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A good wine that does good things


The new Cadre 2007 Pinot Noir accomplishes two things that are uncommon for a wine, and so it deserve a special shoutout.

1. It’s a project of the Niven family (Baileyana and Tangent brands), who have done so much to elevate the visibility and quality of Edna Valley (San Luis Obispo County) wines. The name “Cadre” is an hommage to the four vineyards, owned by four families, whose grapes went into the blend (which is why the wine has a Central Coast AVA, not normally the most prestigious of appellations). The four vineyards/families are Laetitia (the Arroyo Grande Valley property owned by the Zilkhas), La Encantada (the Santa Rita Hills vineyard owned by Richard and Thekla Sanford), Bien Nacido (the vineyard in Santa Maria Valley owned by the Millers) and the Nivens’ own Edna Valley property, Firepeak.

These are all very highly respected vineyards and any bottle you get bearing any one of their names is almost certain to please. Moreover it’s not often that their owners get the proper credit for running them, so it’s good to see the press materials accompanying Cadre recognize them by name. All too often a bottle of wine seeks to bring attention only to itself and glory only to its own brand. The 2007 Cadre is a welcome difference in that it shines the light on others who deserve it.

2. The wine raises the interesting and controversial topic of whether a great Pinot Noir must necessarily come from a single vineyard or, failing that, at least  from nearly contiguous ones in the same growing region. I dealt with this topic extensively in my first book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River (which I’m happy to report U.C. Press is re-releasing in paperback form for the upcoming summer season, along with New Classic Winemakers of California). There are many who would argue that a Pinot Noir has to be grown all in one place in order to display the terroir that is such a vital component of its nature. These people of course take their direction from Burgundy where grand crus and even premier crus always are individual sites (which is the definition of “cru”). But I always wondered if it’s so, especially in California where we have no ancient tradition of cru. In my book I quote Gary Farrell as asking, rather rhetorically, “Who’s to say that a combination of, say, Rochioli West Block and Three Corner wouldn’t create a more complex wine?” (He was referring to two Pinot Noir blocks or sections of the Rochioli Vineyard.) I wrote: “For that matter, who’s to say that a blend of Russian River Valley and, say,  Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir could not make a great wine?” For better or worse we never get to try such ambitious blends because the marketplace mitigates heavily against taking such risks, no matter how promising they seem. Well, now the combination of these four vineyards from four appellations in two counties proves conclusively that you can make great Pinot Noir sourced from areas far from each other. And mind you, the 2007 Cadre is a very lovely and sophisticated wine. The bottle price is $55 and production was 1,231 cases.

  1. This concept, while interesting and holding the potential for a complex wine, is paradoxical and antithetical to the “we got terroir” line touted by the owners of vineyards and producers of SVD wines. If each of those sites is distinct and unique, then why blend?

  2. Glen Camarena says:

    Can you provide a WS rating on the wine? Is it the typical Santa Barbara very fruit forward Pinot with lots of dark cherry or jammy strawberry? Are the tannins well structured and full, is the wine full bodied? When I think of sophisticated I think of Oregon Pinot’s which to me are very finessed and are not the style I prefer. I would appreciate your comments.

    Next where can you purchase the wine? Is it available though retail outlets?



  3. I got a chuckle out of this one.

    How about that WS rating Steve?



  4. EVO, I’m not allowed to reveal ratings before they’re published in the magazine.

  5. Good answer.

  6. I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

  7. I don’t think that this wine contradicts the “we got terrior” position or detracts from single-vineyard wines. I believe it’s a clever way to promote these vineyards and the wines made from them.

    SVD wines have a special place in the market; they are meant to showcase a particular site’s characteristics and ability to produce a stand-alone wine. This doesn’t necessarily mean they possess all qualities desired or couldn’t be improved. The very idea that each site brings unique and distinct characteristics is the entire concept behind a blend.

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