Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meeting Winemaker Dianna Lee and Tasting Her Siduri Wines and Her Novi Family Wines

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Dianna Lee, Siduri Wines and Novi Family Wines

Dianna Lee, Co-Winemaker and Co-Owner of Siduri Wines and Novi Family Wines, came to Washington DC to show us her new releases at the Curious Grape in Arlington, VA.

Dianna Lee

Dianna Lee is great fun to listen to. She is charming, entertaining, and knows her stuff. She and her co-winemaker, co-owner and husband Adam Lee grow up in Texas. Adam graduated with a degree in politics and she graduated with a degree in business. “Adam then changed course and decided to go into wine, become a wine journalist and move to California. But before doing this, he started at the Wine Department at Neiman Marcus in Dullas, where I had the same time started working in the Epicure Department” said Dianna. As fate would have it, they started dating and eventually fell in love. They also drank a lot of great wine together at Neiman Marcus and Dianne decided to go with Adam to California. They ended up working together at a small winery in the Dry Creek Valley.

Along the way, Dianna and Adam decided that they would like to try producing a small amount of wine. Pinot Noir was their favorite wine so they figured that’s what they should make. They purchased one acre’s worth of grapes and made their first wine – a grand total of 107 cases. Robert Parker heard about Dianna and Adam Lee’s wine and gave it a 90-point rating in the Wine Advocate. Their winery, Siduri Wines, took off from there.

Pinot Noir

Siduri Wines only produces Pinot Noir wines. In Germany, the Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder. It is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. In the US, Pinot Noir shows great promise in Oregon and California. The reputation that gets Pinot Noir so much attention, however, is owed to the wines of the Bourgogne in France, where it has probably been cultivated since at least the 4th century (first documented, however, in the 14th century).

Regardless of where it’s grown, Pinot Noir is not typically a value wine. That is so because Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape that it is difficult and expensive to grow and make into the spectacular wine it can be. It is sensitive to climate and soil, Pinot Noir needs warmth (but not intense heat) to thrive and does well in chalky soils. As the German name implies, it ripens late (spät).

Siduri Wines

Siduri is named for the Babylonian Goddess of wine, who, in Babylonian mythology, held the wine of eternal life. Siduri Wines released the first wine in 1994. Today, Siduri produces Pinot Noir from 20 different vineyards stretching from Santa Barbara in Califronia to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Siduri specializes in ultra-premium Pinot Noirs. Dianna and Lee do not own any vineyard lard, but buy all grapes from growers. Production is about 10000 cases.

Novi Family Wines

Adam and Dianna, together with Dianna’s family, formed Novy Family Wines in 1998 to work with other varietals than Pinot Noir. Novy Family Wines specializes in producing Syrah from Napa, Sonoma and Santa Lucia Highlands, but also produces small bottlings of other varietals, including Zinfandel, Grenache, Viognier, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The production is 5000 cases.

Winemaking Philosophy

“Our winemaking goal is to produce wines that best capture the distinct flavor and character of a given vineyard site” said Dianna. “In the cellar, we believe in minimal intervention, gentle winemaking. We let the wine make itself. We do not want to do anything to the wine that isn’t absolutely necessary. We believe in bottling our wines unfiltered and unfined whenever possible. To encourage maximum quality of the grapes we buy, we purchase the majority of the fruit by the acre rather than by the ton. In doing this, the grower has a commitment from us regardless of yield, so they are happy to comply with our desire to reduce yields in order to maximize the concentration of flavors in the remaining grapes” explained Dianna during the tasting.

What Dianna Lee Poured

2009 Novy Gewuertztraminer Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

A wonderful Gewürztraminer. You never know what to expect from this varietal, but in this case the wine is dry and freshly crisp in acidity. The wines has a rich, creamy texture. 250 cases.

2009 Novy Blanc de Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

This is an unusual wine, at least for the US. It is a white wine, made from red (Pinot Noir) grapes. “This fruit is sourced from a section of the Arbre Vert Vineyard, that tends to lag behind the rest of the vineyard in terms of how it ripens. We therefore decided to pick the later ripening grapes separately and make a white wine out of them. I takes 18 hours by truck to bring the grapes from the vineyard to the winery. Immediately upon arriving at the winery, we put the whole clusters into the press and pressed them very gently. The goal was to extract as much good tasting juice from the grapes without pulling out any color. We placed this juice into one ton bins, let it settle for a day, and then drained it to a combination of stainless steel and older oak barrels. There the wine fermented and went through partial malolactic fermentation. We kept it in these vessels until May when we bottled it” explained Dianna. 500 cases

2009 Novy Pinot Meunier Van Der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma, California

Pinot Meunier is not exactly a household name. Though perhaps it should be as it is the most widely planted grape in Champagne and, as such, more folks have probably drunk Pinot Meunier than Pinot Noir. “We get a very small amount of Pinot Meunier from the Van der Kamp Vineyard high upon Sonoma Mountain. For quite a few years now we have produced this Pinot Meunier. Pinot Meunier as a still wine obviously spends time on the skins. In this regard, we treat Pinot Meunier much like Pinot Noir, with a cold soak, frequent punchdowns, and pressing to barrel at dryness. One thing we have discovered over the years is that Pinot Meunier does not like new oak. We carefully avoid exposure to oxygen with Meunier, never racking the wine prior to bottling and finally only doing so under the cover of argon” said Dianna.

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

Dianna explained: “In 2009 a long, cool, even keeled growing season was perfect for getting all of our Russian River vineyards to ripen evenly. After much trial and error we settled on a blend that is 33% Keefer Ranch, 33% Pratt Forestville Vineyard, 16% Sapphire Hill, and 17% Ewald Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine is also a blend of many different clones, including Dijon Selections 114, 115, 667, and 777 along with Pommard, Wadensweil, and Clone 23”. 1350 cases.

2008 Siduri Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Central Coast, California

Dianna said: “We started purchasing fruit from the Garys’ Vineyard in 1999, two years after we first purchased Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir from the Pisoni Vineyard. Although we knew the vineyards would be different we never imagined exactly how much so until a few years later.

While both Pisoni and Garys’ are planted to the Pisoni-selection of Pinot Noir, and both are farmed with meticulous care by Mark Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, that is where the similarity seems to end. The Garys’ Vineyard inevitably ripens later than the Pisoni Vineyard and produces more high-toned, redfruited, higher acid wines. Over the last few vintages we have been working hard to take advantage of these differences, fine-tuning our winemaking to emphasize the unique character of the Garys’ Vineyard and produce an even more complex Pinot Noir.” 466 cases.

2006 Novy Syrah Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California

The 2006 Novy Russian River Valley Syrah is a blend of grapes from three different vineyards (37% Sapphire Hill Vineyard Syrah, 33% Parsons’ Vineyard Syrah, and 30% Amber Ridge Vineyard Syrah. All of the vineyards are located between Fulton and Windsor on the west side of Highway 101). The blend consists of twenty-seven barrels with only 3 barrels being new. “This allows the wine’s natural character to shine thru without the intrusion of too much oak” said Dianna. 643 cases.

The Curious Grape

The Curious Grape is an independent wine shop, owned by Suzanne McGrath that carries wines from around the world. It is located in Shirlington Village, in South Arlington, Virginia. The shop is adorable with a very good selection of wines (as well as beer, cheese and chocolate) and super helpful staff.

4056 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 671-8700

Picture: The Curious Grape Owner Suzanne McGrath and Dianna Lee, Siduri Wines and Novy Family Wines

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