Last year, we debuted these wines without really knowing what kind of response to expect. I knew I liked them (a lot), but I had to wait until people got the wines in their glasses. We sold the carp out of them, like they were Varner or Carlisle with big points. A month or so later Alan Meadows at Burghound came out with high praise and high scores, and all of a sudden these guys were no longer a secret. Almost a year later, our customers are still asking for more. Which makes the release of the 2006s a welcome occasion.
We were lucky to get in with these wines when we did, which I proclaim a triumph of peskiness. Now we’re on the list, and the Anthill guys were nice enough to maintain our allocation. Which we appreciate, because restaurants are already starting to devour this stuff. When I went up to taste the 2006s from bottle, a buyer from a local wine bar ordered 20 cases of the Comptche for his by-the-glass program. When case production is in the low hundreds, 20 here and 20 there means sold out soon.
I tasted the 2006s from barrel and bottle, and it was a pleasure to remind myself of what initially drew me in. They are wines of refined succulence, seductive length, and intricate aromatics. They fold into food and quilt (quilt, the verb) across the palate. To call Anthill pioneers of California Pinot Noir might sound odd, but these guys are definitely in new territory, and their’s is a path worth following.
If you missed the wines last year, and you’re wondering what the deuce I’m going on about, Anthill Farms is a partnership of three winemakers/viticulturists who met in the cellar at Williams Seylem. Their approach is not complicated: The California wine industry is, for the most part, divided between growers and winemakers, and the result is that the two are not always working toward the same objectives. This can compromise fruit quality in the name of business. Anthill’s solution is to cultivate genuine partnerships with smaller vineyards. They end up doing some or all of the viticulture, and they coax the fruit to ripeness right alongside their growers. To paraphrase Webster Marquez, they are significantly (really, a whole lot) more involved in the day to day of their vineyards than most “estate” vineyards. The result is boutique, and in some cases micro-vineyards that produce wines the likes of which we don’t often see coming from California.
There is a tendency for us to call Pinot Noirs that we like (like these) Burgundian. I say that’s a simplification. What I love about these wines is that they succeed aromatically, texturally, and in the nuance and persistence of the flavors; they succeed as Pinot Noir. The Syrah succeeds as Syrah, in case you were wondering. They remind me that I like good Burgundy not simply because it is Burgundy, but because it is Pinot Noir from an excellent site. The best Burgundies succeed as Pinot Noir, and since Burgundy came first, we call successful California Pinot ‘Burgundian’. Which is strange because when we eat a nice chicken we don’t compare it to an egg. Yes, I’m saying the egg came first. Try and stop me. Let’s forget that terminology. These wines operate in many of the same ways fine Burgundy operates, but they are not insecure, trying to be Burgundy. Rather they know they are Pinot Noir, and they are Californian as a starting point. They build upon this and paradoxically become wines to cure California fatigue. They reveal their place as well as any wine from this state. They are distinct and exciting to have in your glass. The Anthill wines are Pinot Noir as Pinot Noir should be. And that’s why (the deuce) I keep going on about them.
We have two samplers again this year, a six pack and a full case, both with 5 Pinots and the outstanding-value Syrah. Both offer significant discounts off the normal retail and give you the chance to taste across the Anthill portfolio. I’ve included my notes on each wine below. – Ben Jordan