Thomas or Tom DeBiase was presenting his Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley at Westgate Wine Store in Raleigh yesterday from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. I drove up for the tasting and stayed in town to dine at Poole's Diner (a couple from Greenville, NC also came for the tasting and dined at Poole's.)
I had a little one-on-wine time with the winemaker before we were joined by a young man who grew up in New Jersey, Mr. DeBiase's home state. Thomas left a job with Smith Barney and worked in NYC restaurants before moving to California in 2006. After working with Kosta Browne for a time, he started his own winery, moonlighting in restaurant jobs. His philosophy in selecting vineyard sources for his grapes and making Pinots is expressed on the website: www.debiasewines.com
. Fritschen Vineyard, one of his prime sources for grapes, is on a very steep hillside near Rochioli and overlooks the Russian River. The owner has some sheep grazing among the vines. Testarossa used to make a Fritschen Pinot Noir but I believe Mr. DeBiase now has a long-term exclusive contract for the grapes.
The first wine we had (and the only one I had previously sampled and purchased) was the 2009 RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR with a blend of wines from four vineyards including Fritschen. Once again I was blown away by the aromatics on this wine and also savored the flavors. I had purchased three bottles previously (and consumed one) and bought two more today.
To me the prominent flavor is raspberry but I get some cherry fruit also. It avoids being "candied."
I had previously purchased but not yet opened two bottles of the next wine, the 2009 FRITSCHEN VINEYARD PINOT NOIR. I liked the smoky note on this wine and the delicate earthiness or minerality that accompanies the fruit. Thomas attributes the smokiness or "olive" as the descriptor he used partly to using whole clusters rather than destemming. Ideally I will hold my bottles until 2015 or 2016 before drinking although it certainly could be enjoyed now and my patience may desert me.
The final tasting was of the 2010 RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR. I found it a little less aromatic than the 2009 vintage but still a well made wine that should sell out quickly.
At Poole's diner I had a heirloom tomato salad based on a Caprese concept and pork tenderloin with creamy polenta topped with stewed tomatoes. To go with the pork, I had a glass of Couron Cote du Rhone which was food friendly.