Jamie Kutch Visits The OC For Dinner

Luciana's In Dana Point (South OC)
Tasted Saturday, March 15, 2014 by Frank Murray III with 185 views

Introduction

Was thrilled to finally arrange a dinner with Jamie, a winemaker who I had been unsuccessful visiting in the past due to schedules that would not jive. However, this time with some ahead planning, we were able to get Jamie down from the Bay Area, then put a handful of Berserkers and their wives around the table and taste Jamie's wines.

Jamie and I had talked about how to structure the dinner, the best way to showcase the wines in accomplishing some insightful 'compare and contrast'. To do that, Jamie elected to flight the wines blind, first with 2013 composite barrel samples, then arrayed by vintage using 2010, 2011 and 2012 to match the food. Within the first several flights, we simply compared and contrasted the McDougall Ranch and Falstaff sites, which are the two current vintage designated pinots that he is making. After those flights, we ended with a larger flight of Sonoma Coast, again 2010-2013. This was the largest flight, the ending flight, and so it was a way to see the assembled, non-designated plots in action (which I believe are Campbell Ranch and Sonoma Stage vineyards).

Where I land on these wines and on Jamie's style is a clear link to my own palate and preferences. Specifically the use of whole cluster and the spicy, complex notes these add. Then, the acidity and red fruit components of pinot noir, both aspects of what I find in all of Jamie's wines, some more/some less, based on which bottling is in focus. Oak? Low oak and as Jamie is starting to experiment, quite low on oak. And finally, low alcohols, which is a bit of a lightning rod of discussion in some circles. I'm 48 now, my body is more sensitive to alcohol and more broadly, I don't enjoy the wines of higher glycerine and dark fruit as I did several years ago. In my view, Jamie has figured out a way through his pick decision and winemaking style to put all of these core elements into the bottle, which squarely aligns with the wines I now buy and enjoy.

My notes below will attest to this alignment and once again, I have latched onto a new Kutch wine, the 2012 Falstaff, akin to the 2010 McDougall from last year. Both of these wines are of high caliber and class, what for me represents the best of what CA pinot noir can and is doing. I'm listing the 2012 Falstaff on my WOTY list now, for me it's that good.

As to the food, you'll find the basics below. We did the dinner in the wine room at Luciana's in Dana Point, our first dinner here so far and they did a terrific job. The service was focused and attentive, the food was well-flighted and timed. If anything, the portions were too large so we'll ask them next time to pull back on these so I don't have to be rolled out on a dolly to the car!

To all who joined us last night, I hope you'll add some notes below. To Jamie, thanks for coming down and sharing your craft, really enjoyed the wines and validating how these fit into my profile of pinot noir.

Flight 1 - Bubbly with Arugula Salad (1 Note)

Flight 2 - 2013 McDougall and Falstaff barrel sample composites with Antipasti (2 Notes)

  • 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Note--barrel sample composite. Poured blind next to the same vintage of barrel sample Falstaff. Rose petal nose, black raspberry, burly with lots of depth, spicy and good acidity. Shows the depth and grip of what young McDougall does. We won't see this wine finally blended and released until latter 2015 but this is an early note to form some perspective.

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  • 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Note--barrel sample composite. FWIW, the alcohol on this wine is just a touch under11.8%, per the testing Jamie had done on the wine. And this kind of wine makes it hard to advance an argument that wine cannot be expressive, beautiful at this kind of alc %. Crushed rock aromatic and cracked spice, likely what the stems are helping to provide. Delicate cherry, red fruits and red apple. Not sure of the release date on this wine but I would guess, based on how it showed against the 2013 McDougall barrel sample that is slated for later 2015, this one could go sooner. Beautiful, and to steal Jim Dietz's comment about this wine (who was seated across from me), this wine could be bottled and released now, a credit to how well made and composed it already shows.

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Flight 3 - 2011 McDougall and Falstaff with Veal Ravioli (2 Notes)

  • 2011 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. Black cherry, black raspberry, red apple, tight and spicy. Loads of acid and stuffing and based on my notes, this will need more time or big aeration. I have 4 of these in my cellar and based on what I am now learning to appreciate about the McDougall plot, these will live a long time.

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  • 2011 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. There is a distinct fresh berry character to this wine's aromatic and palate. A mix of blackberry and raspberry, fresh picked, framed by a good core of acid. Reminds me a lot of an organic 4 red fruits jam I buy locally--its bright red, purity of flavor, just fruit. This seemed to be drinking pretty well now, as opposed to the 2011 McDougall that is pretty coiled up. These two wines side by side show how terroir really comes through based on vineyard location. Drink window? As I said, now seems fine but there is enough acid here to not rush. Given the small amount of this wine made in 2011, I have just one bottle so I'll drink it over the next few years.

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Flight 5 - 2010 McDougall and Falstaff with Grilled Salmon (2 Notes)

  • 2010 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    This was my CA pinot of the year in 2013. When we poured this last night, it was blind but I knew it was one of two wines. Yet, the wine's quality and pedigree was easy for me to spot and by now, this wine has reached a special place for me as it shows with class each time I have it. Such great balance with a spicy, hard cherry candy quality. Simply pure, dynamite.

