Wine of the week: Blue Farm, 2018 Anne Katherina Vineyard, Carneros Pinot Noir
Some think of cult-favorite pinots as high-priced and out of reach, but that’s not a definitive description. Regardless of the price or supply of these wines, there are devoted fans who believe pinots deserve their passionate following simply because they’re drop-dead gorgeous and make you swoon.
In a recent Press Democrat blind tasting, there was a flight of swooners. The wine of the week winner, barely edging out its tough competitors, was the Blue Farm, 2018 Anne Katherina Vineyard, Carneros Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $65. This pinot has tangy, high-toned fruit up front of cherry, raspberry and cranberry, while savory notes of mushroom and anise play back up. The pinot rides on crisp acidity with an undercurrent of spice — cracked black pepper with a dash of white pepper in the mix. It’s impressive.
Other cult-favorite pinots include Benovia, 2017 Tilton Hill, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $65; Domaine Carneros, 2018 Carneros Estate, Napa Valley Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $44; Kosta Browne, 2018 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $115; Merry Edwards, 2018 Flax Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.4%, $63, and Black Kite, 2018 Redwoods’ Edge, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.6%, $60.
As for the winning Blue Farm, vintner and winemaker Anne Moller-Racke said living among the vines works in her favor.
“This pinot noir comes from my vineyard behind my house,” Moller-Racke said. “I visit these vines daily, and this intimate relationship to the site and growing conditions allows me to fine tune and be on point. I set out to make my ideal pinot and by living on the vineyard, I see the weather patterns and the biodiversity. There’s a lot of synchronicity and connectedness at play.”
The challenge in making exceptional pinot noir, Moller-Racke said, is that it’s a transparent variety.
“You can’t mask the quality of the fruit with blending and other winemaking techniques,” she said. “It’s a very honest variety, and farming practices always show.”
Moller-Racke, 59, grew up in Oberwesel, Germany, a small town on the Rhine River. She came to California in 1981, expecting to stay for one harvest. But she couldn’t resist Wine Country and held many top positions over the years. She was the vineyard manager at Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery from 1983 to 1994 and was promoted to director of vineyard management in 1994. Following that post, Moller-Racke was president of Sonoma’s Donum Estate from 2001 to 2019.
Today the vintner is focused on her Blue Farm label, and she owns the 6.7-acre Anne Katherina Vineyard. Planted in 2001, it has 6 acres of pinot noir vines with the remainder planted to chardonnay.
“The ’80s were an exciting time in regards to learning,” the vintner said. “As an industry we all learned together, moving from a very simple understanding of viticulture to a very layered and nuanced way of farming today.”
The epiphany Moller-Racke had this year is that having a boutique winery is actually advantageous during a pandemic.
“Being small allows me to be nimble and creative,” she said. “I don’t need to wait for a board’s decision. I can make decisions in the moment. I buy some fruit from other growers. Everybody was very cooperative and understanding. In Germany we have the saying (translated) ‘shared pain is half the pain.’ I think we lived that this year.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.