b.c.v., Russian River Valley Pinot Noir "Les Cents"
b.c.v., Russian River Valley Pinot Noir "Les Cents"

b.c.v., Russian River Valley Pinot Noir "Les Cents"

California, United States 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$45.00

b.c.v., Russian River Valley Pinot Noir "Les Cents"

Even the most venerated wine regions could use a little burst of youthful energy from time to time. Places as hallowed as Burgundy and the Mosel are currently in the midst of mini-renaissances led by young, dynamic winemakers set on exploding preconceived notions. With b.c.v’s 2022 Pinot Noir “Les Cent,” it’s the Russian River Valley’s turn. “Les Cents” combines classic features of Russian River Pinot, which has been celebrated for decades—saturated fruit, heady spice, seductive texture—with decidedly au courant winemaking and a sinewy structure that’s rare for this sector of Sonoma. It’s made by a pair of young guns, yet “Les Cents” feels masterfully crafted, as evocative of the Valley’s famed Goldridge soil and fog-swept vineyards as anything we’ve tasted. If, like us, you sometimes think of Russian River Pinot as overly inky and ponderous, b.c.v. is here to set the record straight. They’re surrounded by benchmark addresses, and we’ve got no doubt that in a few years’ time, their wines will be as hard to come by (and expensive) as their neighbors’.  Get in on b.c.v. while you can!

b.c.v. may be a new name, but this is a project with some serious pedigree behind it. It’s the brainchild of Carson Benham and Henry Cilek, who, before setting out on independent careers in wine, were college roommates. Carson’s family owns the Martin Ray winery, famous in the Russian River Valley for their own lineup of supremely polished Pinots. Carson grew up amongst the vines and in the cellar, and has taken over sales and distribution for the family winery. In 2018, he teamed up with Cilek to make a tiny amount of their own wine, meticulously choosing their favorite fruit from the Benham family vineyard.

Carson and Henry’s 2022 Pinot is sourced entirely from an east-facing slope in the Martin Ray Estate vineyard. This vineyard encapsulates what makes the Russian River some of the most hallowed Pinot terroir in the world. It’s cooled by steady breezes off the San Pablo Bay just to the south, morning fog blanketing the vines daily.  Then ample sun arrives during the afternoon, accounting for diurnal temperature swings of up to 30 degrees in a single day. The soils are classic Russian River “Goldridge,” well-drained sandy loam atop clay. They’re ideal for growing Pinot without the aid of irrigation, and they’re extremely nutrient-poor. Fruit from the best blocks here is tiny and concentrated, packed full of dense flavors but also rigorous structure.

Like so many young California winemakers these days, Carson and Henry’s aim is to emphasize freshness over richness. Seemingly every step they take in the vineyard and the cellar happens with that goal in mind. Their 2022 is made entirely from the 667 Dijon clone of Pinot, one that emphasizes the more ethereal, delicate side of the variety. The cuvée’s name, “Les Cents,” is French for “one hundred,” a reference to the 100% whole cluster fermentation, which provides aromatic lift and gentle extraction. And they pick earlier than any of their neighbors, when flavors are ripe but sugars are relatively low and the fruit’s vital acidity remains intact. Anyone familiar with the winemaking techniques top Burgundian winemakers use to produce detailed and drinkable wines in ever-warmer vintages will immediately recognize Carson and Henry’s bag of tricks.

The 2022 “Les Cents” will certainly reward some medium-term aging, but it exudes such charm right now, it’ll be hard to keep your hands off it. Served in a Burgundy glass, it pours a limpid ruby, leaping out with a melange of red and purple aromas—crushed black cherry, raspberry liqueur, pomegranate, recurrent, rose petal, and plum skin. There’s an incredibly seductive spice quality to it, a commingling of sandalwood, cinnamon, and black pepper, thanks to the stem inclusion. The texture is dense and juicy, with not just sweetness of the dark berry fruits, but also their enlivening tartness. Tannins are present and mouth-coating but very finely judged, just providing a frame for a few years in your cellar. Grab a few bottles of “Les Cents” and return to the Russian River!

b.c.v., Russian River Valley Pinot Noir "Les Cents"

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