Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir "Mission Grove"

Wine of the Month, September 2015

Our September 2015 Wine of the Month is the Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir “Mission Grove”.  Please enjoy the following information about this wine and a fabulous recipe to pair with it!

Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir “Mission Grove”

Our Wine of the Month for September is a new bottling for Tortoise Creek: the 2013 Pinot Noir “Mission Grove”.  We have released a few different Pinot Noirs over the years from France but this is our first Pinot from California.  We decided to bring in grapes from two distinct California growing regions to blend for the perfect balance of flavor, body, and finish.  We are in love with this new Pinot Noir, and we can’t wait for you to try it!

The name “Mission Grove” comes from the Mission olive trees that grow in and around the vineyards we chose our grapes from.  Originally developed by Spanish monks at missions near San Diego, Mission olives are a unique California cultivar of olive; while they are presumed to be Moroccan origin, this has never been verified.  We liken our “Mission Grove” Pinot Noir as similar to these olives – a California original.

The Pinot Noir Grape

One of the most well known and celebrated grape varietals in the world, Pinot Noir has a long and storied history.  Its historic home has always been the Burgundy region of France, and most of the world’s best Pinot Noirs are from there.  However, Pinot Noir has traveled well, taking root in California and Oregon, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  It is also one of the two grape used throughout Champagne.

For all of its popularity, one couldn’t find a more finicky grape.  Pinot Noir is thin skinned, disease and mold prone, and intolerant and extreme or rapid changes in temperature.  Vintners throughout history have struggled with the ability to bring Pinot Noir grapes to maturity for harvest before any number of maladies renders them useless.  But for all the struggle, Pinot Noir grapes often yield the most elegant, finest wines in the world.

Typically, Pinot Noir wine is light bodied with both red fruit and earth notes.  However, individual terroirs and vinification methods can produce a large amount of variance.  Burgundian wines often tend toward more earthy flavor profiles.  New world Pinot Noir is usually more fruit forward, with hefty amounts of cherry and raspberry flavors.  Nearly all Pinot Noir is light in body and tannins, with higher acid levels seen from Burgundian wines than are typically shown in the New World offerings.

Our California Blend

Our “Mission Grove” Pinot Noir features a blend of two California wine regions.  60% of our grapes come from the Clarksburg AVA in the Central Valley near Sacramento.  The remaining 40% come from the Monterey AVA near the Pacific coast.  This blend allowed us to balance the favorable qualities of each region, producing a wine that is both ripe and delicate. Many Pinots are blended with up to 25% of other varietals such as Petite Syrah or Zinfandel in order to make the wines “jammier” and darker but we have taken the purists route with our Pinot and have produced it ONLY from the Pinot grape.

The Clarksburg AVA in Lodi, while in the traditionally warmer Central Valley, benefits from being open to the San Francisco Bay.  This allows both cooling winds and fog to blanket the area, keeping the temperature steady and allowing the Pinot Noir grapes a chance to develop good acidity.  The Monterey AVA is a cooler region that receives a lot of direct sunlight.  Thankfully, the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains shield our vineyards from the harshest of the ocean winds, allows the grapes a chance to ripen in the sun.  The delicate acidity from the Clarksburg grapes, combined with the ripe fruit from Monterey, gives us a unique combination that results in our “Mission Grove” Pinot Noir.

Opening a Bottle

Our Pinot Noir sits in between its California cousins and French parents.  Light in body like you’d find in France, but more of a fruit forward profile as is typical in the New World.  It presents a beautiful light red color in the glass, somewhat translucent and suggesting its light body.  On the nose, ripe cherries and violets are immediately apparent.  These flavors carry through on the palate, with the violets giving way to raspberries.  Light on the tongue, it shows a healthy acidity that allows dynamic food pairing possibilities.  No doubt, the traditional pair of grilled salmon will excel with this wine, but other options are available.  Mushroom dishes will show well, and many types of fish will benefit from its low tannin levels for pairing.  Goat cheese is a standout cheese pairing.  Be careful not to overwhelm this Pinot – it will be washed out by a big ribeye (for that try our Cabernet Sauvignon!).

Pairing Recipe

Janie Master has provided us with a perfect pairing recipe for this Pinot Noir.  When pairing wine and food, there is no better way to get the essence of your wine in a dish than to cook with it!  This simple, yet elegant dish makes use of a 1/2 bottle of Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir – so make sure to buy 2 bottles, so you have 1.5 left to drink with dinner!

Organic Chicken poached in Pinot Noir


  • 3 tbs good olive oil
  • One 3 1/2 lb organic chicken
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/2 bottle of Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir
  • 1 1/2 tbs butter
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in deep skillet and sauté chicken lightly on all sides over medium heat.
Add the crushed garlic and chopped shallots and pour in  the wine.  Bring back to the boil and then  reduce to low again. Cover and poach the chicken slowly for 1 hour until really tender.  The slower the cooking the better the taste.  Remove bird to a warming platter.  Reduce the wine, shallot and garlic in the pan to about 1 cup, remove from heat and whisk in the butter until it melts.  Add parsley and season to taste.  Great heated up too.
Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir "Mission Grove"