Great Value Pinot Noir to Stand Up to the Cult Wineries of the Russian River Valley

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small wine producer based out of Sonoma, California and it was established out of passion for wine and a father’s love for his son. I first learned of Little Boat when I met proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant, where we struck up a friendly conversation about family, wine, and other topics. 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 Brad Alper, William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family to craft these wines. 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. (I previously wrote about the Pinot and Cab). There is also a rosé, very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir, and a Rioja! Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated wine stores.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Little Boat Pinot Noir and 2016 Little Boat Cabernet Sauvignon, so I’m excited to review the 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve today.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve

100% Pinot Noir; 13.7% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve is pale ruby in color. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, red plum, violet, leather, cracked pepper, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of strawberry, red cherry, dried red licorice, tobacco, underbrush, charred green herbs, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This wine can stand up to any of the “big names” of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and it’s certainly a treat to taste.

Price: $45. This offers considerable value for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, particularly given its intensity, complexity, and balance at this young age. As I tasted this and the “cult” RRV winery names popped into my mind, I was truly impressed by this Little Boat bottling.

High Quality and Low Production Sonoma Cab

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.

I very recently wrote about the 2018 Little Boat Pinot Noir, so please feel free to check out those tasting notes if you haven’t already!

Today’s Wine: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I let this open up for about an hour, though for being so young it was fairly friendly right out of the gates. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, redcurrant, red plum, sweet tobacco, dried earth, dried green herbs, chocolate, vanilla, and cedar. There’s some heat there too from the alcohol. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of redcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry, tobacco, coffee grounds, milk chocolate, vanilla, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) finish.

Price: $40. This offers very solid value, though for me it fits into the camp of high-quality people pleaser. The fruit is slightly jammy, though there is some complexity here that’s intriguing. You can certainly notice the oak as well, so while not my preferred style I think many consumers would enjoy this.

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.