The wines of Kutch, Sonoma, California
Impressive Pinot Noirs from Jamie Kutch


Jamie Kutch


Many people turn to wine as a second career. They make their fortune in business, and then see owning a vineyards as a nice retirement job. Known in the trade as lifestylers, 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 hed broken 30.

Growing up I was always a hobby guy,' says Jamie Kutch. 'I fell in love with wine in college. Then when I was working on a trading desk at Merrill Lynch, I geeked out with friends on Friday nights.' Kutch says that he fell in love with Pinot Noir, and that one of his favourites was Kosta Browne. 'I wrote to the winemaker and said you are living my dream,' Kutch recalls, 'and Michael invited me out.' So Jamie and his partner swapped New York for San Francisco, and he began living a double life. He got a trading job in San Francisco, and then after work and during weekends hed immerse 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 challenge 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. He made 150 cases, which had a heady alcohol level of 16.3% alcohol. Hed already told fellow geeks about his project on the eRobertParker forum, and as a result had a commitment from 400 customers before hed made the wine. The second vintage he decided to extract lighter but got the picking date wrong, and the final alcohol level was 15.2%. Jim Laube of the Wine Spectator gave this wine 93 points. 'I now get scores in the low 80s,' he shares, 'but I regard these as a badge of honour!'

The third vintage he picked incredibly early and it ended up at 13.2% alcohol. This was 100% destemmed, just berries. Kutch says it had light body but no weight and shoulders. 'Pinot Noir doesn't care where it is planted,' he says. 'At the end of the day it depends on acidity and ripeness and so on. Californian wines can age incredibly well. I'm excited to be holding back enough wines to prove this in the future.'

Winemaking isnt too complicated with an emphasis on not adding things, except for minimal acid additions where these are needed. Punchdowns are by hands or feet, or both, and the after fermentation the wine is transferred to French oak barrels by gravity, where it stays without racking for around 16 months.

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 Pinot Noir Sans Soufre 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
12.1% alcohol. An experimental wine without any added sulfites. Beautiful aromatics here: sweet red cherry fruit with some liqueur-like richness, and fine herby, spice savouriness in the background. Lovely texture on the palate with warm, sweet, pure red cherry fruit and a hint of strawberry. There are faint earthy hints and theres a liveliness to the finish. This has an incredible texture and drinkability. 94/100 (12/14)

Kutch Pinot Noir 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
12.3% alcohol. Lovely black cherry aromatics. Fresh and quite taut with sweet berry notes and a bit of spiciness. The palate is supple, smooth and quite elegant with ripe black cherry and plum fruit, together with some grippy structure under the fruit. Sweet and alluring with nice freshness and elegance. Lovely. 94/100 (12/14)

Kutch McDougal Ranch Pinot Noir 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
12.3% alcohol. Power and finesse here. Fresh black cherry nose with some spicy undertones. The palate is supple and focused with sweet black cherry and plum fruit and lovely structure. Nice density. This has the stuffing to age well. 94/100 (12/14)

Kutch Bohan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
12.3% alcohol. Very sweet, enticint, textured creamy red cherry and berry fruits nose with some distinct green notes. Fresh and slightly sappy. Really distinctive with creamy sweet red cherry fruit dominant and some subtle green notes that are trying hard to integrate. On day 2, however, its a different story, with lovely floral notes emerging, and the wine showing a more delicate personality. Very pretty. 94/100 (12/14)

Kutch Falstaff Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Sonoma Coast, California
12.1% alcohol. Fresh, juicy and bright with lovely texture to the raspberry and cherry fruit. Real freshness evident. Ripe, with sweet fruit, but showing lovely poise and balance. Really stylish and balanced with incredible focus, good acidity, but no hint of harshness. An elegant, focused style of Pinot Noir showing lovely floral aromatics and fine grained, expressive red cherry fruit. 95/100 (12/14)

Kutch McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 Sonoma Coast, California
This is a wine in need of some time. It will probably outlive me. Concentrated, taut and backward with powerful raspberry and cherry fruit, good structure and some savoury spiciness. Dense and in need of time, but everything is there for a positive development in the cellar. Remarkable intensity but not unbalanced. 95/100 (03/14)

Kutch Falstaff Pinot Noir 2012 Sonoma Coast, California
Jamie Kutchs Pinots are quite structured and intense, yet they dont lack elegance: wines for the long haul. This is from a very cool site, its 100% whole cluster and 25% new oak. Sweet, lively, aromatic cherry and plum nose. The palate is fresh, pure and concentrated, with lovely bright fruit, boldness, and good structure. 94/100 (03/14)

Kutch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2010 Sonoma Coast, California
Taut and fresh with cherry and plum fruit. Pure, lively, sappy and crisp with lovely acidity and fine cherry fruit. 93/100 (02/13)

Kutch Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 Sonoma Coast, California
Some dark, savoury black cherry fruit with a subtle hint of soy. Silky and elegant but with edges. Fresh and pure with lovely weight and complexity. 94/100 (02/13)

Kutch McDougal Ranch Pinot Noir 2010 Sonoma Coast, California
50% whole cluster. Rich and robust with fine, expressive fruit. Quite rich and dense with robustness allied with elegance. Nice focus. 94/100 (02/13)

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. Its 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 (03/11)

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 (03/11)

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: theres some grip, but its finely grained. A distinctly fresh, elegant, savoury style. 94/100 (03/11)

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 (03/11)

See also:

The wines of Hirsch Vineyards
Visiting Napa Valley
Josh Jensen and Calera

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