As we drove towards Porter Creek Vineyards, the first thing I noticed was a small canary-yellow sign above the winery’s banner that read: “Organic farm, do not spray.” I smiled.
My husband Marc and I were visiting Sonoma for a much-needed rest. I didn’t want our trip to turn into an endless stream of winery visits and wine tastings. But under no circumstance did I want to miss Porter Creek.
We’d first tasted Porter Creek’s wines three years earlier, at Peter Lowell’s restaurant, a mecca for local food in nearby Sebastopol. It was the Carignane Old Vine that we’d swirled in our glasses. The wine was so memorable that I’ve been a fan of Porter Creek ever since.
Now here we were, in Porter Creek’s tasting room and I could hardly wait to try the new vintages.
Paul Berman, our jovial wine steward was eager to tell us about the winery. He informed us that all of Porter Creek’s hillside vineyards are farmed using organic and biodynamic practices. The yields are kept low and the minerals in the soil carefully maintained. The wines are fermented naturally and old French oak barrels are used to age the wines. Winemaker Alex Davis has even been known to prune all the vines of his 20-acre estate himself. “We’re so hands-on,” Paul exclaimed, “that we still glue all our labels by hand.”
Undeniably, you can taste the love and attention these grapes get, from budding to bottle, in every sip of Porter Creek’s beautiful handcrafted wines. The wines are pure, honest, unique… and quite delicious.
Porter Creek, Fiona Hill Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir
Producer: Porter Creek Vineyards
Region: Russian River Valley
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Serving: Decant for 1 to 2 hours
We tasted three Pinot Noirs that day, each of them outstanding. But the Fiona Hill Vineyard is the one I chose to bring home. After my first sip, I turned to my husband and said: “Do you remember the shiitake gratins I made last week? This is the wine for them.” Marc agreed.
I’d tried to pair the gratins with several different wines, but none of them had worked. It was tricky. The mushrooms in the gratins are earthy yet they have a delicate flavor. Unfortunately, most wines had overpowered the mushrooms. But this Pinot Noir might just be the one…
A week later, I was thrilled to find out that the pairing was as I’d hoped. Smooth with silky tannins, the wine feels round and luscious in the mouth and yet it’s not too heavy. It bursts with dark cherry and wild blackberry flavors and notes of licorice, herbs and a hint of cedar. You also get a great whiff of minerality as soon as your nose reaches the glass, as well as a pleasing earthiness reminiscent of forest floor. This Pinot Noir is expressive and intensely flavorful, yet refined.
The shiitake mushroom gratins and the Fiona Hill Pinot Noir were wonderfully matched in their weight – neither rich nor heavy. The earthiness in the wine paired well with the mushrooms while every bite of the gratin made the wine come alive. It was one of those food and wine synergies that are miraculous and so fun!