Reprinted from the Vol. 12, Issue 19 PinotFile issue.
The PinotFile is the first online publication devoted exclusively to Pinot Noir and is a beacon for those seeking to find the best expressions of the noble grape. Dr. William “Rusty” Gaffney, or as he is colloquially known, “The Prince of Pinot,” rates all wines and has become an authority on the grape varietal given his extensive tastings from around the world. West Coast wines tend to be a focus of the publication.
Veteran winemaker Bill Brosseau must have secretly discovered an ancient tome on wine alchemy because he is able to work magic with a geographically diverse range of California vineyards. Two wines stood out for me: the 2019 Sierra Mar Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and the 2019 La Rinconada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Over the years, I have tasted many Pinot Noir wines from these two disparate, established vineyards that were crafted by multiple producers, but Bill’s 2019 versions are the best that I have ever experienced from these two sources. There are several other 2019 Testarossa Pinot Noirs to highly recommend as well.
I am not alone in praising Testarossa wines and the winery has consistently received accolades from the nation’s most well-known wine critics. The lineup of 2019 vintage Pinot Noir wines included in this issue was the first that I have had the opportunity to review.
Bill is not some johnny-come-lately to winemaking, particularly at Testarossa. He is a second-generation Monterey County winegrower who grew up farming grapes and received his technical training at UC Davis. Bill was recruited by a former mentor, Ed Kurtzman, and joined Testarossa Winery as an enologist in 2000, quickly rose to assistant winemaker and by February 2003 had become Director of Winemaking, a position he continues to hold to this day.
Rusty Gaffney, pictured with his favorite wine varietal.
Bill also has his own business, Brosseau Wines, since 2019, sourcing fruit from his family’s estate in the Gabilan Mountain Range located in Monterey County’s Chalone AVA. He is much in demand as a viticultural and winemaking consultant and oversees vineyard farming at both Eden Estate Wines in Saratoga and Black Ridge Vineyards in Los Gatos.
Testarossa Winery was started by proprietors Rob and Diana Jensen in 1993. It was a true Silicon Valley startup that began in the Jensen’s Silicon Valley garage. The winery name, Testarossa, is derived from the Italian word meaning “red-head, a nickname Rob had while a university student in Italy. The turning point in the winery’s history came in 1997 when Rob got a call from Gary Pisoni offering him some Pinot Noir grapes. The rest is history, so to speak.
The winery is located at the historic Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos, functioning as both a working winery and a dramatic setting for visitors. Each year, the Testarossa Winery invests in repairing and improving the old facility.
The focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards extending throughout California from the Russian River Valley AVA in the North Coast to the Sta. Rita Hills in the Central Coast. Production is about 30,000 cases annually. Vineyard-designated Pinot Noir wines not reviewed here include Brosseau Vineyard, Doctor’s Vineyard, Dos Rubios Vineyard, Fogstone Vineyard, Graham Family Vineyard, Guidotti Vineyard, La Encantada Vineyard, Pisoni Vineyard, Rincon Vineyard, Soberanes Vineyard, and Tondre Grapefield.
The most noteworthy finding on style is that all the Pinot Noir wines have excellent acidity infusing the wines with juiciness and brightness as well as quenching finishes.