Martin Ray planted Pinot Noir at Mount Eden in 1945. The budwood came from Paul Masson’s original vineyard near Mount Eden. Because Masson was a good friend of the Louis Latour family of Burgundy, it is likely the selection came from one of Latour’s finest vineyards and was brought by Masson to California during the 1880s. The faith Ray demonstrated in this difficult red wine variety, at a time when America had little appreciation of fine wine, was remarkable. Today, Pinot Noir vines occupy seven acres of the estate vineyard and typically yield a meager one to one-and-a-half tons per acre.
Pinot Noir is the first variety harvested at Mount Eden, kicking off the vintage season. Using natural yeasts, fermentation is conducted in small open-top fermentors and extends ten to fourteen days, with the must punched down by hand. The new wine is immediately put into 75% new and 25% one-year-old French Burgundy barrels. It matures for eighteen months before being bottle unfined and unfiltered. Nothing is added; nothing is taken away.
Due to the soils in the vineyard, the Estate Pinot Noirs’ elegant, transparent style is more Burgundian than Californian, emphasizing wild strawberry, earth, blueberry and dill varietal characters. Cellaring the wine from five to twelve years pays handsome rewards.