By Bob Lipinski
Notre Vue Vineyards and Winery encompasses 710 acres of land in both the Chalk Hill and Russian River Valley appellations, in Sonoma County, California. Bob & Renée Stein founded Notre Vue Estate in 1992 after discovering the beauty of its natural art; in particular, its breathtaking views of the rolling hills and vineyards of Sonoma County, California.
To ensure that the beauty lives on for future generations, Bob & Renée dedicated 350 acres of the property as a “forever wild” nature preserve in perpetuity. According to Renée, the property was originally established as Balverne Cellars in 1972 and then re-launched as Notre Vue, with the first vintage in 2014.
The Balverne brand was revived in 2014 by Notre Vue using the image of the red-tailed hawks so prevalent on the property. The Notre Vue labeled wines were established as the more opulent expression of the estate grapes.
The winery has 210 acres of vineyards planted with Chardonnay, Chardonnay Musqué, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and other grape varieties.
“Not only does one drink wine, but one inhales it, one looks at it, one tastes it, one swallows it…and one talks about it.” (King Edward VII of England, 1841-1910)
At a recent press tasting and luncheon hosted by Renée Stein of Notre Vue Estate, we were led through a tasting of their wines by Geoffrey Thompson, estate general manager, and Alex Holman, winemaker (via Zoom), followed by lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in Manhattan, New York.
We tasted well over a dozen red, white, and rosé wines. Below are my tasting notes of some of the wines.
2021 Balverne “Sauvignon Blanc” Chalk Hill. Very aromatic with floral tones of peach, citrus, and green apple. Light and refreshing with flavors of apricot and figs; hints of celery round out this beauty. A Caesar salad with extra dressing works for me!
2019 Notre Vue “Chardonnay Musqué,” Russian River. Chardonnay Musqué is an aromatic mutation of the Chardonnay grape. The word “musqué” is given because of the grape’s heady, musky, Muscat-like perfume. The grape is grown mostly in California, New York’s Finger Lakes, and Canada’s Niagara Peninsula.
The wine did not go through malolactic fermentation and was transferred to neutral barrels after primary fermentation. While in barrel, the wine was stirred constantly sur-lie for 3 months to enhance the mouthfeel. A fresh bouquet of apricot, citrus, and pear is followed by a medium-bodied, rich-tasting wine with a distinctive grapey flavor. Additional flavors of mango and nectarine with subtle hints of cinnamon. Pair the wine with crab cakes containing some curry.
2019 Balverne “Pinot Noir” Russian River. Aged in 100% French, medium and light toasted oak barrels with 25% new barrels for 9 months. Ruby red color with a bouquet bursting with cherries, cranberries, and raspberries. Soft and silky in the mouth, with hints of chocolate, licorice, and plums. Pairing it with eggplant parmigiana with a spicy tomato sauce would do it for me!
2019 Notre Vue “Pinot Noir” Russian River. Aged in 100% French, medium and light toasted oak barrels with 40% new barrels for 12 months. Cherry color with a distinctive aroma and taste of boysenberry, mulberry, and red currants. Medium-bodied with flavors of jam, pomegranate, and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve it with barbecued chicken smothered in a fig, balsamic vinegar glaze for a lazy summer afternoon meal.
2019 Balverne “Malbec” Chalk Hill. (Blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot grapes.) Aged in 100% French oak for up to 18 months. Deeply colored with a spicy bouquet of blueberry, blackberry, and cocoa. Smooth with flavors of cedar, leather, and vanilla. Subtle tones of violets and nutmeg. Serve this with grilled veal chops covered with extra-virgin olive oil, bits of tomato, and sprigs of rosemary.
2019 Notre Vue “GSM” Red Blend (51% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre blend) Chalk Hill. This classic Rhône-style blend is always one of my favorite “go-to wines.” Densely colored with a complex bouquet and taste with layers of flavor. The wine is brimming with black fruit, cranberries, cola, spice, lavender, and herbs. It has smoky overtones and a dry finish and aftertaste of bitter almonds. Pair this wine with spicy hot Italian pork sausages and a plate of broccoli rabe loaded with garlic and hot pepper.
2019 Notre Vue “Estate Red” Chalk Hill. (Blend of 36% Malbec, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Merlot). Very dark color. Tight bouquet beginning to open. Full-bodied and tannic, but surprisingly subtle in the mouth. There are so many concentrated fruit and berry flavors (blackberry, mulberry), black pepper, cloves, espresso, and exotic perfumes. Mouth-filling with spicy plum. Long, lingering aftertaste. The wine begs for some Cajun, blackened filet mignon with a baked potato and some chive butter.
The wines from Notre Vue and Balverne are well-made and very easy to drink.
“The fine wine leaves you with something pleasant. The ordinary wine just leaves.” (Dr. Maynard A. Amerine, 1911-1998, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis)
Bob Lipinski, the author of 10 books on alcoholic beverages and food, consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food, and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.BobLipinski.com OR Bob@BobLipinski.com