“Hee-go!” Review: Steele Pinot Noir 2016

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“Are we almost out of Meiomi, dear?” asked a man of his companion in Costco yesterday afternoon. I visibly cringed, though I don’t think they noticed. People still drink that stuff? The massive, mass-produced, nondescript, varietally incorrect, flash-cooked jammy, would-be Zinfandel known as Meiomi Pinot Noir is something I gave up sipping on long ago. But as I pondered this I looked at them, and they smiled at one another as she replied that they had better buy a few more bottles “Just in case,” and I realized that this wine was special to them, probably because they share it with one another. Who cares if I don’t like it? I was happy for them.

I’ve been gone a lot lately with cross country and my university obligations, amongst other things. Perhaps on that note there’s some semblance of a silver lining in the otherwise painful fact that we didn’t qualify for state cross country, ending our season early. I’m struggling with that some, but yesterday we had the Titan Invitational JV meet, and that is always a great way to end the season if we can’t qualify for state. It was incredibly cold and rainy, but the kids ran their races and had fun. We might have had a few PR’s, no medals, but we had fun sharing the time and space and experience together one last time.  It made me smile, and reminded me of why I coach Cross to begin with.

On the way home, I stopped for a few items at a convenience store, and I found there some intricate little model cars. I passed on the VW Bus with the surfboard on top, knowing Zooey would break it off, and settled on a late 60’s Corvette for Titus and a candy apple red ’57 356 hard top Porsche for Zooey, with nice rounded edges. I brought them home and the kids loved them. They loved them so much, they both wanted to play with both of them at the same time. Titus, being older, gets the concept of sharing a bit more than his very opinionated and strong-willed sister. While Sonja and I spoke in platitudes about sharing, Titus modeled it for Zooey, who was inclined to screaming anytime she didn’t have one model car in each hand. Over time, she started to catch on, and at one point handed her brother her Porsche and exclaimed “Hee-go!” (Here you go.) Sonja and I beamed at one another.

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I’ve never been brilliant at sharing myself. Maybe it’s that I’m an only child. Maybe it’s something more. When Sonja takes my sweatshirts and wears them, but then doesn’t put them back on the hook, it annoys me more than it should. Seems like a little thing, really now, doesn’t it?  One thing, however, that I’m very good at sharing, and that I love to share with Sonja, is time, and another one, not unlike the couple from Costco I suppose, is wine. So last night, after we put the kiddos down for the night, we shared some wine with one another.

The bottle we had last night was one I knew would be exceptional as I’ve tasted so many of the vintner’s Pinot Noirs over the past few years. My admiration for Jed Steele is well documented, so I won’t dwell upon that again today, though I will say that the man who has been making wine in and around Lake County for 50 years is still killing it with every harvest, and the note I got recently indicates that the 2018 harvest will be yet another fruitful one for him. It sounds like he escaped most of the smoke taint, and we should all be excited to taste that vintage.

The 2016 Steele Pinot Noir, sourced from the storied Sangiacomo (San-yah-kuh-mo) Vineyard is fantastic. Delicate and varietally correct from start to finish, the dark ruby hue and aromatic nose packed with cherry and vanilla are inviting. In near-perfect balance, the body of bing cherry is scored by a pronounced undercurrent of rich flavors — mocha, dark chocolate, hazelnut. Bright and vibrant, at 13.8% it is at the same time tame and relaxed.  This wine spends 16 months in French oak, 20% of it new, and is limited to 290 cases, i.e. 3,480 total bottles (and Sonja and I just drank one of them). Sourced from the Green Acres block of the Sangiacomo Vineyard, it’s worth noting that Jed has been getting fruit from Sangiacomo in the Carneros AVA on the Sonoma County side since I was ten in 1991. An excellent Pinot Noir, I think we’d all be hard put to find a better combination of masterful vintner, high quality fruit, historic tradition, and exceptional quality in a $36 bottle. It was when I started trying Pinots like this one that I realized I couldn’t drink Meiomi anymore. I highly recommend this wine.

This weekend will be interesting. This morning, the family will strike out for WeBop, and share the joy of watching Titus bang a drum or plunk at a tiny piano. My beloved Huskers are 0-5, and face a tough Northwestern team on the road. Sonja and I will share watching that together, and hopefully our shared heartache can ease today. This afternoon, I don’t know what we’ll do, but I know we’ll share that time together, and I’m looking forward to it, and I suspect we’ll share a meal this evening. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my writing. I enjoy sharing this space with you.

Cheers to sharing, and especially to sharing what we love most with whom we most cherish,

Mark

 

 

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