Amazing Santa Maria Pinot Noir: Lazarre Bien Nacido

adamThis guy is very elusive.

About a year ago I caught a glimpse of his wine in Scottsdale, AZ. There was an Adam Lazarre Central Coast Pinot Noir on the Greene House wine list, and we grabbed it as fast as we politely could and enjoyed the heck out of it.

My attempts to find Lazarre  wine in Ohio were thwarted by a distributor who had it, but didn’t really have it. And then lo and behold, I accidentally hit the jackpot: I found a bottle of the single-vineyard Lazarre Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. And the fabulous 2007 vintage, no less!

To back up a bit, I should explain that Adam Lazarre is a California winemaker who directed some big-production wineries while making some very small production Pinot Noir on the side. He favors the area from Paso Robles south to Santa Barbara, and makes very classic, very pure Pinot from some of the best vineyards in the state.

One of those vineyards is Bien Nacido. Adam says it’s on the “south facing northern hills midway down the Santa Maria Valley.” South-facing is good: that means good sun exposure and complete ripening. He used just four rows of carefully selected vines, and made a total of — three barrels! Yes, just three barrels, which certainly fits my definition of “Small production.”

What Adm does with those three barrels is… not much. He claims he favors “minimalist winemaker intervention,” which means “Just crush, ferment, and jam (it) into the barrel. The strength of the wine lies in the vineyard – as it should be.”

The wine I tasted had all sorts of strength. Remember that this bottle was the 2007 vintage, which every expert and wine-critic-wannabe has dubbed the best vintage EVER for California Pinot Noir. First we smiled at the presentation of this bottle, which is wrapped in leopard print tissue paper. Yes, leopard print… Word has it that Angie Lazarre, Adam’s wife, hand wraps each bottle. That’s gotta be a labor of love. But it also adds a classy, whimsical touch that’s so sexy we all didn’t want to open the bottle. Well… we almost didn’t want to open it…

So it poured out deep ruby red, and the aromas started gushing out of the glass. I got bright cranberry and cherry, with a bit of smoke and spice. I dragged my Pinot-loving friends over for the first taste, and the flavors gushed out too.

Actually, there was a big rush of intense bright fruit that quickly turned deep, warm and velvety. It was weirdly great — a big bang and then a soft middle and lingering, elegant finish. The only thing better was what happened as it sat in my glass. I was eating a feast of grilled tenderloin, dry-rubbed chicken and cedar-planked salmon, so I made my way through a few glasses of the Lazarre Bien Nacido. By my second glass I started to taste dusky caramel and clove with a back-note of minerality. Wow — was that good.

I know that 2007 was a hard vintage to screw up. But Lazarre gave us a wine that’s even better than you’d expect. It’s pure and well-balanced  — bold where it needs to be and elegant when it counts.

So obviously, I’m recommending this wine highly. Your problem will be finding it. If I were you, I’d be on the look-out for any Lazarre Pinot, and grab it when you find it. Cheers!



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