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 is practically zero information about them that I could find. They did come onto my radar lest 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 three wines including a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Quantities appear to be very limited, with the wines generally found in high-end Los Angeles 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 higher ABV 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. The wine certainly screams New World and is a people-pleaser that’s not very complex, so this is definitely not my preferred style. Hopefully this becomes better integrated and more complex with a few more years in the bottle.

Price: $50 (I paid $40). I think there are better values out there, particularly if you’re looking at the more typical $50 price level for this wine. For me, even though this is young I find it pretty jammy and somewhat heavy-handed in the winemaking process whereas I prefer the more terroir-driven and minimally invasive styles. Alcohol is a bit too high for me as well.

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