While Starfish Pinot Noir may be a relatively new pinot noir in Sonoma (first released in September 2006), winemaker Dan Cederquist is a winemaker who knows his way around Sonoma County. Dan began his winemaking career at Stag’s Leap and was the head winemaker at De Loach Vineyards. Dan has also been the consulting winemaker for Hook and Ladder and Balletto Vineyards. Dan’s many contacts and experience in Sonoma County has allowed him to buy a high quality fruit to produce his own Russian River Valley pinot noir. Not only does he get to buy his fruit from high-end Russian River Valley growers, but he often visits the vineyards and helps to determine when to pick the fruit, essentially taking a proactive role in the vineyard management. Dan has moved his winery to the Mayacamas Mountains on the borders of Napa and Sonoma where he has planted his own vineyards on site.
The current release of the Starfish Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is 2009, though there is a little 2008 left still available at some fine restaurants including at John Ash in Sonoma County (www.JohnAshRestaurant.com). The two vintages are very distinct:
Starfish Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008 (Ret $35-$40)
The 2008 has bright red fruit flavors which border more sharply on the palate than the new release, 2009, however both vintages do have the bright red fruit flavors. The 2008 vintage has ample spice from the barrels lingering in the mid-palate and into the finish. Very few cases of this vintage remain. The 2008 is a great pairing for pan-seared roasted salmon, and one of my favorite dishes, duck leg confit.
Starfish Pinot Noir 2009 (Ret $35-$40)
The 2009 Starfish Pinot Noir is completely different to the 2008. The 2009 vintage exhibits less of the sharpness of red fruit, however I find it to be a far better vintage in terms of complexity and depth of flavors. There is still an excellent spice in the mid-palate and I’m convinced the 2009 vintage has the capacity for aging for several years if not a decade if properly cellared between 58 and 68 Fahrenheit.
The 2009 Starfish Pinot Noir is an excellent food wine. I look forwards to trying this pinot noir with next year’s bing cherries and seared duck breast. An excellent recipe for Duck Breast with Bing Cherries can be found online at Lambert Bridge Winery:lambertbridge.com/wines/recipes/pan-seared-duck-breast-br-with-bing-cherry-sauce/
With a slight adjustment to this recipe - score the fat two to three times width-wise, prior to cooking, then place the duck breast in the pan and turn the heat to medium-high which will crisp and draw the fat, then remove the excess fat from the pan, rather than slicing the fat off as proposed in the recipe, then flip the duck breast over to finish. Lambert Bridge recommends this recipe with Merlot or Zinfandel but I find this subtle adjustment to the recipe produces a dish that is well complimented by a pinot noir such as the Starfish Pinot Noir 2009.
It’s the 20th Anniversary Winter Wineland, January 14th and 15th 11am – 4pm each day. There are couple of events each year which allow wine enthusiasts to mingle with the winemakers. This particular event tends to draw slightly smaller crowds, leaving more elbow room. I suggest picking three wineries and recommend selecting a designated driver (who can get a special $5 ticket). It’s a great way to taste new releases, limited production wines from some 140 participating Sonoma wineries. There are food and wine pairings, educational seminars and art exhibits galore especially put on for the Winter Wineland – a truly great way to enjoy Sonoma wine country. Advance tickets are $45 for the weekend, or $35 Sunday only, $5 for designated drivers. For more information and a list of participating wineries, visit: www.wineroad.com. Winter Wineland is a wonderful opportunity to discover the entire Russian River, for information on where to stay, visit www.RussianRiver.com.
John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays. www.sophiescellars.com