Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bruliam Pinot Noir, A Labor of Love

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A couple of years ago, back when I still lived in San Diego, I met Kerith and Brian Overstreet. They are childhood friends of my buddy and fellow wine blogger Keith, over at One day at a San Diego Wine Mafia meeting, the Overstreets were there and we got to chatting. I had no idea Kerith was a winemaker, and you know how I get when I meet winemakers (hint: I bug them with questions).

Kerith and her husband are the founders and owners of Bruliam Wines.

As we tasted some wines with the rest of the Mafia, I learned about the origin of their label, Bruliam Wines, and their focus on pinot noir and zinfandel. I think the story is much better told on the website, so I urge you to visit it and watch the cool video about how Bruliam came to be.

I always like to mention this as well; Bruliam wines gives back all their profits to charity. It gets better, because they donate to the charities that you, the wine lover, chooses. Pretty amazing, I agree!

Fast forward a few years and Brian emails me one day asking if I'd like to sample the 2010 pinot noirs they had recently released. Like he had to ask! In the fall of 2010 I tasted the 2009 Bruliam pinot noirs and wrote a feature on the wines, with each of them rating excellent to outstanding on my now-retired scale.

For 2010, Kerith and Brian sourced fruit from three different vineyards in Northern California. Each wine was nudged along in it's journey, emphasizing the place it was grown instead of the winemaker's hands. Since they don't own any vineyards, the fruit sources can change from year to year, making it all the more important to get your hands on these wines ASAP! Also I'll give a sneak peek here: For 2011, Bruliam has added the famous Gap's Crown Vineyard to their list of fruit sources. I can't wait to try that one..In 2014 of course.

Let's get on with my impressions of the wines then. These were all tasted at room temperature, about 30 minutes after being opened.

2010 Bruliam Deer Meadows Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: I immediately noticed ripe black fruit, cherries and blackberries, warm baking spice, and cola on the nose.This pinot is big and smooth, at once lively yet with some peppery acidity. Good dark fruit flavor along with a subtle, herbaceous note. Some oak flavors, woodsy with a hint of dark chocolate. There is nicely integrated tannin, but it stops somewhat short on the finish. The acidity is firm, but this is a baby, and will better integrate with more time in bottle. If you're going to drink this now, decant for a few hours. $46 SRP.

2010 Bruliam Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: The bouquet has loads of baked cherry and rhubarb, black pepper, black tea, and spice. I loved the balance between the fruit and other aromas. I think this is very young, showing  restrained flavors of grape stem, black tea, wild raspberries, and black cherry. What flavors are showing right now are delicious and well integrated with a nice streak of acidity. I found a slightly perceptible alcoholic heat on the bouquet that carried over into the palate, but it should go away with age. The finish is a burst of spice and white pepper, something I love about great quality pinot noirs. $46 SRP.

2010 Bruliam Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast: Aromas of bright, fresh strawberry and rhubarb, along with cola and cherry blossom. Pine sap provides a welcome element to contrast the fruit. On the palate I felt this was showing traditional Sonoma Coast flavors; it expressed ripe strawberry and baking spice along with a subtle earthiness. Also noted were touches of oak, black pepper, and grape stem. The strawberry persists through the finish, very impressive. Not much tannin noted, compared to the other Bruliam wines. This is the wine I'd drink now, while cellaring the other bottles for 5-10 years. $46 SRP.

After I wrote these reviews, I learned that Wine Enthusiast had shown some love to the Bruliam pinot noirs, giving the Wildcat Mountain an 89 points, the Deer Meadows 90 points, and the Soberanes Vineyard 93 points! That's convincing proof that the Overstreet's are doing something right, and should encourage you to buy up these wines before they're all gone.

To purchase the Bruliam wines, visit their website.

Tasting the Bruliam pinot noirs was great fun, I opened 10 pinot's from around the state that day and these three were the clear winners. If Kerith and Brian can maintain this level of quality, Bruliam Wines will continue it's upward trajectory into the rarefied ranks of California pinot noir producers showing restraint while creating texturally interesting, nuanced wines.

You can follow Bruliam on Twitter or visit the Bruliam Wines facebook page.

These wines were media samples.

Beau Carufel


  1. Hi Beau -

    Thanks for the kind words and comprehensive write-up. Both are much appreciated. And glad you liked the wines. I agree that they are still babies. We actually held them back a little longer than usual this year to help combat that, but with yields in both 2010 and 2011 so low we ultimately had to get them out on the market. I agree with your assesment of the Wildcat - it's the one we're drinking now too. Thanks again, Brian

    1. Hey Brian, thanks again for sampling me on these wines, it was a pleasure. Keep up the good work, and hopefully this feature will help build awareness of the work you all are doing :) Cheers!

  2. Excellent write-up on some of my favorite Pinots. Bruliam is also putting out some high quality Zins now too. Kerith "gets it" big time. Very glad you enjoyed these as much as I did. Cheers.