92 PTS – Impressive Debut
“The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Pine Mountain Vineyards is striking in its aromatics and bright, chiseled fruit. Dark red cherries, mocha, plums, mint, new leather and cedar open up as the 2010 shows off its hugely appealing personality. Floral and lifted, yet also wonderfully expressive, the 2010 is all about balance. The new oak is a bit prominent in this vintage, but the 2010 is nevertheless an impressive debut.”
~ Antonio Galloni
93 PTS – Lovely depth; very strong showing
“Dark red and purple stone fruits, spices, menthol, new leather and licorice meld together in the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Pine Mountain Vineyards. There is lovely depth in the dark blue/purplish fruit, along with hints of graphite, lavender and spice that add complexity. This is a very strong showing, especially for the year.”
~ Antonio Galloni
93 PTS – Voluptuous
2012 Ampère – not yet released
“The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Pine Mountain Vineyards is the raciest and most voluptuous of the wines I tasted. Dark red cherry, plum, smoke, menthol and spices flesh out in a large-scaled, generous wine built on pure texture. In 2012, there is a bit less mountain character and tannin, but in exchange, the wine will drink well pretty much right out of the gate. There is no shortage of vintage 2012 explosiveness and raciness. This fruit was brought in on October 7.”
~ Antonio Galloni
92-94+ PTS – Stunning depth and power
2013 Ampère – not yet released
“The most promising wine yet off this property, Ampère’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Pine Mountain Vineyards is shaping up to be a jewel of a wine. Dark, powerful and explosive in the glass, the 2013 saturates the palate with stunning depth and power, both signatures of the year. Hints of jasmine, orange peel and white pepper punctuate the finish.”
~ Antonio Galloni
94 PTS – Outstanding
California Wine Advisors, 10/1/14
“Showing blueberry, blackberry, and cinnamon on the nose, this Cab expresses itself through classic mountain terroir. It is red-fruit driven with opulent ripe, red cherry, white pepper, clove, baking spice and espresso. This little beauty is ready to drink now and should cellar well for up to 6 years”
~California Wine Advisors, Blind Tasting
|Aromatics||Blueberry, cinnamon, crushed rock|
|Tasting Notes||Cherry, espresso, white pepper|
Baked spaghetti with ricotta, beef Bourguignon, rack of lamb with juniper glaze
A Sonoma Mountaintop aims for the heights with Cabernet
by John Bonné, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/14 [excerpt]
We’re bouncing up an old dirt fire road on Pine Mountain, somewhere northeast of the town of Cloverdale. Mark Burningham’s dog trots in front of our off-road vehicle on one of the last glorious October days of the year, and I’m trying to figure out which side of the Sonoma-Mendocino border we’re on.
Seriously. This is as far north as Sonoma County gets before it becomes Mendocino. It’s also the heart of one of Sonoma’s newest official wine regions — although, technically, half is in Mendocino County — a good 20 minutes drive from the valley floor, up slopes covered with madrone and live oak….
As with any nascent wine region, its proponents believe it could be Sonoma’s next star.
The best shot might be amid a handful of smaller wineries, including Pine Mountain Vineyards, whose owner Hien Nguyen makes wine under the nascent Ampère label. Nguyen similarly tapped rock stars: winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and viticulturist Ulises Valdez. But he is that rare example among new vineyard owners in these parts willing to admit he’s not quite sure what his land’s potential might be.
“If this is A to Z, I’m right now at B,” Nguyen says. “I’m a very insecure person. I want to make sure. Winemaking, to me, is still a mystery.”
Raised in Saigon and in Paris, he came to California looking for a vacation retreat after a successful career as a mathematician at the University of Montana and CEO of a Missoula software company, and in 2009 bought a 650-acre property on the southern edge of Mendocino County that reached up to 2,700 feet. Between the patches of pine and madrone was a vineyard, planted mostly to Cabernet. Plans to make a simple table wine soon spiraled.
We stand atop a newly planted parcel, looking southwest over the broad Alexander Valley, stubby young vines cascading down a steep slope. There’s a momentary feeling of deja vu, of other Cabernet plots in ruddy soils along the ridges of the Mayacamas.
And there’s a whiff of potential, which might be why Nguyen and his family are also trying to learn the mechanics of grape farming, applying a scientist’s brain to the vagaries of agriculture and what he calls the “awful lab setting” of the vineyard. If nothing else, it reveals the promising curiosity that has always guided California to its best successes, and that might help to reveal what Pine Mountain’s great talents truly are.
“It’s not a recipe book,” Nguyen says. “It’s more of a communion.”
The Best California Wine Region You’ve Never Heard of
by W. Blake Gray, Wine-Searcher.com, 9/16/14 [excerpt]
With nearly 1000 wineries in Napa and Sonoma County competing for grapes, you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of great unknown vineyard land left. And yet, you probably haven’t heard of Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak. There’s a good reason. Not until 2011 were the two mountains that rise from Alexander Valley at the Sonoma-Mendocino County border approved as an AVA. Most grapes on the mountains are red, so the first bottles with Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak on the label have just recently been released.
Some smart wineries are placing big bets there….
“This is extreme farming,” says Hien Nguyen, a mathematics professor-turned software developer from Montana who planted Ampère vineyard. “The growing season is very short. We start very late. After everything blooms in the valley, we are two-to-three weeks behind. In a year when the temperature isn’t high enough, half the vineyard might not ripen. The only way we can afford this is if they are very premium grapes.”
But there are advantages too. The appellation starts at 1600 feet (488 meters), rising as high as 3000 feet to what Benziger says are the highest-elevation vineyards in California. Most of the appellation is above the fog line, so in summer its high temperatures in mid-afternoon are lower than in the valley. But its low temperatures, at night and in the morning, are higher.
“A hundred and fifty days on Pine Mountain is like having 175 or 180 days on the valley floor because the vine doesn’t shut down,” said Lise Asimont, director of grower relations from Francis Ford Coppola Winery. “The fruit is like Alexander Valley on steroids. Even in a bad year in Alexander Valley, it’s great. It has so much power, so much strength.”
10/29/14. A friend of Ampère captured this ‘reunion’ of Ampère Cabernet Sauvignon at the gates of École polytechnique, Latin Quarter.