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Porter Creek without a paddle

A 2004 Sonoma/San Francisco travelogue; part 7

by Thor Iverson

[trees at Porter Creek]

15 August 2004 – Russian River Valley, California

Porter Creek – A pretty drive from Swan through a wooded area on either side of the Russian River eventually emerges at Porter Creek and its lovely setting; a small, quiet tasting room at the foot of an orderly infant vineyard. Is this winery and vinery? Grape and winemaker in close harmony?

Alas, no. The vineyard, long the source of the winery’s flagship pinot noir, is now owned by…unfortunately one sees the punch line coming long before one reads it…Gallo.

Porter Creek 2001 Chardonnay George’s Hill “Unfiltered” (Russian River Valley) – Fresh Calimyrna fig, tangerine, and pineapple in a bright, big-fruited but crisp and fresh bottle of sunlit joy. There’s only a very light hint of oak here. Extremely well done, with the balance to age. What’s more, even my chardonnay-loathing wife likes it.

Porter Creek 2002 Chardonnay George’s Hill (Russian River Valley) – As with minerality in wines of all colors, something I nearly always love in whites is red fruit. It often seems to go hand in hand with perfect ripeness unmarred by oenological abuses…and there’s undoubtedly an element of terroir at work, as well. Here we have red cherry and strawberry at the core of a wine surrounded by fields of fully-bloomed clover, all brought to a razor-honed edge by crisp, apple-hued acidity and steely minerality. Very, very nice, somewhat better than the unfiltered (though it may just be a matter of taste), and equally ageable. Theresa likes this one, too.

Porter Creek 2002 Pinot Noir Fiona Hill (Russian River Valley) – Simple strawberry flower aromas and a palate akin to a mouthful of fluffy marshmallow, though with slightly better acidity than your average marshmallow. More like a confection or a carnival treat than a wine.

Porter Creek 2001 Pinot Noir Creekside (Russian River Valley) – The last vintage from this vineyard before its destruction by Pierce’s Disease and eventual sale to Gallo. Bigger than the previous wine, with aromas tending more towards plum, red cherry and rose hip with a light dusting of ash. A nice texture is marred by a slight tannic greenness, but this is, overall, unquestionably better than the Fiona Hill. It should get better with a little maturation of the primary fruit aromas, though the tannin problem will never really go away. Not, I think, the coda this vineyard probably deserved.

[bottles at Porter Creek]

The missing bottle: Windex
Porter Creek 2000 Syrah Timbervine Ranch (Russian River Valley) – Stewed prunes, baked blueberry, and raw meat with rough-hewn tannin. I supposed this is “balanced,” but I can’t say it’s an enjoyable drink at the moment. Nor do I think things will change much in the future.

Porter Creek 2001 Syrah Timbervine Ranch (Russian River Valley) – Blood-soaked iron, high-toned basil, big acidity and balanced tannin, but showing worrisome underripe notes, especially on the finish. A little better than the 2000, but still not promising.

Porter Creek 2002 Zinfandel “Old Vine” (Russian River Valley) – 14.9%. Crisp wild-vine blueberry and boysenberry, both of which take on a lovely floral aspect, with graphite dust and a huge yet crisp midpalate and a long, balanced, beautifully-structured finish. Outstanding and ageable.

Porter Creek 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Ritchie Vineyard (Russian River Valley) – Why we taste this after all the big reds, I don’t understand, but the order is quite clearly the preference of the woman behind the tasting counter. I can’t help but wonder if it affects the performance of this particular bottling. Anyway: big, hot grapefruit and pineapple aromas remain solid through a thick and sludgy texture, and while it shows decent aromatic varietal characteristics, it’s missing the necessary acidity.

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