The Wines of EnRoute

by artfuldiner on July 24, 2019

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

EnRoute - VineyardsEnRoute was established in California’s Russian River Valley in 2007 by the partners of Napa Valley’s Far Niente Winery. Devoted exclusively to producing Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, EnRoute introduced its first wine, “Les Pommiers,” in May 2009. Les Pommiers is named for the apple orchards that once flourished in the region, and reflects a blend of vineyards primarily from Green Valley and the upper Middle Reach area of the Russian River Valley AVA.

The name, EnRoute is a reference to the journey the partners – including Beth Nickel, Erik Nickel, Jeremy Nickel, Dirk Hampson, and Larry Maguire – have taken on their way to producing Pinot Noir, which began in Burgundy in the 1980s. While Far Niente’s vision is exclusively focused on Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the partners still enjoyed traveling and tasting the great Pinot Noirs of the world. Eventually, sister winery Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard program provided opportunity to venture into the Russian River Valley. After several years of producing wines here, the partners decided to make a serious commitment to the region by acquiring two remarkable vineyards and establishing EnRoute, devoted completely to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

In search of vineyards to comprise their “Les Pommiers” Pinot blend, the partners also discovered several lots that stood out for their particular character: Some vineyards produced intensely structured wines with bold aromas, while others were more delicate with silkier tannins and subtle notes of fruit and earth. Thus, with the 2013 vintage, EnRoute debuted their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, featuring wines from their Amber Ridge and Northern Spy Vineyards.

In 2013, EnRoute also expanded its portfolio to include “Brumaire,” a Chardonnay named for the famous fog that every morning envelops the Russian River Valley. The EnRoute Chardonnay is a blend derived from vineyards carefully planted on a soil type known as Goldridge, a fine sandy loam that produces wines with vibrant citrus and mineral notes and the textures that are the trademarks of the region’s best Chardonnays.

EnRoute - Andrew Delos WinemakerAndrew Delos has been making Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County for most of his winemaking career. Following graduation from the Viticulture and Enology program at University of California, Davis, he served as enologist with MacRostie Winery in Carneros. He was then appointed assistant winemaker at Pellegrini Family Vineyards in the Russian River Valley where he worked with Olivet Lane Vineyard. Eventually, Mr. Delos became assistant winemaker at single-vineyard specialist Nickel & Nickel in Napa Valley, where he made wines from Napa Valley, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast. When the winery partners created EnRoute in 2007, given his background in Russian River Pinot Noir, Mr. Delos was the obvious choice for winemaker.

EnRoute - 2015 Chardonnay2015 EnRoute Brumaire Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): My introduction to EnRoute came by way of this extraordinary Chardonnay. Recently garnering a whopping 95 points (100-point scale) from the Wine Enthusiast, the 2015 is voluptuously rich yet lithe and velvety on the palate. There’s plenty of oak here, but it’s so beautifully balanced with nuances of fresh citrus that you only sense succulence and complexity rather than heaviness. To quote Wilfred Wong of, “This winery seems to be aiming to make the most traditional style Chardonnay with a decidedly Burgundian accent.” For my money, it is certainly succeeding. And speaking of money… This wine normally retails around the $40.00 mark. However, as a Chairman’s Selection, it is currently on sale in Pennsylvania State Stores for a mere $24.99. Since there still appears to be plenty of it around, my advice is to catch it while you can.

EnRoute - 2016 Pinot Noir2016 EnRoute Pinot Noir Russian River Valley “Les Pommiers”: This charming wine possesses all that oenophiles love about Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley: namely, luxurious aroma and ultra-rich texture. Generous red fruit flavors dance across the palate softened by elegant, silky tannins, while a mouthwatering acidity leads to a long and focused finish. And you won’t have to wait years or even months for this little beauty to come around… it’s irresistibly approachable at the present moment. Just pop the cork and have a go. However, given the wine’s superb structure and intensity, setting a few bottles aside in the cellar for five to ten years will also have its rewards. Available through Pennsylvania State Stores at $59.99, the high end of the retail scale, this wine is hardly a bargain. On the other, I’ve seen it offered online for as low as $29.99. So, this is one instance in which a little comparison shopping could save you a bundle. Definitely worth seeking out.



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