Bouchaine is a winery that seemed always to be around, but was never exciting. While one of the founders of Carneros as a top pinot noir region, Bouchaine always remained in the shadow of its neighbors Acacia and Saintsbury. While some good wines were made at Bouchaine, other wineries rode the Carneros wave to the top.
Now things are turned around and the same thing that took Acacia to the top is now powering Bouchaine, which has finally taken its place on the “A” team of Carneros producers. What made the wines of Acacia compelling was the talent, intelligence and passion of winemaker Mike Richmond, who has now taken his considerable talents to Bouchaine.
Meanwhile the once revered Acacia winery has been turned into an industrial production line of plonk pinot by alcoholic beverage super-giant Diageo and now Acacia is involved in hand-to-hand combat with Sanford Winery and other corporate pinot noir producers to see who can sell the most boxes of indistinguishable pinot noir. If you are trying to decide between which of these labels to buy you should flip a coin or buy the cheapest because what’s in the bottle is of little consequence or interest.
At this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), Mike Richmond presented his first Bouchaine Pinot Noir that he was responsible for from start to finish and a very nice wine it is. The 2004 Bouchaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir is a lovely wine with a graceful balance and an intriguing subtle character. It certainly shows the richer characteristics of California, but is still restrained and complex with a lingering, not heavy finish.
The emergence of Bouchaine as a first class Carneros pinot noir producer reminds us that while great wines are made in the vineyard, you have to know what to do with those grapes when you get them. Mike Richmond obviously knows what to do and, perhaps more importantly when it comes to pinot noir - what not to do.