Sonoma Coast (Petaluma Gap)
- Pinot Noir
I’ve been meeting Joan and Jim Griffin at dinner parties since around 2003. Inevitably I end up in an animated discussion with Joan about grapes and vines while she picks my brain regarding Syrah (it doesn’t take long!). This is typical of the Griffin’s approach to grapegrowing – there is no stone left unturned in trying to grow the best possible grapes. If it takes baby-doll sheep for mowing, or planting Alyssum under the vines, or netting the vines to stop bird damage, or organic farming practices, then these are all methods employed at Griffins Lair. Of course it helps having a great site with the vineyard gently sloping to the west in an area just north of San Pablo Bay in the Lakeville area of Petaluma. This is a very cool area with breezes from the Petaluma Gap and lots of fog and it allows grapes to keep natural acidity and to develop flavors without getting too high in sugar (and then alcohol in the finished wine). As well as being great people to work with, I also have a great respect for their commitment to sustainable practices (see www.griffinslair.com).
The vineyard grows both Syrah and Pinot noir and is planted with a number of highly regarded clones of both. Even though I’d dropped the hint that I would like to work with their grapes for some years, it wasn’t until 2009 that I was able to get tiny amounts of the Syrah. It’s the cool climate Syrah that I’ve always wanted, a wine to show the elegant, delicate and expressive side of the grape. It should be a wine with intensity without being heavy and with naturally balanced acid, tannin and fruit. The Griffins are committed to delivering the best, picking each clone separately when it is ready, picking at night, and even keeping the upper parts of the row separate from the lower ends! I’ve been able to work with clones 877 and 170 from this vineyard. In 2011 I was delighted to also a small amount of the superb Pinot noir from both the “pommard” and 115 clone sections of the vineyard.