The fruitful Russian River Valley is filled with Edens for growing Pinot Noir. Gardens of vinifera are dotted throughout this lush valley, resplendent in their supreme capability to produce exquisite wine. These delightful paradises are exactly where our vineyards have been planted. As the birds eye it, the Moonshine Ranch lies one mile from the glistening Russian River. The northern edge of the vineyard is bordered by swaying firs and ancient oaks that line the small creek, abundant with shy turtles and garrulous bullfrogs. The waterway is crossed by a single lane, arched stone bridge, splendidly covered in moss. My favorite part of Moonshine Ranch is the century-old draughty barn, for which the Ranch is named. The high raftered building stands as a relic for times of old, as its heyday was during the prohibition era, serving as a small factory for prune brandy. The barn stands near the creek, as water was needed to cool the copper stills during after-dark administrations to 'the recipe'.
This petite vineyard is densely planted at 2,000 vines per acre and is situated on rocky fertile ground which serves as a natural water drainage. The rows are placed facing the suns daily path for interception of light for even ripening. Three Dijon clones were grafted onto rootstock to match climate behavior and the unique properties of each specific soil series. The exact properties of the soil can be drastically different from one acre to the next. Intense days are spent digging 'soil pits' along the landscape, to analyze the precise make-up of the terroir, then determining which rootstock will flourish best according to its individual growing needs. The grapevines are thinned to bear approximately 3 pounds of fruit per vine and hang 24 inches above the ground. The grapes are picked at about 25 degrees brix to ensure mature ripe fruit flavors. They are hand selected at harvest time by Lee, who tastes the grapes and chooses when to pick according to the developed concentration of flavors in the berries. After picking, the whole berries undergo a long cool fermentation to generate skin contact and expose fruit character and are fermented with wild yeast. The juice is gravity fed into small oak barrels with a touch of residual sugar remaining to complete the fermentation process in barrel until dry. It rests in 75% new French oak on its gross lees for one year. Being a particular and moody varietal to tamper with, the grapes, juice, and then wine are minimally handled. This wine is neither heat nor cold stabilized and is unfined and unfiltered.
Lee Jr. has kept with the 'spirits' theme of the old farm. Now the old lichen covered barn houses farm equipment which is removed each October for the annual and most famous Halloween party in the land. In the crisp morning air of Fall, the decoration committee gathers at the barn, and from its splintery rafters hangs strands of store-bought cobwebs with red bellied spiders, place yellow-eyed rats amongst the appetizers, they stir the vodka punch in a hollowed pumpkin shell, arrange bloodshot eyeballs to float in the margaritas, call the neighborhood band and then light the propane heaters. For more than a decade Goblins and Witches, Red Riding Hoods and Bo Peeps, Princess' and Black Cats, notorious Presidents and French Maids, have arrived on the scene, dancing till dawn on the bare dirt floor.
| Wine Advocate 91 points (Feb 2012)
The 2009 Pinot Noir Moonshine Ranch is one of the more immediate wines in this flight of 2009 Pinots. It shows good up-front intensity but less of the aromatic delineation and overall complexity of some of the other wines in this lineup. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024
|Wine maker notes
|This was an even and "normal" growing season up until the end of the harvest, when rains came early. Early ripening grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir generally had an excellent year. All in all, it was a slightly warmer year than 2007 and the wines were deep and flavorful. Some critics tout this year as even better than 2007 because of a slightly cooler summer allowing these wines to age very well.
The 2009 Moonshine Ranch Pinot Noir has notes or cedar wood and barnyard with moderate tannins. Full of lush dark berry flavors, plum, and ripe red apple along with cherry-cola, sassafras, and anise.