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Wine of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola 2012 Pinot Noir

Like a much-anticipated box office feature, the 2012 vintage was critically acclaimed even before all the juice was put away into barrels. But how does it stack up now that many wines from this fair weather, but heavily cropped vintage have been bottled and released?

Last year, I looked at three 2011 Pinot Noirs from Francis Ford Coppola’s Geyserville winery (Sonoma County, CA) and director of winemaking Corey Beck. Recently I had the opportunity to taste the winery’s lineup of 2012 Pinot Noir (minus the new, lightly sweet Gia label) against each other, and chose a winner in the shootout.

2012 Votre Santé Pinot Noir ($14)
Making varietal Pinot Noir at this price is no mean feat. For Coppola’s easy-drinking, food-friendly Votre Santé label, Gamay Noir — the hearty grape of Beaujolais — would be perfect, but that grape is in short supply in California. Aromas of baked berries, incense stick, and burnt cotton candy at the Sonoma County Fair. Nostalgic, and probably good with pizza.

2012 Diamond Label Pinot Noir ($18)
Dusty, but sweet, fruity aroma, like a raspberry fruit wrap stuck under a cinema chair — but hey, it’s still good. Some vegetal overtones.

2012 Director’s Cut Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($27)
The wine with the head-juggling dancing-man Zoetrope label. Supple enough, with appealing cherry-raspberry and spicy aromas and a tingly, astringent finish. Interesting that it’s quite similar to my notes for the 2011.

2012 Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($38)
These wines are listed in order tasted, so the ultimate in the Coppola lineup is not even penultimate: The fruit is richer here, the palate silky, but the Reserve is undermined by a funky aroma. Wine nerds listen up: The culprit may be the naturally occurring compound 4-Ethylguaiacol, which in some circumstances may contribute an appealing, smoky bacon aroma to a wine. Two bottles tasted.

2012 Director’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($21)
We have a winner. Savory, nutty, and waxed-furniture aromas of high-class oak, recalling some recent Landmark wines that I have sampled. And although I don’t catch it on the nose, there’s a mandarin orange zest to the juicy, silky strawberry-raspberry fruit, wrapping up neatly on a lingering, warm finish. Like all of the 2012 Pinots here, it feels light bodied, but has a tension of sweetness with astringency on the finish that would make it a good partner on the dinner table.

Here’s a lamb risotto from winemaker Corey Beck that has been featured during Tuesday night “A Tavola” dinners at Rustic.

Recipe: Lamb Risotto with Chanterelles

  • 2T. olive oil
  • 2 6 oz. boneless lamb loins
  • ½ c. yellow onion, diced
  • ½ lb. chanterelle mushroom, sliced
  • 1 c. Arborio rice
  • ¼ c. FFC Claret
  • 4 c. water or chicken stock, simmering
  • 2 T. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 T. butter, unsalted

Cut lamb loin into one inch pieces. Place a wide bottomed pot over high heat and preheat for several minutes. Add one tablespoon olive oil to pot, carefully add the lamb pieces to it, and sear on all sides. Remove lamb from pot when all sides are nicely browned.

Turn heat down to medium, add another tablespoon of olive oil, and add the onions. Cook the onions over medium heat until translucent, approximately three minutes, and then add the mushrooms and cook until tender.

Add the rice to the pot with the onions and mushrooms and stir for two minutes. Add wine and reduce the liquid until the pot is dry. Add one cup of water or stock to the pot, stirring constantly. Reduce the water or stock by half before adding another cup, stirring the whole time, until all the liquid is used up.

Test the doneness of the rice and add more liquid if needed. Finish the rice by adding the butter, parmesan cheese, and lamb pieces.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves four.

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