The wines of Kutch, Sonoma, California
Impressive 2009 Pinot Noir releases from Jamie Kutch


Many people turn to wine as a second career. They make their money in business, and then see owning a vineyards as a nice retirement job. Known in the trade as life-stylers, they rarely make great wine, and push up vineyard prices in the process.

While wine is a second career for Jamie Kutch, his story is quite different. He caught the wine bug while working as a NASDAQ trader for Merrill Lynch in New York, and this led him to change careers before heíd broken 30. Through internet discussion boards, he chatted to Michael Browne of renowned Sonoma Pinot Noir producer Kosta Browne, who invited him to take an internship.

So Jamie and his partner swapped New York for San Francisco, and he began living a double life. During the day, Jamie worked as a trader in San Francisco, and then after work and weekends he immersed himself in vineyard and winery work. The day job lasted six months. When his internship came to an end, Jamie started his own project making Pinot Noir.

The key challenge facing him was to acquire fruit from the best cool (and even) cold vineyard sites in Sonoma. His trading skills helped, and first release was the 2005 vintage. Here I got a chance to taste the fifth vintage, from 2009.

Kutch Pinot Noirs are made as naturally as possible. The grapes are harvested by hand and then fermented in small open-top containers with hand (and foot) punch downs, using indigenous yeasts. Acidification is sometimes needed, but is kept to a minimum. After fermentation the wines go to French oak barrels, of which some are new, and are not racked until bottling, which takes place 16 months later. Just free run juice is used, and the pressings are sold off.

As with many high-end Californian wines, these Pinot Noirs are sold through a mailing list. I think they are brilliant, and if I was in the USA I'd do all I could to get on it.


Kutch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009
13.9% alcohol, 288 cases made. This comes from three separate vineyards, and the grapes are destemmed and then fermented in three-quarter ton bins with manual punch down, before going to French oak, a third of which is new. Sweetly aromatic nose with warm red cherry fruit and fine spicy notes. Itís ripe and alluring but quite elegant. The palate is smooth-textured with good concentration. Mouthfilling, ripe and seamless, but still with a mineral, spicy dimension. Good balance. 93/100

Kutch McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir 2009 Sonoma Coast
13.9% alcohol, 288 cases made. 40% whole cluster used, with 50% new oak. Fresh, assertive cherry fruit nose with some fine spicy notes, as well as a pleasant hint of greenness. Fresh and taut on the palate but with firm structure and nice spiciness, perhaps from the stems. Power and elegance combined. Nicely fresh and savoury, showing some sweet cherry and plum fruit. Dry, tannic finish. Quite serious, with potential for development. 94/100

Kutch Falstaff Pinot Noir 2009 Sonoma Coast
13.1% alcohol, 168 cases. 40% whole cluster with 60% new oak. Fresh, sappy cherry fruit nose with subtle spiciness. Very bright. The palate is savoury with nice structure and a lovely subtle green edge to the cherry fruit. I like the structure here: thereís some grip, but itís finely grained. A distinctly fresh, elegant, savoury style. 94/100

Kutch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2009
13.8% alcohol, 264 cases. 100% destemmed. Beautifully open, aromatic nose is supple and lively with red cherry and berry fruits as well as a hint of sappiness. The palate is fresh but textured with lively cherry fruit and subtle spiciness. Lovely balance between the sweet fruit and fresh, subtly green, savoury spicy notes. Expressive and elegant. 93/100

See also:

Visiting Napa Valley
Josh Jensen and Calera

Wines tasted 03/11  
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