Join BLVD 16’s L’Objet Noir winemaker dinner, featuring Dan Glover, on March 22, at 7 p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to taste handcrafted California wines, that are the epitome of balance.
During his career as an LA music writer and producer, Dan developed a passion for French Burgundies, some of the world’s most coveted and expensive wines. This affair de coeur impelled him toward winemaking. He confided, “When I realized I couldn’t afford to drink these wines every day, I decided to make them, so I relocated to Healdsburg and began to study winemaking.”
Dan honed his winemaking chops over several years with stints at Clos du Bois, Armida Winery and Dutcher Crossing. His first solo vintage was in 2008. L’Objet Noir was picked for the winery name, both as a nod to his love of the temperamental pinot noir grape, and to himself as one of the country’s few (twenty, give or take) African American vintners.
The first wine, a 2008 pinot noir from the Bacigalupi vineyard, unveiled Dan’s remarkable gift for creating balanced wine, an ideal much discussed these days in California winemaking circles, but too rarely achieved. He distinguishes his as “wines that are meant to go with food” from what he calls “getting drunk” wines.
Sensory analysis of grapes in the vineyard helps him keep alcohol levels at around 13.5%. This requires walking the rows and tasting for the right degree of ripeness, where sugars are not too high and acid at its peak. Committed to minimal intervention winemaking techniques, Dan allows the unique blend of vineyard site and grape variety to take center stage. He uses only native yeast fermentation and limits new oak during aging–nothing to cloud innate flavors.
Noting how important proper farming is to the environment and the finished product, he said, “The vineyards from which I source may not be certified organic or sustainable, but they are known for sustainable practices. An encouraging development in viticulture is that organic compounds (made out of things like chrysanthemums) for pest and disease control, are becoming more affordable than chemical remedies, making it economical to grow the right way.”
L’Objet Noir’s current release, 2009 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River is a testimony to terroir-driven winemaking. First, let’s give props to Dan for astute selection of this heavy-weight vineyard. Its old vine Wente clone grapes, from which Château Montelena’s 1973 chardonnay was made, defeated France at the Judgement of Paris. Dan noted the vineyard is in a unique position to replicate the classic Burgundian acid-fruit balance, because its cool climate has relatively mild diurnal temperature variation.
His Bacigalupi is a brilliant, translucent ruby. Made from an equal mix of Wente clone and Pommard, it has both power and a feminine, silky side. The nose first hits with funk and earthiness, then shows prominent cedar notes giving way to rhubarb and cocoa. It is both satisfying and thought provoking; one gets lost in its layers. The palate show is bright acid, softened by just-ripe raspberry, rhubarb and baking spices. It is aged in 30% new François Frères oak barrels and the rest in neutral oak for 18 months.
Two more wines complete L’Objet Noir’s portfolio: 2009 Reserve Cuvée Pinot Noir and 2012 Comstock Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Vineyard. Don’t let the fact that these gems have not been rated stop you from exploring them; they are made with Dan’s signature finesse with grapes sourced from notable vineyards.
When asked where he got the grapes for these wines, Dan was vague about the reserve cuvée’s origins, “Well, I drove around to my friends’ vineyards, who I knew had really good grapes, and took what they had left over.” When probed, he confessed, “So, when I purchased the grapes, I had to sign confidentiality agreements, because these wineries use these grapes for their single vineyard bottlings.”
Where it comes to Bob and Sandy Comstock, who farmed the grapes used for L’Objet’s sauvignon blanc, there are no secrets. They are well known in the Dry Creek community, just north of Sonoma, as savvy growers and excellent stewards of the land.
If you can’t make BLVD 16’s dinner with Dan, his wines can be found around town at Bar Covell, House of Music and Entertainment, Silverlake Wines and 320 South Wine Lounge.