The tiny, high-end Marcassin Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, known for its superb Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, has dealt itself a blow: “We are passing (probably permanently) on the 2008 Pinot Noirs,” writes John Wetlaufer, who owns the Sonoma Coast estate with his wife, the phenomenal winemaker Helen Turley, in his latest letter to those on the winery's mailing list.
What the hey?
The explanation, wildfires in 2008 caused smoke to cover most of Northern California for two months, according to ETS Laboratories, which has developed a test to screen grapes for smoke taint. Unlike wine estates in manicured Napa Valley, Marcassin is located in a fairly remote area of the Sonoma Coast, close up against a wilder landscape subject to the occasional forest fire.
"The Marcassins are deeply colored, rich and round in the middle, and long and complex in the finish,” Wetlaufer writes. But they are “marred” by “atypical and exogenous smokiness attributable to the early summer brush and forest fires centered in the Anderson Valley" 35 miles to the north. He goes on to say that though analysis shows the wines fall within acceptable limits for no smoke taint, "the nose knows."