The 2012 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir is sourced from vineyards in Monterey, the North Coast AVA (includes Mendocino, Napa Valley, Sonoma And Lake County) as well as vines from Lodi. Delicato Family Vineyards, the makers of Gnarly Head as well as BraZin, Bota Box and others is located in Lodi, California. The name Gnarly Head comes from very old Zinfandel vines that have been head pruned, they are thick, twisted and wild-looking, but offer a good foliage canopy to protect the grapes in hot weather. Pinot Noir vines are different, they are not thick, twisted and wild, so here the “gnarly” is more the attitude of the winery. The grapes from Lodi, which isn’t well-known as a Pinot Noir growing AVA, came from vineyards that have farmed Pinot Noir grapes for Sparkling wine producers. 2012 was an outstanding grape vintage in California, in the past vintages were fairly consistent, certain areas had better or worse weather, but generally things were manageable, but lately the weather has been unpredictable. This Pinot was aged for a time in American and French oak and the alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is crimson red with black highlights. The nose is herbal with spice notes, along with cherry jam and spearmint gum. This is a sleek, dry, fruit-forward Pinot, with interesting things happening on the mid-palate. It tastes of cherry, creamy vanilla, herbal tea and tart cranberry. The mid-palate adds curry spice and raspberry and then the cool funky flavors kick-in, the sensation from licking a new leather coat, tar, orange peel, limeade and cigar tobacco. None of those flavors or textures are imposing, they just pop up here and there. The finish is full and lingers for some time.
The Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012 is a cool, fun Pinot. It has more body and is far bolder than Oregon or Burgundian Pinot Noir, but it is not trying to duplicate either one of those. The mid-palate alone is worth the price of the bottle, it brings a dose of complexity that Pinot’s selling for twice the price have a hard time matching. This is an affordable, everyday Pinot Noir with more personality and pizzazz that 5 years ago was unheard of in a $12 Pinot. I think affordable California Pinot Noir might be the best value Red wine available. Five years ago cheap Pinot Noir was no prize, today they can be a lot of wine for the money.