Matt Iaconis achieves reined-in elegance with Atlas Peak grapes.
Looking for something different in a Northern California Pinot Noir? Consider the 2018 Brick & Mortar Cougar Rock Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir, shown above with the also fine 2017 Block House Vineyard Napa Valley Brut Rosé. Winemaker Matt Iaconis owns Brick & Mortar with his wife, Alexis Iaconis, a sommelier who also contributes to the company’s winemaking.
2018 Brick & Mortar Cougar Rock Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir
This singular Pinot Noir seems equal parts a product of its high-elevation Atlas Peak site (the Antinori family’s estate vineyard) and winemaker Matt Iaconis’s elegant, reined-in style. Light in body and color with assertive acidity, the wine plays up the cranberry, rhubarb, slightly unripe-plum end of the red-fruit spectrum.
My initial impressions of this intentionally food-friendly wine were that it’s borderline austere, clear about what it wants to be, and Old World in feel (to the extent possible with California fruit, even hillside). It’s the kind of wine sommeliers love and with good reason. Fifty-percent whole-cluster fermentation provides structure, with the use of 100% previously used French oak barrels for aging, allowing the grapes – and the Atlas Peak terrain – to speak for themselves. The Pinot’s minerality and tautness made for a good pairing with lightly seasoned halibut; I’d love to revisit the same pairing in a few years, when age has softened the wine a bit.
Iaconis says he makes wines from each grape type the same way to “showcase vintage and vineyard.” Two 2019 Pinots, one from Cougar Rock, the other from Manchester Ridge Vineyard on the Mendocino Coast, illustrated the point for me a few months after I tasted the 2018 Cougar Rock wine. The 2019 Cougar Rock was softer, more rounded, and less acidic than the 2018 described above (vintage), while the 2019 Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir was all about its vastly different soils and Pacific Ocean and redwood influences (vineyard).
Wines for Change
In 2019 the Iaconises founded another label, Delta Wines for Change, to raise awareness about climate change and money for organizations focused on protecting the environment. As of late 2021, they’d raised about $75,000 for this cause. The two sometimes host private tastings at their Healdsburg winemaking facility. For details, contact them here.