Cobb is the California pinot noir I’ve been waiting for.
David Cobb is neither a winemaker nor one of the egocentric businessmen that plunked down millions of dollars to own a California winery. He’s just passionate about pinot noir and has a well-developed intellect.
Cobb has a bachelor’s degree in marine ecology and two masters’ degrees, the first in biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and the other in education and the philosophy of science from Stanford. He applies that academic discipline to pinot noir.
A lover of Burgundy wines, Cobb began studying the American wine market in the 1970s, along with soil types and climatological data in California and Europe. He became convinced that Americans would eventually like pinot noir and that the Sonoma Coast would be the perfect place to plant it.
There were only two impediments: No one was drinking American pinot noir at the time, and everyone in the wine trade said the Sonoma Coast was too cold for growing any grapes, let alone the fickle and difficult pinot noir. But Cobb had done his homework, and his analysis told him to purchase land. In 1989, he began planting pinot noir in his new Coastlands Vineyard.
In 2001, and Cobb’s son Ross bought his degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture- and seven years working for Ferrari-Carano and Williams Selyem wineries (the latter specializes in pinot noir) – to Coastlands Vineyard, and the two men decided to make a Cobb label pinot noir.
The 2008 Cobb Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is from the family’s largest vineyard at 14.5 acres. The wine is translucent raspberry, with enchanting floral, blackberry and mild spice scents. Luscious strawberry, cherry, white pepper and vanilla flavors are carried on soft tannins and refreshing acidity. Add the very modest 13.6 percent alcohol and the absence of an oaky presence, and you have a wine with New World fruit flavors and Burgundy’s restrained oak and alcohol. It’s a perfect combination.
The 2008 Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a brilliant strawberry color, and the fragrances of dried flowers and red fruit create an instantly magnetic wine. Scrumptious raspberry, cherry and rhubarb tastes join a Burgundy-like 13.1 percent alcohol making this one of the best California pinot noirs I’ve tasted. It is as though Cobb attach the richly-flavored Sonoma Coast fruit to the framework of a Santenay premier cru Burgundy.
Cobb’s pinot noirs show what is possible when passion is welded to understanding that pinot noir is at its best when cultivated in cool climate areas. There the grapes ripen gradually with red fruit aromas and flavors and bear moderate sugar content, which converts to moderate alcohol- under 13.5 percent. Add the judicious use of new French oak barrels for aging and to deliver a pinot noir with all its complexity and seductive qualities.
Cobb’s minuscule vineyards (Emmaline Ann and three others are two acres each) yield only a few hundred cases, making these wines difficult to attain, but well worth the effort and price. Call it a Cobbesian choice.
The Cobb 2008 Coastlands Vineyard and Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast retail for approximately $75.