Bow & Arrow Hughes Hollow Pinot Noir 2021
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It has been years…many years since our downstairs neighbors released a Hughes Hollow Pinot noir. And what a great vintage (2021) to relaunch the single vineyard wine! There’s a rustic elegance to it; winemaker Scott says that it reminds him of “alpine Pinot noir” and while I confess I don’t drink much alpine Pinot, I can dig the general vibe. Old vine Pommard clone fruit, handled minimally.
Handing it off to Scott Frank, Bow & Arrow’s founder/winemaker/scribe. I find so much wine writing to be dreck, filled with cliche and lacking an original voice. And then there’s Scott’s writing, which is among my favorites in the business. Check it out!
One of the greatest underdog stories in this region’s wine history. Cynically planted on a north facing slope some 30 years ago it wasn’t even given a name. It was just buried in some big houses Pinot for color and bulk. We came along and convinced the owner to switch to Organic farming and sell us the Gamay block also planted on the site. The Pinot was part of the deal however and despite begrudgingly accepting it the wine has proven to be the best source of this noble variety we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. The most sophisticated wine the cellar produces every year. Always reminds me of cinnamon, hibiscus, raspberry blossoms and black tea.
We moved a lot when I was growing up and it took me a few times to figure out how to navigate that transition from new kid to “he’s one of us.” There were a few missteps– like the time when I was five and I told everyone in our new neighborhood that my name was Steve. After Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man, of course. The kids in the previous apartment complex teased me about my name quite a bit (“Scott smokes pot” was a vexing jape as I was years from knowing what they were talking about. Then again, how did small town Pennsylvania first and second graders know what that meant?) and I couldn’t understand yet that it was because I was the youngest. So when they all quickly accepted me into the fold I was elated. I even recall my first taste of alcohol–a shot of Jagermeister out of the bottle–in celebration of my table hockey victory over an older boy one afternoon at a neighbor’s house.
The elation wasn’t long for this world as one afternoon, while playing outside with all the kids, my parents pulled up and shouted for me to jump in the car. I said my goodbyes and they all yelled back “bye, Steve!”, to my parent's perplexion. It took them only a shared glance to figure out why kids had been coming to the door and asking, much to their confusion, if “Steve” could come out and play. I reckon they thought they could clear up any confusion right then and there by declaring to God and everyone “his name isn’t Steve….. it’s Scoooooooott”. It came out not in a normal voice. It sounded like a record player when you turn off the power. Like honey dripping from a spoon into a long, elastic strand of sweet and sticky devastation.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….. “ is what I meant to come out of my mouth, my arms outstretched like a zombie. But I think it was more like that sound a Tupperware makes when you let that bubble of air out. The next day they formed a circle I couldn’t escape from and they beat the Steve out of me.
My love of underdogs may have originated there. I’m not sure. It definitely shaped my life long appreciation of authenticity and being who you are. A less popular version of your real self is always superior to a popular version of your fake self. George Clinton riffed on this theme numerous times, and in more poetic fashion, but it explains why he’s my patron saint of self expression. Minus the freebasing, of course.
The expression of Hughes Hollow Vineyard is a tribute to this idea. I’ve never seen a more ill conceived and cynically planted vineyard in my life. Born of a supply chain issue (a much older one) and an unquenchable demand for inexpensive Pinot Noir, The Big Winery next door offered to plant vines on the Hughes property despite it being north facing and culminating in a moisture magnet of a depression. No one in their right mind would plant here. And I’m sure it was a liability for most of its life. But, in this changing world it means that as of late it’s just another marginal vineyard like there used to be in the old days. Meaning that it is always a struggle to get ripe and only manages it maybe three out of five years.
The brief history is I saw a classified ad for Gamay and responded to the owner immediately. When I went out to see it I offered to take all the Gamay AND the Pinot from the five acre plot if they agreed to fire The Big Winery and let me help them convert it to organic. They agreed and I went about my plan to keep the Gamay and sell the Pinot.
But, yeah. It didn’t work out like that. No one wanted the Pinot so I had to make that first vintage myself. I didn’t even have barrels to put it in. I just kept it in tank hoping I could possibly sell it as bulk wine. After a few months my old assistant, David, started urging me to taste the Hughes Hollow Pinot (the vineyard didn’t even have a name–I went with the real self protocol and decided to call it what it was.) When I finally got around to it I was amazed. It defied all expectations. Obviously we kept it and have continued to do so despite being an absolute beast to contend with in the vineyard and in the cellar. For reasons stated above and due to survival tactics of the early pandemic, this is the first time since the 2017 vintage I’ve bottled it as a single vineyard wine.