The Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, California is gaining a reputation for producing some of the West Coast's finest Pinot Noir wines, even better than those of Oregon, some say. Unfortunately, though, prices have not been lagging, and most Anderson Valley Pinots sell for $40 to $60 a bottle (besides being hard to find in the Midwest). I was overjoyed when I found this 2008 Londer Vineyards Pinot on sale for $5.99 at G.B. Russo & Son in Grand Rapids. Dave Russo was straightforward in his explanation of the lower price. Bush fires had raged through the area early in the summer of 2008, and winemakers were dismayed to find that the smoke had affected the grapes from that vintage. Some vineyards were more affected than others, but Londer admitted struggling to produce the high quality wine that was expected from the estate. Heavy filtering removed the smoke qualities but also much of what attracts wine lovers to Londer Pinot Noir. Dr. Londer, a retired San Francisco ophthalmologist, wisely refused to take that road. The price for the 2008 has been dropped repeatedly, but now apparently it's time to sell off what's left at a loss and move on. As Dave Russo put it, if you like the smell and taste of smoked salmon and don't want to spend lots of money, this wine is for you. And I bought.
The wine is a good deep ruby color. Smoke is apparent from the first sniff, and it sort of takes over the finish, but neither Donna nor I find it unpleasant. On the first night, it's virtually impossible to find any other descriptors; smoke, smoke and smoke. But there is good concentration with excellent acid/fruit balance. Except for the one-dimensional smoke, this wine has all the markings of a fine $50 Pinot Noir. In other words, the quality shows, and I like this wine far better than any other $5.99 Pinot Noir I could buy (such as Pinot Evil, which is overly sweet, and the 2009 Echelon, which is one dimensional without the smoke).
On the second night, the smoke is less dominant, and I pick up some of the fruit and floral aromas and flavors. This might suggest that the smoke will fade with aging, but nothing I have read indicates that this could be true. Winemakers believe that this kind of trait, like brett, only gets more dominant with each passing year. I will be drinking my case of Londer 2008 over the next year or so...and enjoying it for what it is.