Most of our lives are spent living and working in the four dimensions. Reality, as we know it, consists of up/down, left/right, forward/backward and space/time. But in the world of wine, Stemmler Pinot Noirs enter the fifth dimension. These bottlings absolutely and positively escape the descriptive and tactile vocabulary.
There has always been something special about these pinot noirs … something that has remained consistent despite the change in ownership from founder Robert Stemmler to Anne Moller-Racke, Germans both. It's as if the very vineyards themselves lie on ley-lines and the wines are imbued with some extra-special and very unique juju.
Pinot noir fanatics speak this language. One sip of good pinot noir is so mesmerizing, puzzling, confounding and exhilarating that one must sip again. The flavors and aromas slip through the mind as if sand through an hourglass. Measurable, yet in constant motion; bottled, but not captured.
Only someone with a special gift can pull magic out of fickle pinot noir. Stemmler and Moller-Racke boast Harry Potter wands. In another reality, they would have graduated from Hogwarts…with honors.
The Stemmler Estate Pinot Noir 2008 ($40) from Carneros is just spell-binding. There is cherry and a silky-satin mouth feel coupled with a burst of violet perfume that explodes upon the senses. That first sip is a freeze-frame moment. Then, the sensual onslaught hauntingly disappears leaving you with a powerful and intense desire to repeat the experience. And the second sip is, well…another freeze-frame moment.
The senses do not get jaded. The flavors and aromas are subtle but intense; the textures are supple yet substantive. The wine is a complete palate tease.
Honestly, such has always been the case for Stemmler. It's the non plus ultra of California pinot noir.
The Ferguson block (single vineyard) Pinot Noir 2008 ($47) is altogether different but just as magical. It is fresh and clean like a primordial forest…all humus. Not earthy or heavy, just pure soil with a rich organic minerality that is mind-boggling (if you are a gardener, you know what I mean).
Moller-Racke describes it in dancer's terms. "The wine is light on its feet, but it has legs."
Her grand cru wines come under a different label: Donum.
The Donum Carneros 2008 ($80) is deeply concentrated with loads of extract. It is totally, completely and justly described as grand cru. There is plum, cherry, smoke, char, earth and toast. The mouth feel is a robe of thick satin. Mikhail Baryshnikov in a glass.
The Donum Russian River 2008 ($85) is lighter, more floral and spicier. It is exotic and hypnotic with the same pull as the Estate 2008. It is gossamer and ephemeral while still packing grand cru punch. Yes, oh yes, it does dance across the tongue. Michael Flatley in a glass.
Yet, as amazing as these wines are, you don't need to be a student of dance or a PhD in quantum physics to appreciate the craft that went into these bottlings. Like all things that are time-tested and classic, they are stand-alone good.
I would serve them as first course…without food. There is enough energy within the wine to feed the soul.