2008 Souverain Carneros Pinot Noir

Mission Codename: Sixty years and counting

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Souverain and secure a cache of their 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir – before they run out.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Souverain

Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir Carneros

Winemaker: Ed Killian


Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the independent Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Originally designated in 1983, the region’s distinct Terroir and cool climate make it one of the best regions for the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800s by missionaries. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Beautiful dark Burgundy, with a darkening but still clear core. Color remains concentrated right out to the edge of the glass, where the finest line of lilac can be seen. Hold the glass up to the light, viewing the wine from the outside of the glass, and this fine line glints and sparkles. After swirling, skinny, wine-stained tears march slowly down the glass.

Smell – Lush blackberry and dark cherry leap from the glass. These are soon accompanied by raspberry, dried violets and spiced bramble fruit. Soft oak and a hint of subtle pepper round out the fragrant nose.

Feel – Velvety and round on entry. After a swallow, a small quantity of the wine coats the mouth, adding a soft dryness as fine-grained tannins are gradually introduced.

Taste – Led by a delightful black cherry, the wine evolves in your mouth, gradually revealing additional flavors of blackberry, softly spiced plum, rose petal, subtle mushroom and hints of cedar and black tea.

Finish – Very long, with dark fruit flavors that begin tart – and then evolve to dark mixed berry, soft spiced fig and just a hint of earthy, mineral-driven black pepper.

Conclusion – This is a delicious, fruit-forward Pinot Noir that delivers brilliant Carneros character and beautiful Carneros fruit. Bright and lush, both on nose and palate, this is a wine for fans of balanced Pinot fruit. With enough structure to make the wine an interesting solo-sipper, and enough bright acidity to make it a food-friendly companion, this is a flexible wine. Pair this wonderful wine with an assortment of hard cheeses, poultry or pork.

Mission Report:

Authentic and Attainable is how Souverain describes their great wines. While we agree with the first part of that declaration, we found the second part to be somewhat, well, relative.

You see, many wineries hold back their more precious wines for their tasting room customers or for their wine club members. Today’s wine is just such a wine and unless you are a club member or can get yourself into their tasting room in picturesque downtown Healdsburg, this wine is unattainable to most of our Operatives. However, as an Operative, you know that this exclusivity has never kept us from getting you a wine once we have our sights set on it.

I wish that I could tell you that today’s mission toobtain the unobtainable was fraught with intrigue and peril. Rather, we simply relied on our network of assetsin the field.

One such asset, industry insider Codename: Malbec, pulled a few strings and made a few key introductions and viola! I was in, landing a temp spot in the tasting room. Once inside, I was able to learn everything that I could about Souverains great wines. Because our Operatives have been keen for a great Pinot Noir for under $25, I zeroed in on the Carneros Pinot. With a few days at the tasting room, I was able to sample the wine freshly opened and well-decanted. Both were great, but a few hours of decant on this wine and it sings!

While I worked there, I got to learn a lot about the Souverain way of making wine. Their 120 year-old estate vineyards sits within Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, where I happen to think some of the finest California wines come from. Winemaker Ed Killian has been making wines in this region for more than a quarter century and his desire to create wines that express the harmony between place and varietal shows in each of the wines that he stewards at Souverain.

When my temp gig was up, Malbec quietly revealed my true identity to the tasting room manager – who was happy to have had a bonafide Wine Spy in the house. The manager pumped my hand and asked me which wine I loved most, and how many cases I would be needing.

I just love this job!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of Souverain’s estate vineyards is Top secret, but their tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.

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