When I first visited Napa Valley in October 2003 I was awestruck by how many labels exist that few eyes ever get to see. I quickly discovered that innumerable great low-production wines never venture further than the ten to twenty miles it may take a winemaker to drive her wares from vineyard to wine shop. Ducking into Oakville Grocery, The Bounty Hunter or Dean & Deluca is like an Easter Egg Hunt for big people! Elke Vineyards, producer of the great pinot noir I enjoyed Friday night, is also one of those special small wineries. Truthfully, I’m amazed this wine ever leaves California. As wines like these don’t sell themselves, being a real labor of love for everyone involved, they are often inventoried only for the adoration of a wine-crazed store owner. Thankfully, someone at Locke, Stock & Barrel in Great Barrington, Massachusetts has real good taste.

1999 Elke Pinot Noir was translucent, medium-garnet in the glass with good concentration of color. The pinot fruit was fleshy with flavors of dried cherries, tart cranberries and the quenching tang of rhubarb. In fact, tasting this pinot was like having freshly crushed red fruits in the mouth! Elke Pinot Noir is aromatically interesting and very well-balanced with subtle use of oak and no alcohol sting. I especially enjoyed an aromatic quality very evident in the nose and on the palate: green tea. It was as if the pinot fruit itself had been infused with it! This Anderson Valley pinot noir tastes like a cool climate wine being bright with bracing acidity. It rewarded with a very long and smooth finish.

Elke Pinot Noir was beautifully balanced possessing enough fruit tannin, grip and acidity to serve it well through three to five years additional cellaring. I certainly will be getting more bottles ASAP to enjoy over the next few years. This IS NOT in-your-face trophy wine but rather an interesting and understated wine best appreciated with good food and bottled proof that great wine deserves (and demands) great retailers! Highly recommended!

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