California is lucky to have people who are this dedicated to helping out those less fortunate. From the giant Napa Valley Wine Auction to the efforts of Budge Brown at Cleavage Creek and the wonderful folks at Charity Case Wines, we live in a state where people who love wine also love to give back. You can add Bruliam Wines to that list.
Back to the first time I met the Overstreets, we were all sitting around sipping Champagne. Talking to Brian and Kerith was a lot of fun, not the least because of my mild bubbly-buzz. More importantly though, I could see the love that they had for wine and for each other. Apparently they liked me enough to invite me to a release party for their 2009 Pinot Noirs and a sneak peak of their 2009 Rocky Ridge Zinfandel. If anyone who reads this blog lives in San Diego, you probably know where Laurel restaurant used to be, and that now it's called Cucina Urbana. I'd never been since Laurel closed down, but jumped at the chance to taste through the Bruliam lineup.
So let's look at the three pinot noir releases I sampled, as well as the barrel sample of their upcoming zinfandel that was also tasted at the release party.
2009 Hayley Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley - Elegant nose, hints of Burgundian fruit sans the earth undertones. Sour cherries, cranberry dominate, bringing mouthwatering acidity that carries through till the end. Baking spices were both aromatic and complementary to the fruit notes, and helped ease the transition into a cola and rhubarb finish. Notable flavor integration, B+ and a BUY recommendation. 14.2% abv. $52/btl
2009 Doctor's Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands - A supremely beautiful nose of mushrooms and leather/tobacco, with hints of black cherry. Strawberry and raspberry flavors kept the wine light but deep which I find to be a hallmark of the best examples of pinot. Finishes with hints of toasted oak, blackberries, which were a welcome and delicious treat, and cocoa. I loved this wine's bright personality and accessible style. Don't let that fool you though because with a few more years in the cellar, the 2009 Doctor's Vineyard could turn into an incredibly elegant, polished pinot noir. A- and a STRONG BUY recommendation. 14.3% abv. $52/btl
2009 Split Rock Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - Big, brawny Pinot! Ripe nose with cocoa, mixed berry preserves, rhubarb and spice. Big on the palate but held together by a savory, umami type flavor, hint of smokiness and perhaps a beef jerky-like richness. It was hard to decide if I liked the nose or taste better, so good! Great aging potential shown by the firm but smooth tannins, would love to taste this after a decade in the cellar. A- and STRONG BUY recommendation. 14.3% abv. $52/btl
(all images via http://www.bruliamwines.com)
2009 Rocky Ridge Block Zinfandel Rockpile Vineyard (Barrel Sample) - Ripe and luxurious, loads of blackberries, blueberries and plums. Intense herbal compontent complemented by savory peppered notes. Reminded me a bit of teriyaki beef jerky. The finish is equally loaded with jammy blackberry and firm tannin leading me to believe that a few more months in the barrels and some resting time in the bottles will give us an amazing zinfandel, one that I can't wait to try again. % abv N/A. $n/a.
All three Bruliam pinot noir examples were wonderful wines and while I recommend them based on technical merit alone, I can also say that the people behind the wine are wonderful too. I admire their passion and commitment to wine, family, and to helping make the world a better place. Look for their Rocky Ridge zinfandel to be released in three months or so and give that wine a try too. You'll be drinking well, supporting a unique small winery and helping out those less fortunate than we are.
Disclosure: I attended the Cucina Urbana event as a member of the press.