The Man and His Juice
Comparisons between Pisoni’s personality and his wines
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Comparisons between Pisoni’s personality and his wines are as irresistible as his 2007 Pisoni Estate Pinot. Here’s a rundown of how they correlate:
There are many ways to take pleasure in Pisoni’s hedonistic, leggy, black cherry flavors, which Weekly wine scribe and local sommelier Paul Wetterau describes as “sexual, like a Scorpio.” Pisoni has some suggestions: “Enjoy my Pinot with meat, enjoy it with fish, enjoy it in the bathtub, just not alone!”
The heavy and complex flavors at work with his wines are a lot to handle. So is Pisoni. His first wife remains a friend and a Gonzales teacher, but Papa Pisoni was a little too much. “[My brother] Jeff and I are more mellow than my dad because of my mom,” Mark says. “You have to be pretty tough to hang with him.”
Santa Lucia soils and French oak barrels help give Pisoni wines an impressive, and surprising, backbone built on acidity, oak and tannins that are rare for Pinots. Pisoni, meanwhile, is a devout student of astrology, a hunter and handyman whose skills with the soil are overshadowed by his ample personality and passion. “Without a doubt the biggest thing that people overlook,” Siduri’s Adam Lee says, “is how good a farmer he is.”
Pisoni’s grapes taste rich right off the vine, which is good, because you can’t create such flavors in the winery. Monetary riches from farming, meanwhile, allowed the family to invest in drilling for water and to discard less flavorful grapes, which in turn galvanized one of the best reps in the West.
Although some Pinots appear translucent in the glass, Pisoni approaches opaque. That comes from long hang times and warm vineyard elevations that rise above the fog. Pisoni, a swarthy fellow himself, brokers some of his best deals and hosts some of his best parties in the dark cocoon of his hidden wine cellar, in the company of several thousand rare bottles.
Neither Pisoni, his hair, his wines or their alcohol levels are small. In an era where the trend is swinging back toward less alcoholic, more subtle and delicate Pinots, some critics say Pisoni’s are too big and too ripe. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni’s reply: That’s an expression of the tougher benchland soils and southernmost Santa Lucia Highlands location from which their vines emerge, just like his dad is a product that could only grow in Gonzales.