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  • 2010 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. It's hard to have a fair fight when I tasted next to this wine the other Kutch 2010, the McDougall. That wine I hold in such high regard and see it as one of the best pinot noirs I have drank in some time. So to measure this Falstaff against that wine, it's a little skewed. Here there is the same fresh berry note that I found in the 2011 Falstaff, yet the overall tone of the fruit here in this 2010 comes off one dimensional to me, lighter bodied. The acidity is nice, present in all of Jamie's wines over the entire evening, but this Falstaff just seems a little riper and less complex for me.

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Flight 6 - 2012 McDougall and Falstaff with Chicken Marsala (2 Notes)

  • 2012 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind, next to the 2012 Falstaff, that nearly felled me from my chair at the table! So, much like the unfair fight of the 2010 flight, where the McDougall bested the Falstaff, the opposite occurs here in the 2012, where the Falstaff bested the McDougall. The 2012 McDougall at this point in its life shows tannic and backward, with a dark core of intense cherry fruit and iron-like quality. Minerally. What we'll have to see on this wine is how it starts to uncoil and at what age. I'll be a buyer when it's ultimately released but with the knowledge of the wine last evening, will be sure to give it not only a large dose of air, but also time in the cellar. FWIW, I believe this is the only wine of the evening that Jamie decanted prior to flying down for the dinner so even with that aearation, it reflects the long life this will have ahead of it.

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  • 2012 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. Well, like with the recent 2012 Fogline Sun Chase pinot I drank and had one of those 'aha' moments, here too is another one of those aha wines, the best wine I have tasted now in 2014. This was poured next to the 2012 McDougall, both blind. The only bias I had going into this flight was that of seeing the favorable comments on this 2012 when poured last month during Falltacular. I'll credit Brig Campbell, who pulled this needle out of the Falltacular pinot haystack when he went through all of the 2012s that were poured that day, and with Brig missing the dinner last night when I tasted this wine, I would have enjoyed seeing him react to this wine again. As to what I found last night in the glass, beautiful spicy strawberry with blue fruit tones. It's accessible yet the acid is beauitfully punctuated here, even a little crunch in texture. Where it excels is that the fruit is beyond the red fruit, jammier quality that I found in the 2010 and to extent in the 2011. In this 2012, I find a wine with exellent acidity, terrific fruit, outstanding. Early WOTY candidate and I plan to now buy more while it is still available. I'll drink another1-2 bottles over the rest of this year and see how it fares.

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Flight 7 - 2010-2013 Sonoma Coast with Rack of Lamb (4 Notes)

  • 2010 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. This reminds me some of the McDougall, even though I do not believe that any McD made it into this blend. Bright red cherry, spicy finish, actually really spicy, with red fruits and a good punctuation from the stems, along with red apple.

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  • 2011 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. And tasted alongside the SC's 2010, 2012 and a barrel sample of the 2013, also that were blind. Of all 4 vintages, this 2011 is the king of the four. Juicy, some herbal from the stems, bright cherry, soil/loam, and with great, brisk acid. For my palate, I knew this wine was a crusher when it was first released, and in fact, this was one of those strong leaders from the vintage that caused me to make many comments in rebuttal to the many who were saying 2011 wasn't a great year. Yes, it was a hard year for many winemakers but tasting wines like this, or wines from Anthill, you can see how damn good the vintage was to some, and to a wine like this Kutch 2011. I have three of these left in the cellar, and it will be a joy to watch them evolve over the next several years. Excellent.

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  • 2012 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Tasted blind. Like with the 2012 McDougall, this SC is tannic and intense, with a dark core and iron. Rocky and youuthful--this will need time so don't rush it.

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  • 2013 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

    USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

    Note--barrel sample composite. Tasted this from shiner next to the sibling 2010, 2011 and 2012 SC bottlings. This 2013 was juicy, with a little menthol from the stems, stony with black cherry and raspberry.

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Flight 8 - Switchback Petite with Flourless Chocolate Cake (1 Note)

  • 2007 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah Peterson Family Vineyard

    USA, California, Napa Valley

    Is it wrong to drink Switchback at 11AM? It simply cannot be! While not my norm to drink at 11AM, I did open this in advance of a dinner later this evening where it will be the closing wine with a chocolate dessert. Having been open now about 30 mins, I don't smell any heat or prune yet, although it does a bloody note on the aromatic. The palate? Lots of cocoa, dark chocolate, some chalk and dark berry, with some acid lingering in the finish underneath the fruit markers. With 8 hours to slow ox, we'll see how this does tonight but I offer this intro note for those who may have a bottle they need to open in a pinch and pour...it's fairly closed, restrained with this little amount of air....then at dinner, while I love this producer and consistently buy the wines, this vintage is too big for me. Listed on the bottle at 16.8% and even with some chill, it shows, especially when the wine warms up. Has the dark fruit and petite core I enjoy but the wine's alcohol was too prominent aromatically for me last night. I only had about 1.5 ozs, given we had to spread the pours and this was about as much as I wanted. I don't have any more of the 2007 and that's ok.

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