A vertical tasting of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noirs

BY JIM BEAUREGARD April 01. 2014 4:22PM

Those of you who have been in the wine world for any length of time know that a vertical tasting is a sampling of the same line in different vintages. I happened upon a display of MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir that contained both the 2011 and 2012 vintages, and since MacMurray is an old favorite of ours I thought we might give it a try.

Since it's been a while since we touched on this wine, just a few reminders: The MacMurray of the name is the late actor Fred MacMurray, who bought a 1,500 acre ranch in the early 1940s which is still run by his family. It's located in the Russian River Valley of California, but the winery also sources grapes from other areas including the Central Coast.

When Fred MacMurray bought the ranch, his intent was to raise cattle. And this he did. Over time, the ranch evolved into vineyards, and today, his daughter Kate MacMurray is in charge. Today, they boast 450 acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines.

MacMurray's current winemaker is Chris Munsell, whose love of winemaking goes back to his early life. He attended the University of California at Davis, during which he interned at wineries in both California and Fran ce, and graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science.

Since we are looking at a Central Coast, a word about that region is in order. It runs from from just south of San Francisco down to Santa Barbara, a distance of about 250 miles, following the ocean the whole way. It's an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) that has numerous cool-climate vineyards on the coast and some warmer vineyards further inland, where the Pacific exerts less of its cooling influence. The cool climate makes a good home for Pinot Noir, but it's not the only grape grown there. You can also find Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

So here are our notes on the MacMurray Pinot Noirs.

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Central Coast, 2011. Medium intensity purple with a medium intensity nose where dark raspberry predominates. It is slowly developing. It's a dry wine, with medium-plus acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, body and flavor intensity. The raspberry continues on across the palate, with the addition of some red currant, with earthy and vegetal flavors that give depth emerging toward the end. There is some oak mixed in as well. Good quality. The fruits are not as forward as they might have been when the wine was first released; as it has aged, they have receded a bit and started to blend in with the earthy background, making this a food wine. Ready to drink now. 86 points

And, vertically, MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Central Coast 2012. Purple, with a more forward nose of red fruit, lighter than the 2011, containing both currant and raspberry, beginning to develop, rather than more developed like its predecessor. This is also a dry wine, with medium acidity, medium alcohol, body and flavor intensity. The fruit is more lively in this younger wine, with red currant, raspberry and red cherry in a blend that remains fairly stable to the finish. Also good quality, also ready to drink now. 88 points.


And, to end with something quite different: Blue Moon Brewing Company Vintage Ale Collections Crimson Crossing Wheat Ale Brewed with the Juice of Merlot Grapes, 9.5% ABV. The title pretty much says it all. The head is pink, the beer, a wheat ale, is in the light red range. The nose gives scents of cherry, black cherry and general red fruit. The palate is off-dry with low bitterness, medium acidity, low tannin, medium carbonation and medium, well-integrated alcohol. There is a soda pop feel to it in the effervescence, and the palate blends grape and cherry.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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