2006 Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard Marcassin

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Average critic rating : 94.0 points



The 2006 Pinot Noirs that are just being released include the 2006 Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard. While it has closed down since I tasted it last year, it does reveal a dark plum/ruby color as well as a smoky bouquet of Asian plum sauce, soy, forest floor and sweet black cherries. Like many Marcassin Pinots, it possesses a Morey St.-Denis-like character. The Three Sisters cuvee will benefit from another 1-2 years of bottle age and drink well for a decade or more. ||It was great to see Helen Turley finally make the cover of the Wine Spectator in 2010 after twenty years of this brilliant, artisanal operation being largely ignored. Readers will not find anyone more knowledgeable about viticulture and winemaking than the husband and wife team of Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer. While much of the article’s focus is on how many top wineries Helen Turley once served as a consultant, their long term goal was always to be completely independent of any consulting jobs, focusing solely on their own vineyard. As I reported last year, there will no longer be any Pinot Noir from the Blue Slide Vineyard or Chardonnay from the Three Sisters Vineyard (both sites owned by the well-known Martinelli family in the Russian River). However, there will be more Marcassin Estate wines as they now have 20 acres under vine on the steep hillsides of the Sonoma Coast. Both Turley and Wetlaufer were among the first in California to try and emulate the full malolactic style found in most French white Burgundies. There is plenty of history to support what they are trying to accomplish. Wetlaufer, who was the wine buyer at the All Seasons Market in Calistoga, was a huge Burgundy fan at the time, and he formed a Burgundy tasting group with many other well-known winemakers. That gave him the opportunity to analyze both white and red Burgundies, and to get a detailed perspective of Burgundy. It is ironic that the Marcassin Chardonnays probably eclipse 98% of white Burgundies made today for their complexity and aging potential. While I have never been a believer in the ageworthiness of California Chardonnay vis a vis white Burgundy, all I have to do is go back and open a 1996 or 1995 Marcassin Chardonnay, which was then made from purchased fruit, to recognize how amazingly well their wines age. Readers have two spectacular vintages from Marcassin coming on the market – the 2007 and 2008 Chardonnays as well as the 2007 and 2006 Pinot Noirs. The 2008 Chardonnays are remarkable as well. There was no frost damage at the Marcassin estate because of the vineyard’s lofty elevation.||Tel. (707) 258-3608; Fax (707) 942-5633 Wine Advocate.February, 2011

One of the most influential artisanal winemakers in California, Marcassin is famed for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Described by Robert Parker as “virtually perfect”, it is consistently compared to the finest that Burgundy has to offer, not only in terms of depth and complexity but also (regrettably) in terms of scarcity.

A tiny estate, barely twenty acres on the Sonoma Coast, Marcassin Vineyard is planted two thirds Pinot to one third Chardonnay. Additional fruit is sourced from other neighbouring vineyards (Blue Slide Ridge and Three Sisters for the Pinot Noirs). Only a couple of hundred cases of each cuvee are made per year and 80% of that goes directly to mailing list members, making occasional availability on the secondary market the only way most people will ever get a chance to claim a bottle or two.

Owner Helen Turley has served as consulting winemaker for some of the best wineries in the United States, from Pahlmeyer, to Colgin, to Martinelli. Marcassin is her own label, owned together with her viticulturist husband, and the wines they produce together are seldom less than extraordinary. Stylistically rich and opulent, they are long-ageing wines which combine Old World elegance with New World power and sensibilities and easily rival the very best of Burgundy, both white and red.

Scores have reached 100-point highs on a number of occasions, with some of the most memorable vintages including the 2008, 2002 and 2002 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay, and the 2004 and 2002 Marcassin Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Owners Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer continue to reside at the top of a short list of producers making the world's most prodigious, complex wines – Robert Parker

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