François Gros is pretty good at understatement. Which means he’s a master at that Gallic style of sharing big news in an offhand way.
He says has a barrel company. Translation: He runs the U.S. business for H&A one of the nation’s biggest barrel-leasing companies. Business is good — two years ago he leased about 2,300 barrels. This year he’s already moved three times that amount. “I have trucks and warehouses… it’s crazy.”
But not too crazy to meet me at The Oxbow on a Thursday morning for a wine tasting at the picnic tables. We’re here because he mentioned in passing he makes pinot noir with a friend, and at the time, they only sold it by word of mouth.
Though they love Burgundy like Chambolle-Musigny, they knew it’s impossible to make a truly Burgundian pinot noir in California without winemaking tricks like diluting the wine with water. Faury said they wanted to make an honest wine straight from the vineyard, so that was out.
They sourced fruit from a steep, rocky block of the Siebert Vineyard, a dry-farmed site on the Sonoma Coast north of Santa Rosa. Working at a friend’s cellar, they fermented the fruit with native yeasts in an open puncheon. Then they let the wine rest quietly, waiting to do the secondary malolactic fermentation months later. Friends thought they were crazy, but it fit their minimal style.
“They believe winemaking is about how you control the wine. We believe the wine can control itself,” Gros said. “We are the assistants.”
They aged a third of the juice in a new barrel, a third in a barrel that had been used once and another third in a barrel used twice for 16 months.
In the glass, it’s pure liquid garnet scented with raspberries, red plums, tart cranberries and pretty floral notes. There’s bright acidity, red fruit and a pleasing savoriness too. It’s a big wine with 13.9 percent alcohol, but it doesn’t taste or feel big. It has all the beautiful aromatics you want from pinot noir, but there’s depth too. As the taste slowly fades, you realize there’s this soft tannin like raw silk.
Faury-Gros fans include winemaker Aaron Pott, Master Sommelier Matt Stamp and me.
Gros suggests decanting his wine a couple hours before serving with allows it to really unfurl, and show his favorite pinot aroma: scented violets.
“You can’t open a bottle of wine and then drink it right away, like you do with a Coca-Cola,” he says. “Wine is sleeping in the bottle. It’s alive if you let it open up.”
It’s a perfect food wine, begging for lamb or salmon. “This astringency and tannin love fat,” Gros says. “We need to eat with this wine.” He says it will really come into its own in 2021.
Sadly, the Siebert vineyard was one of the prime growing sites destroyed by the wildfires of October 2017. They won’t be able to get grapes from it anytime soon if ever. Which makes their wine that much more desirable. It’s available now at their Domaine Faury-Gros website and through First Bottles.