2013 Saint Laurent (Ricci Vineyard)
This was my first year working with this fascinating variety from an experimental planting at Dale Ricci’s vineyard in Sonoma Carneros, a team effort guided by my talented colleague Dave Noyes, formerly of Ridge and Kunde.
This grape has very tight clusters and does poorly in humid climes like France, preferring high altitude where dry air and high UV suppress mold. It is widely planted in Austria and is the principal red grape of the Czech Republic, where it is known by its German name, Sankt Laurent. It matures very early, near the martyrdom date of Saint Lawrence of Rome, who was executed by Emperor Valerian on August 10 of the year 258 AD. This early harvest date is ideal for the short seasons of cool continental climates, resulting low alcohol.
It really is like no other wine. You will find extremely dense, soft tannins supporting generous mulberry fruit which you might easily mistake for Gamay Noir except for its lingering basil aftertaste that reminds me of Carmenère. There is no better example of the postmodern winemaking principle of aromatic integration. The wine is actually full of pyrazines, yet does not smell like bell pepper, and only expresses them in the character of sort of Eastern European personality: generous and friendly but slightly cynical.
As a result, the wine is more complex and intriguing than a simple picnic wine, but is certainly suitable for an outing in some summer meadow with a basket full of chicken and three-bean salad. Its tannins have no edge at all, so I wouldn’t serve it with a steak, but it loves game from venison to quail and was magic with my Swedish meatballs which I doused in a morel / porcini cream sauce with a dash of Marsala.