Wine Of The Week: Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard

The 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard is my Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for September 8th-September14th.

The Winery

Ancien Wines is a Napa based winery founded by Ken and Teresa Bernards.  Ken is the winemaker.  Like so many winemakers, he has a background in science. He worked his first harvest in 1986, while still pursuing his degree in chemistry at Oregon State University.  He made their first five barrels of Ancien Pinot Noir Carneros in 1992, and since 1998 they have been making wine of under the Ancien label.

Ancien is focused exclusively on producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.  Grapes for their wines are sourced from throughout California, Oregon, and even Burgundy, France.  According to their website, “Ken is the only winemaker to import grapes whole from France and then vinify them in California”.  Ken also works as a consulting winemaker for wineries in California and Chile.

I discovered the Ancien Pinot Noir at the 2012 Family Winemakers of California held September 9th and 10th.  Toward the end of the day, I ran into one of my wine buddies, Lamont after I’d finished tasting Meritage Red wines all day. At that point,  I was in what I call “Taster’s Choice” (a.k.a. Wine Tasting By Walking Around) mode.  I asked him if he had any recommendations. He’s was focusing on Pinot Noir that day. He recommended Ancien.  I trust Lamont’s palate, so I headed on over.  Glad I did. Thanks Lamont!

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Red Dog Vineyard, which sits atop Sonoma Mountain at about 1000 feet elevation, on the cool western side.  The vineyard was planted in 2000, primarily to Swan Selection (named after Joseph Swan who propagated the clone in the Russian River Valley) along with a smaller block of Dijon clones 777 and 115. At the 1000 foot elevation, the vineyard is almost continually cooled by the ocean breezes from the Pacific moving inland through the Petaluma Gap.  Pinot Noir likes such conditions. According to Ancien Wines…

 The soils are some of the most ancient soils in Sonoma County and have been leached of nutrients by wind and rain for aeons.  It is a truly spectacular vista point but a challenging place to grow grapes.

The wine may be purchased at Ancien Wines. It appears it’s yet to be released.  The 2009 vintage is sold out.

2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard
2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Ruby color with aromatic cherry, baking spice, and a bit of earthy aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied, silky smooth and well-balanced with tart cherry, cranberry, and cinnamon clove flavors. Medium-long finish.  – 92pts Highly recommended


The winery is located in the Coombsville AVA, just east of the city of Napa.  Tasting is available by appointment only at that location.  Alternatively, the wine are available for tasting at the  Vintner’s Collective in downtown Napa.  These are wine definitely worth seeking out.  I know I plan to!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.3% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA:  > California> Sonoma> Sonoma Mountain

Varietal(s): 100% Pinot Noir

Cooperage: Aged in French Oak

Retail: $48

Cases produced: Unknown

Ageability: Drink now, or hold for 5-7 years