripeness to their wines. Now the trick is, they need to at least have 75% Pinot Noir in there to be able to call it such, and they do not have to give any indication on the bottle that something else has been blended in. Feel like your world is suddenly spinning? Good, it should. If you didn’t know that already then it’s high time you learned. Many of the commercially successful California Pinot Noirs that you have been buying for years are loaded with Syrah.
So now let’s talk about Mega Purple. Mega Purple is a grape concentrate made by the same people that produce Manischewitz. Not only does it add fruit and color to red wines, but it is also used to cover up vegetal notes and can even help hide when wines are flawed. You would think that something like this would only be used in inexpensive wines right? Try again. There are a significant number of producers that are utilizing this wine version of Tang for bottles that retail over $10, $15, even $20! It is estimated that the wine industry, predominantly in California and Australia, goes through upwards of 10,000 gallons per year of the junk. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Keep in mind that a thimble-full can change the flavor profile of an entire barrel of wine. How many thimbles do you think there are in 10,000 gallons!?
Alright, alright, we’re getting off topic here. This article is to praise Sean Minor and his delicious Pinot Noir, not rip apart the cheaters of the industry. Then again, I guess by doing one you’re accomplishing the other. Sean should be praised not only for making great wine, but by doing it the right way and not cutting corners like some of his contemporaries.
Now let’s talk food pairings. This Pinot Noir is pretty versatile… It’s soft enough that it can pair well with oily, denser fish like salmon, mahi and tuna, but at the same time masculine enough that it can hold it’s own against leaner meats like filet mignon, flank steak and venison. I have also thoroughly enjoyed it in the past paired with seared duck breast prepared with fruit driven sauces such as port wine syrup or raspberry infused demi-glace. In other words, as long as something isn’t too light, or too big, you’re pretty safe with this wine.
Last but not least… scores. As I’ve said in the past, Sean’s wines typically don’t get scored by the big reviewers. He doesn’t need them to, they are in high demand and sell out every vintage regardless. However, that being said, the 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir was submitted to Wine Advocate and received a nice review with a 90 point score from Robert Parker. Typically my palate and Bob’s don’t coincide, but I’m going to have to agree with him on this one. This bottling most certainly deserves to be a 90 point wine, if not just a tad more… Dare I say 91? I do dare! Well done Mr. Minor, and congratulations.
Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the price… Yeah, this bad boy retails for $16-20, and in that range it is a steal! Also, with roughly 18,000 cases made annually it can be found in most markets, both in the United States and internationally. Unless you live in Maine, they don’t get any… yet. Sorry Maine!
So there’s my newest review. Hopefully you enjoyed the article, and hopefully you’ll buy the wine. Sean has four kids to put through college, he needs your help! As always, new content is coming soon. In the meantime crack open a bottle of Sean Minor Pinot Noir, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!
… which is exactly what we did last night. Cheers!