Hailing from the sciences, a winemaker practices art

Our wine-of-the-week winner is a bombshell, a pinot noir with explosive fruit.

The Loring, 2012 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir was the striking standout in a flight of wines. Tasting it blind, it was gorgeous with generous fruit and a lush texture. It has deep cherry flavors with notes of herbs, spice and a hint of caramel in the finish. And as for $32, it's a steal for the quality.

A sun-kissed pinot like this teases the most fruit out of the grapes as possible.

"Our wines end up being on the 'bigger' side for pinots, but with softer tannins that make them drinkable early," said Brian Loring, who doubles as vintner and winemaker. "No one should feel the need to hold onto our wines for years before drinking them."

Loring became a wine geek when he was 17, working in wine shops during high school and college. But, he said, "falling in love with Burgundy in the early 1980s" is what made him choose wine as a profession after trying his hand at a couple of others.

Initially, Loring expected to be pampering patients rather than pinot noir.

"I went to college thinking I wanted to be a doctor," he said. "But after getting my biology and chemistry degrees, I decide medicine wasn't for me. It was stupid to take that long to figure it out. But then I got a computer science degree and ended up working for various aerospace companies, writing software that launched missiles and torpedoes."

Loring said he doesn't have a formal winemaking education. He just learned the nuts and bolts of it by helping with harvest at Cottonwood Canyon in Santa Maria.

The hands-on scientist said he's proud that the 2012s are his ninth vintage using screw caps instead of corks.

"Coming from an engineering background, I couldn't in good conscience produce a product with a 5- to 8-percent failure rate," Loring said. "What's been especially gratifying is that we've seen our wines age well under screw cap. ... Screw caps rule!"

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