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Abiouness: One of the Best Restaurants in Napa Valley Can’t Keep This Pinot Noir in Stock for $82 — You Can Find it for $36!!

Abiouness One of our favorite restaurants in Napa Valley has a wine list that is thicker than the Napa Valley phone book. They take special pride in featuring hard-to-find local wines.

At present, one of their really HOT wines is a stunning Pinot Noir by a stunning young lady, Nicole Abiouness (ABBY-YOU-NIS). We're told that they keep reordering the wine, but can't keep it in stock - and it's on the menu for $82.

If you shop wisely while you’re in Napa Valley, you can find her astounding 2000 Stanly Ranch, Carneros, Pinot Noir for only $36!

The fruit for this exceptional first-effort from Nicole comes from the famed Stanly Ranch in the Carneros appellation of Napa Valley. The vines producing this fruit were planted in 1971 - 32 years ago - and the grape is presumed to be a Martini clone, though no one's quite sure.

What we do know is that Mondavi, Bouchaine, El Molino, Saintsbury and Acacia get fruit from Stanly Ranch and use it for their BIG Pinot Noirs.

When Morgan gave up its contract on ten rows of vines, Nicole pounced, deciding to bottle her 5.5 tons of fruit as a single lot; most of the wineries mentioned blend in Pinot Noir from other sites.

"I think I'm the first to make a Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir designated as 100% vineyard-specific," says the 31-year-old winemaker.

Nicole gravitated to Napa Valley naturally, organically, through a series of serendipitous encounters. And lucky are we that they led her here - her wine is a knockout.

My wife and I actually met Nicole long before we ever tasted her wine; we were sitting at one of our favorite hangouts, the bar at Tra Vigne; we do our best wine discovery work over dinner! Nicole and a friend pulled up adjacent bar stools… we talked… she explained that she is passionate about Pinot Noir.

"I LOVE Pinot Noir. It's my favorite grape. It complements the foods that I like perfectly. I don't eat meat so big Cabs and big Zins don't do it for me," she said. I remember that well, never thinking that one day we might start and have a platform to help promote Nicole’s wine in the greater American market.

Nicole grew up in Virginia, the daughter of a dad of Lebanese ancestry (and hence the unusual name). She came to Napa Valley the first time in 1995 to enroll in a wine program at the CIA.

"At that time, there were only three wine courses; I took them all. We spent time in the vineyards; I met Marco Cappelli of Swanson Vineyards and Elias Fernandez of Shafer Vineyards and they taught me a lot."

From Napa Valley, through a series of personal encounters, Nicole found herself in Australia for the harvest of 1996. She worked at Yalumba Winery in the Barossa Valley. Then she moved to France to work on the later-in-the-same-year harvest at the Sauternes house, La Tour Blanche.

And then she fell in love. Head over heals in love. With Pinot Noir. "I couldn't believe what an aromatic, wonderful grape this is, how juicy and balanced its wine can be," recalls Nicole, who worked the next summer and harvest at Domaine Comte Armand. (No wonder she fell in love with Pinot Noir - this is one of the GREAT Burgundy houses.)

By 1998, Nicole was itching to get back to Napa Valley.

For a brief spell, she worked as a wine educator at Mondavi but says she had a calling to get back into the cellar. She worked a harvest at Chappellet, then worked with John Kongsgaard at Luna, where she ultimately became cellar master.

"I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and go out on my own and make wine," says Nicole. "That's when I found out about the availability of the Morgan contract on Stanly Ranch, so I hastened to secure it."

For her first wine, first vintage, Nicole created a label, the center of which is a lotus flower. "The lotus represents much to me," says Nicole. "It is life and death, male and female, it is beauty rising out of muddy water."

It turns out that Nicole got the image for the lotus on her label from a tattoo of a lotus flower that she has on her body. We asked… but she is insistent… no matter how many cases of her stunning wine you buy, she's not going to reveal where the tattoo is.

2000 Abiouness Pinot Noir, Stanly Ranch, Carneros
There is more to excite your nose in a glass of this wine than you will find at a Macy's perfume/fragrance counter. Take a whiff; there are basketsful of fraises des bois, those indescribable little wild strawberries that you find in France; there is earth, forest, a hint of eucalyptus ("they were cutting down some trees in the vicinity of the vines when we harvested," Nicole recalls), roses and back, again, to fraises des bois. This is a heady wine.

The beverage has a near-silken texture, great weight in the mouth; it is an exciting wine, a vibrant wine. It is food friendly yet can equally be a meditative wine.

Above all, this is a WOW! wine. You cannot take your first sip while trying to finish a sentence, or complete a thought, because you will be distracted by the flavors and excitement in your mouth. That kind of wine. Rating:

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