by Fred McMillin
for April 14, 1999


An All-Pro Pinot


United States' Pinot Noir is fast closing the quality gap with Burgundy. There is a groundswell of interest in California Pinot Noir.

...Wine Spectator, 1998, Harvey Steiman

Chuck Ortman

Twenty years ago, the press called Chuck Ortman a "rising superstar." They were right.

During the last decade, Meridian Vineyard's Chuck Ortman has been making gallop-sized strides with Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara.

...Bob Thompson, Wine Atlas of California

The Rest of the Story

I can recall visiting Harvey Steiman around 1990, when he was not an admirer of California Pinot Noir. Here's how he recalls those days in the Spectator...In their search for success, California vintners tried nearly everything. They threw stems into the fermentors, they let fermentations get very warm, they played with enzymes...and made some "weird wines."

Those days are gone, and Chuck Ortman has helped get rid of them. My panel just tasted his Santa Barbara Reserve '96 and gave it an EXCELLENT. Details:

The Wine of the Day

1996 Reserve 100% Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
Meridian Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA.
Production Notes—The word was treat it GENTLY. So, hand-harvesting, tranquil five-day soak of skins in the juice before fermentation was started, no pumping of the fermenting must, etc.
Tasting Notes—The San Francisco Chronicle noted the '95 Reserve had "big, smooth flavors and ripe fruit"...in the '96, my panel particularly like the intense cherry flavors. One taster summed it up best, writing "I want some"!
Food Affinities—Lamb, turkey, veal.
Contact—Office of Allison Simpson, (707) 963-7115
Price—$20 range
Winemaker—Chuck Ortman first gained fame with Burgundy's other winning grape, Chardonnay, so his success with Pinot was predictable. For more about his 31 years of winemaking, see these WineDays: June 12,1998, "Death of a Vineyard", and August 1,1997, "Ortman's Flight Plan."


What's a Bridge Wine? Answer: A wine for those interested in more vigor than provided by whites and pinks, yet not ready for powerhouse big Bordeaux-grape reds. Mr. Ortman's Pinot will escort you across the bridge nicely.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

More articles by
Fred McMillin


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