L’usine Wines - unapologetically expressive Pinot Noir: 12 May 2022.

In January 2020 David Phinney released his Andy Warhol-inspired range of wine bottles. Californian winemaker Dave Phinney, who was behind the wine ‘The Prisoner’ - which quickly achieved a cult following, then went on to establish Orin Swift Wines. His a new label called L’usine - French for ‘The Factory’ - it pays homage to Andy Warhol’s ‘The Factory’, his New York City studio that became a hangout for artists and other creative types.
In choosing such a name, Warhol was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ making fun of the art world in all its loftiness and embracing the idea that art is something that requires hard work. And Dave says, so it goes with wine, he also adds: “Like with art, for every good or great wine that is made there have been thousands of failures.” - thankfully there have been few failures with his avantgarde wines.
Though it must be said that L’usine does not aim to be an everyday wine. The label’s focus is on Pinot Noir, with grapes sourced from what Dave calls some of California’s most desirable vineyard plots, including the Annapolis Ridge Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast area. Adding to the artsy aspect of the wine, is the artwork on the bottles, which feature women photographed in a highly stylized way that Phinney says was inspired by Warhol.
David has always been a master at marketing and packaging - and it no doubt explains why he has been able to sell his previous wine brands to large multi-national wine companies for millions of dollars. But he is also a serious winemaker: These three L’usine Pinot Noir’s offer a great deal of expression.
L’usine might be seen as an alter ego to Orin Swift or inspired by - (a brand no longer owned by Dave, though he remains as consultant / winemaker). Like myself, early in my career I worked in fine wine retail - as did Dave for a stint, and quickly learnt, as I. That it is a fact that more than half of wine customers will buy a bottle if they pick it up. So how do you get them to pick up the bottle? - so Dave has designed labels you want to explore.
Dave designs and art-directs all of his labels with the help of some iconic artists and brilliant modern-day photographers - like Caitlin Mitchell, and seeks to create a relationship between consumer and wine that is indelible yet still full of mystery with each successive release. The wines themselves definitely deliver. They are unapologetically expressive, yet with a backbone of varietal typicity that holds them in place. Dave is not afraid to mix vineyards and appellations to create the desired alchemy for each and every wine. Despite his success and the broad visibility of his wines, Dave continues to maintain a discreet profile. He lives with his wife Kim and their two children in St. Helena, California, and is a generous supporter of several local charities.

I recently had the opportunity to open the following vintages, now available in New Zealand - short notes to tempt your taste buds.

L’usine ‘Santa Rita Hills’ Pinot Noir 2018
Grape Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Growing Region: Santa Rita Hills, California - USA
Founder / Winemaker: David Phinney
4½ Stars ★★★★☆

The low cropping vineyard sites were hand-harvested. During fermentation the cap was punched down 3-4 times a day depending on each parcel. The wine was gravity racked into French oak barrels (40% new) for 9 months and sat on lees, with no stirring, and just before bottling it was lightly filtered.
On the appealing nose you have aromas of dark cherries, pomegranate, raspberries, dried herbs, and a hint of vanilla. The palate is far from shy, confidently expressing ripe redcurrants, cherry-chocolate and highlights of dried herb and spice that follow through. A strong varietal backbone of fruit acidity and a deft use of oak have created a lengthy finish.

• Mild Decanting & serve between 15°- 17°C : 15.2% Alc. - Classic Dry Style : Cellar 7 - 9 years : *Retail ~ NZ$119.99

L’usine ‘Sleepy Hollow Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2018
Grape Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Growing Region: Santa Lucia Highlands, California - USA
Founder / Winemaker: David Phinney
4 Stars ★★★★

The low cropping fruit was hand-harvested. The cap was punched down 3-4 times a day depending on each parcel. Gravity racked to French oak barrel (60% new) for 8-9 months and sat on lees, with no stirring, and before bottling just lightly filtered.
Enticing confident aromas of ripe cranberries, ripe cherries, red plums and a touch of bramble and dried forest herbs. The medium weighted palate has a broad smooth texture, showcasing fleshy fruit flavours and layers of preserved cherries nicely seasoned by herbs, tannins and infused oak. The wine is well-balanced and engaging, with good varietal concentration and finishing with finesse as it jumps off the back of your tongue.

• Medium Decanting & serve between 15°- 17°C : 15.1% Alc. - Classic Dry Style : Cellar 8 - 10 years : *Retail ~ NZ$189.99

L’usine ‘Annapolis Ridge Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2018
Grape Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Growing Region: Sonoma Coast, California - USA
Founder / Winemaker: David Phinney
4½ Stars ★★★★☆

The Annapolis vineyard is extremely isolated and requires a lot of handwork to farm. Hand-picked fruit, the cap was punched down 3-4 times a day depending on each lot. Then after fermentation, the wine was gravity racked into French oak barrel (43% new) for around 9-10 months and sat on its own lees, with no stirring, not fined and only lightly filtered.
In your glass you will have an intense dark garnet colour with a rich ruby rim. Aromatically, the wine offers elevated notes of cloves, black cherries and dried herbs. On the palate your senses are met by classic varietal acidity releasing flavours of wild blueberries, kirsch, cacao and freshly dried herbs and an undertone of truffle. The wine is framed by an engaging soft velvety texture and rustic tannins and defined oak combine to produce a dynamic lingering finish.
• Medium Decanting & serve between 15°- 17°C : 15% Alc. - Classic Dry Style : Cellar 10 - 12 years : *Retail ~ NZ$219.99

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These avantgarde L'usine Wines are available from Fine Wine Retailers • Restaurants • Wine Bars & Winery Website.
*(prices, vintages & availability will vary by outlet & country)

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