Authentic, Not Pretentious ~ Pinot Noir at Papapietro Perry

Pinot at Papapietro Perry. Say it three times fast and just try to keep from getting tangled up in the tongue-twisting, alliteration. We dare you. If you’re like us, you’ll be laughing in no time.

On our summer trip to California, we discovered the Papapietro Perry tasting room in the Dry Creek Valley of northern Sonoma County. You may recall from last week, that we had an incredible tasting experience at Mauritson and adored their Zins and their amazing hospitality. The next stop that morning was Papapietro Perry. When you walk out of a truly amazing tasting experience, you hardly expect to walk into another equally exquisite tasting right afterwards. It just doesn’t happen. Only it did. Lucky us!

The same July issue of The Wine Spectator that led us to Mauritson also led us to Papapietro Perry. The focus of the article was Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. And while Papapietro Perry certainly makes amazing Zin, it was their Pinot Noir that we fell in love with. In fact, we hyperventilate with excitement when we even simply think about our first sips on that sunny, summer day.

Housed in a humble building and situated next to several tasting rooms nestled amongst vineyards on Dry Creek Road, the Papapietro Perry tasting room is simple, comfortable and small. Our pourer was welcoming, even as we admitted we only just learned of the winery and knew almost nothing about it. He proceeded to acquaint us with the Papapietro Perry story as he poured their Pinot.

From the first whiff of the wine, we were in awe. The aromas in the glass predicted full bodied Pinot with elegance and balance. And oh, that first taste— silky, plush, divine goodness. Pinot after pinot was brought out for us since Papapietro Perry’s hallmark is small lots of vineyard designated wines. Each one was a wine we’d easily put in our Top Ten Pinot Noir list. And they just kept coming. It was astounding. Honestly. I said words I have never uttered before in a tasting room: “Stop it!,” I cried, “It’s just so good, I don’t know if I can take it anymore!” Our pourer laughed appreciatively. Obviously, he sees this reaction a lot.

Ben Papapietro, a native San Franciscan of Italian descent, spent 37 years working in the news business. He worked alongside Bruce Perry, who shared Ben’s passion for wine. Ben began making wine in his garage 25 years ago. Bruce joined to help and the two friends gradually evolved their “garagista” wines into the sophisticated, elegant releases that are now Papapietro Perry. They sold their first vintage in the 1990’s and have gradually added more and more vineyard designates each year. They focus on Pinot and Zin made from notable vineyards in Sonoma’s Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, as well as the Anderson Valley in neighboring Mendocino County.

You can imagine how thrilled we were when we received notice this past week that our first shipment from their wine club would be arriving on Friday. We began making plans to open a bottle that very night, ignoring the usual cautions to allow wine to settle after shipment. No, we needed our Papapietro Perry and we needed it right now.

We chose the 2010 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast appellation. I literally got teary-eyed with appreciation and delight when I sniffed the aromas in the glass. Rose petals, wild cherries and a bit of spice. I drew in breath after breath, and thought I could sit sniffing this glass all evening and be happy. But then I noticed my Dear Darling Spouse was way ahead of me in sipping so, of course, I joined him. He sighed and spoke reverently of the floral notes, berries and pomegranate in the flavor, as well as the decadently long finish.

Ben Papapietro, who continues today as the winemaker, is quoted as saying that he aspires for his wines to be:  “Authentic, not pretentious. Confident, but not too serious. Humble…an extension of my home and personal hospitality.” Well, Ben, we’ll gladly attest that you’ve done it.

So this week, we raise our glasses to humility coupled with excellence, to authenticity without pretension, and to liberal doses fun at the same time. Long live Papapietro Perry! Cheers!

4 replies »

  1. I am curious about the prices of the wines and if cost is important or not when you select what you are going to try.

  2. Sheepishly, we have to admit that we often write about the more expensive end of our tasting experiences. Not that we are trying to promote the pricey stuff over the less expensive. But it just happens that some good stories come out of when we’ve treated ourselves to something special. Wine is definitely a place where we allow ourselves a bit of indulgence. The wine here cost in the $40’s, I believe, with our wine club discount. Definitely not an everyday wine– one of the more expensive ones in our cellar, actually. However, this evening, for example, we are going to a dinner party and bringing wine from The Meschini Family Winery that costs $10-12 a bottle and will be absolutely delicious. Cost is important and a high priced wine does not guarantee a good bottle, but we do experiment in of both ends of the price spectrum.

  3. Ah, well, I guess you’ve uncovered our dirty little secret. We do love the full fruit Pinots which come from some of the CA vineyards. We realize that’s a hotly debated topic and people usually fall in one camp or the other. But we actually like both ends of the fruit spectrum — from the more reserved, almost austere, elegance of the French Burgundies, to the Oregon Pinots that seem to fall between the French and the Californian. And, yes, we also have a big spot spot in our hearts for the BIG Pinots that are large on fruit. However, to get high marks from us, they can’t be only fruit– must have good foundation and structure to support the fruit. PP was full fruit but not the biggest on fruit we’ve ever had. And would have to say it was exquisitely balanced with nice acidity, as well, at least to our taste buds.

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