Davis Bynum was the first winery to produce a single-vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir. That was in 1973, and in the intervening 40 years countless winemakers have followed suit.
Today they farm two vineyards: The 87-acre River West Vineyard skirts a curl of the Russian River just off the Old Redwood Highway; its alluvial soils are planted exclusively to Chardonnay. The 132-acre Jane’s Vineyard undulates along Fulton Road; its cobbled loam is planted to nine clones of Pinot Noir, plus a small block of Sauvignon Blanc.
Davis Bynum’s current winemaker, Greg Morthole, continues the winery’s single-vineyard theme—with variations. In addition to the vineyard-designate Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, he’s also bottled two clonal selections from individual blocks within that vineyard. These wines were vinified separately, but they grew up together and were aged in more or less the same way, bringing clonal selection into full relief.
They do share a sensibility. All three Pinots are blithe and luminous, ripe with red berry fruits, coffee-spiciness, and breezy notes of forest herbs. But there are distinct differences, too. The Dijon 667 feels more demure than its peers, more polished, almost glamorous, while the Dijon 115 is darker and more brooding, more forest-floor than forest pine, more earth than fruit.
But all of them are wonderful, and clearly more than a clever hat trick. Try all three—side by side, if you can.
2012 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley
14.5% abv | $35 (sample)
Made from the vineyard’s full complement of Dijon and Pommard clones; 9,400 cases produced. It’s pale, clear, ripe strawberry red with a fragrance of mint and savory, tart red berries, and woodsy, almost-salty pine. Clean and breezy-textured, its supple tannins mingle with a juicy zing of acidity. The fruit is round and forward, but there’s a lilting forest-meadow note that makes the finish come alive.
2012 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dijon 667 Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley
14.5% abv | $55 (sample)
Made only from Dijon clone 667; about 500 cases produced. This wine is plush with red raspberry sweetness and clove-y spice, imbuing it with holiday charms. Top notes of minty herbs plus dried fig and sun-dried tomato add dimension and interestingness. This is a polished, glossy Pinot Noir, excellent to pour with winter stews and braises.
2012 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dijon 115 Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley
14.4% abv | $55 (sample)
Made only from Dijon clone 115; about 480 cases produced. Brilliant ruby-hued with a scent that conjures a cool redwood forest. Dark and velvety textured, its deep plum fruits are embroidered with juniper, winter berries, and the savoriness of cured meat. The wine finishes with tantalizing spice and stone and acid. It’s the darkest of the three wines here, and altogether wonderful.
For a discussion of the differences between Old and New World Pinot Noir, plus notes on nine beautiful new American wines, see Pinot Noir, Here and There.