Small Production Pinot Noir in a People-Pleasing Style

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small winery in Sonoma, California, however there isn’t much information about them that I could find. They did come onto my radar last year though, when I happened to meet proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant and we struck up a friendly conversation and discussed his wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with winegrower Brad Alper, winemaker William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a rosé and very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir. Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated and boutique wine stores.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. Straight out of the bottle, I wasn’t getting much on this besides some heat from the alcohol so I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes to an hour. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, plum, licorice, leather, baking spice, vanilla, and toasted oak. The heat never really blows off. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of strawberry, black cherry, red plum, leather, green herbs, chocolate, and baking spice. Alcoholic heat carries over to the palate as well. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a medium length finish. While not my preferred style at this stage, hopefully it becomes better integrated and more complex with a few more years in the bottle.

Price: $36. At this price-point I think the wine offers solid value but it still needs some time to come together in the bottle. For me, even though this is young I find it somewhat jammy and it seems heavy-handed in the winemaking process. Personally I prefer very terroir-driven Pinot Noir made in a minimally invasive style, though I think this wine could have broad appeal. The alcohol is a bit too high for me as well, so I’ll be looking for it to integrate.

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