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Culture / Foodie Events

Bagpipe Grapes

Musician Turned Winemaker Uses Hard Science & an Artist’s Touch to Make a Better Pinot Noir

BY // 08.03.16

Greg La Follette has long loved playing the bagpipes, and he loves wine. The bagpipes were not, he knew, a lucrative career move, so he earned a BA in plant biology and chemistry, then a master’s degree in food science and technology from UC Davis. He continued his training at Beaulieu Vineyards, serving as the research viticulturist and oenologist for André Tchelistcheff. (If you like wine and don’t know anything about Tchelistcheff, do yourself a favor and look him up.) Australia followed, then back to Napa Valley and more winemaking. In 1996, he joined Flowers Vineyard & Winery as head winemaker, building there a landmark gravity-flow winery known the world over. In 2001 he founded Tandem Wines, where he produced excellent small-lot Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In 2009, Tandem became La Follette, in partnership with Pete Knight (proprietor of Quivira Vineyards & Winery).

Greg La Follette
Greg La Follette (courtesy La Follette Wines)

Which brings us to the 2013 La Follette North Coast Pinot Noir. (I gave you a brief biography of the winemaker to demonstrate his science background and his artistic bent; the man is an influential player in the wine world, and those two sides of him work to create some worthy Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.) I opened a bottle this week, and it immediately found a place on my Brockhaus list, which is comprised of wines I want to pour at dinners. I liked the mushroom (faint) and red berry (more distinct) bouquet, and the graceful tannins and acidity made this a satisfying tasting (and pairing for the roast chicken I had made). It’s soft, and a little mysterious.

Russian River Valley grapes are the foundation of the 2013; the UCD 23 clone from the famed Hawks Roost Vineyard is here, as are grapes from La Follette’s DuNah Vineyard. Rounding out the vintage are fruit from two family-run and organically farmed vineyards in Mendocino County. Alcohol is at 13.8, and 10,330 cases were produced. Look for this at around $20 a bottle.

If you are seeking a wine to add to your rotating lineup, this is one for you; it drank well with the chicken (garlic slivers under the skin and parsley and lemon in the cavity before roasting), and it would pair wonderfully with a pasta and vegetable dish.

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