Wine of the Week: Fel, 2016 Pinot Noir

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Anderson Valley can be seen as the tipping point between Oregon and California when it comes to crafting pinot noir. This Mendocino appellation has temperatures that often peak at 85 degrees and then drop to 45. This blessed range gives the grapes ample time to be both sun-kissed and bathed in fog; Ryan Hodgins is the magician who mastered the trick of crafting a sun-kissed, elegant pinot noir.

Patience is a virtue with pinot noir, letting it develop from a vineyard sense, letting it maximize what it can become. —Winemaker Ryan Hodgins

The winemaker is behind our wine-of-the week winner –– the Fel, 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at $38 –– and it’s drop dead gorgeous. It has tangy red raspberry and Bing cherry fruit that impresses from start to finish. While dripping with fruit, this pinot manages to retain its refreshing quench, buoyed by its bright acidity. The Fel has great structure –– great bones. It’s clean and crisp, with a powerful red fruit finish. This is cool climate pinot at its best.

Hodgins said his goal is to craft an elegant style and chooses the middle-road house style, between modest and opulent.

“I want to be not too big and not too small,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s the Goldilocks school of thinking.”

Born in New Mexico, Hodgins, 42, lived in Colorado, Washington State and then Portland, Ore., before studying at Oberlin College outside Cleveland, Ohio. He later studied at UC Davis, graduating in 2004 after writing his thesis on Willamette Valley pinot noir.

“Patience is a virtue with pinot noir, letting it develop from a vineyard sense, letting it maximize what it can become,” Hodgins said. “I also tend to be methodical and patient in my winemaking with pinot noir.”

Hodgins said the biggest challenge with crafting pinot noir is the weather.

“Whether you have heat or rain, there’s always something that keeps you on your toes,” he said. “But the weather falls firmly in the ‘accept the things you can’t change’ category.”

Hodgins said he tries not to get lost in the weeds of winemaking, the minutia, so he can focus on the big picture.

The winemaker said he was first smitten with wine at UC Davis, after tasting the Katherine Kennedy, 1997 Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon.

“It knocked me over, and it was an epiphany moment,” Hodgins said. “Aside from the fascination of the science of wine, I got the poetry side of wine. There is the intellectual deliciousness of wine, and then there’s the hedonistic deliciousness. This was my first real leap beyond the science of wine.”

Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or

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