Pinot vs. Pinot: Whole Cluster vs. Reserve

Taste – like Pinot Noir.

Aroma – like fresh cut lavender on the east side of the hills of Kilimanjaro.

Color – Red?

Finish – yes, I finished the bottle.

Huh, what’s that about??? Yesterday I interviewed Laetitia winemaker Eric Hickey about
the difference in the feel and taste of my current two favorite 2014 Laetitia Pinot Noir – the newly released Whole Cluster Pinot Noir (WC) and the Pinot Noir Reserve (PNR).

Both are made in relatively smaller lots (750 cases for the WC) sold only in the Tasting Room and Wine Club, (2200 cases for the PNR) also available in the broad market, both are priced at $42 and both aspire to something a little more complex than our Pinot Noir Estate Wine.

So what’s the answer? How can two wines from the same estate and same vintage taste similar yet different?

Let’s ask Eric:eric&Nadia

Winemaking – Reserve lots are 100% destemmed, whereas WC  includes entire clusters, usually in the 30%-50% range.  With destemmed fruit we pump over the wine to extract color, flavor and tannin, but with WC this is next to impossible as it will plug up our pump-over system, so we use the punch down method for these lots. For further explanation of these methods see Eric Hickey’s Blog from January of 2015.  

Aging – Exactly the same on all Laetitia Pinot Noir: 11 months

Barrels – WC gets the highest level of new French oak of all of our Pinot Noir.  50% new.  This is a phenomenon of including the stems – it seems to “soak up” the new oak.  We use Francois Frères barrels exclusively on the WC as they tend to be sweeter and round out the rustic nature of the WC.  Reserve receives 35% new oak so as to not drown out the fruit. It is a mix of Francois Frères and Hermitage barrels.

Clones selection. – It has taken us 10 years to figure out which clones work best with WC.  Mostly 115, 667 and 459.  These clones tend to naturally have strong fruit tones, so they lend themselves to the inclusion of stems.  Reserve is a mix of the same, with a large amount of 667 due to its sweetness and obvious fruit, but also includes 828 for its dark fruit component and tannin, as well as Pommard 5 and Martini 13 for their “Old world” components.

Cool guy label. – When it was time to make the label for the first ever WC bottling we wanted to create something that resembled Gevry Chambertin labels, as they tend to have a very unique, gothic, very old world look to them but still have the Laetitia theme and consistency.  This being said, we love the Laetitia Reserve label, a classic homage to our French heritage.  Both include cool technical details on the back label, which people love.

So what does this really mean? Be the ultimate judge and embark your own demystifying tasting journey. For 2 weeks only, till August 10th we are offering an exclusive Reserve comparing 2 pack.  Our “Pair of Pinot” Summer two-pack will be on sale for 15% off (25% for Wine Club)!

Try it and let us know what you think.

Warning: Both these wines are to be enjoyed, Do you have a favorite? Or like me is your favorite the last one you tried?

Also, I’m so happy to share James Laube’s touching article about my dad Selim Zilkha’s passion for Pinot Noir and Alzheimer’s Research. Thank you Mr. Laube for this beautiful blog!

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