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Reviews: Two Pinot Noirs from Perfusion


I first came across Perfusion’s wines a couple years ago through a friend, and was fascinated by where the grapes were grown. The official appellation is San Francisco Bay, a huge appellation (1.5 million acres), about seven times bigger than Napa Valley. So big is this growing region, which extends from Santa Cruz County in the south to Contra Costa County in the north (and includes Silicon Valley and San Francisco) that it is effectively meaningless.

But Perfusion’s owner, vascular surgeon John Bry, had little choice but to use this fatuous appellation on the label since he had few other options. The grapes actually hail from 200-250 feet in the hills above the city of Richmond, a Bayside working-class community north of Berkeley, not known for vineyards. Bry sources his grapes from the area known as Wildcat Canyon. The climate is cool-coastal, similar, I think, to the Carneros, which makes it ideal for Pinot Noir.

Perfusion 2017 Pinot Noir (San Francisco Bay). The vintage was not great, by California standards; the long drought finally broke, but there were early heat waves, and, of course, lots of smoke from the horrible fires. But I detect no smoke taint in this wine. On the contrary, clean, ripe aromas and flavors, of the kind you’d expect from cool-climate Northern California Pinot Noir: raspberries and cherries, exotic baking spices, a hint of bacon, and smoky-rich vanilla from oak barrels; and a silky texture.

The wine is modest in alcohol (14.2%), and thoroughly dry. There are no obvious defects. The acidity is pronounced; it reminds me of certain Volnays, which gives the fruit a tartness that begs for rich food: steak especially, of if you’re not into meat, a rich, buttery wild mushroom risotto. I don’t think there’s ageability here, so I would pop the cork and drink up over the next three years. Score: 91.

Perfusion 2018 Pinot Noir (San Francisco Bay). The word “tight” is sometimes used to describe a very young wine, recently bottled. It means that everything about the wine—its aroma and flavor, the way it feels in the mouth—is occluded: shut tight, wrapped up, like a painting concealed in bubble wrap. The critic’s job is to discern past, or through, that concealment and see what’s really going on. The wine’s flavors are what I’ve come to expect from Perfusion: concentrated and intense in raspberries and cherries, with a touch of bacon, cola and smoky complexity from oak barrels. The wine seems balanced, with brisk, almost tingly acidity and fine, lacy tannins. The alcohol, at 14.3%, is modest: there’s no heat, just a gentle warmth. A very nice wine, super-drinkable with lots of charm, on a par with the 2017. I’d give it until early 2020 to begin to open up, and it should then drink well through 2024. Score: 91.

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