Wine Tasting 2011, Part 1: Pinot Noirs

posted Jun 26, 2011, 10:38 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Jul 1, 2011, 11:41 PM ]
It's time for me to 'fess up, and comment after all the Pinot Noirs I've tasted recently (64 blind tastings in one day during the Pinot Summit and another 100 wines tasted on another day during Pinot Days).  Here were some of my picks.

- Couloir Wines
Winemaker Jon Grant showed up on my radar this year as one of those nerdy Pinot makers, making a collection of vineyard-specific Pinots.  According to the Pinot File: "This is a brand new producer with the 2007 vintage of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. The founder and winemaker is Jon Grant, who is also the assistant winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars. Grant has learned his trade at several notable wineries including PlumpJack Winery, Corison Winery, and Robert Mondavi Winery. Couloir refers to a steep mountainside gorge and reflects Grant's love for ski mountaineering. Production is tiny and the wines are sold through a mailing list." Interesting to compare his Oppenlander to Baxter's.  Avg price $38 for Couloir 2009 Pinots.

- Baxter Winery.  Interesting to compare Couloir's Oppenlander Vineyards to Baxter's same vintage, $45. (I think I tasted a total of 6 different wines that day from the Oppenlander Vineyards: Shandel's, Phillips Hill Estate, Navarro, Handley were the others).

Other "Pinot nerds": William Selyem, Ant Hill Farms.

- Bonneau Wine, 2008, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Los Carneros, $34.  Excellent example of a "typical" Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir.

- La Follette Wines.  Interesting to compare this to Greg La Follette's Sangiacomo vineyard production, burgundian style, $42.

- Jean-Claude Boisset.  Speaking of Burgundian, the French empire of Pinot Noir that has taken root in Sonoma has a great tasting room on the Healdsburg Square, downtown.  Good chance to taste Pommard, Volnay, Mercurey, Macon.

- Clouds Rest, 2005, Limited Release Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.  $108.  Outside my budget, but for wow factor (complex, feminine, blackberry, plum, pepper, smoke), this is it.  Again according to the Pinot File "This unique one and three-quarter-acre vineyard is actually on Sonoma Mountain but carries the Sonoma Coast appellation. Frequent fog drifts in from the ocean forming a billowy blanket about 50 feet below the vineyard fence. The Clouds Rest Vineyard is situated at 1250 feet and is the most intensely planted vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA, and may be the most difficult and expensive to farm. The vines are planted 3 ft x 3 ft (an arm’s length apart) in volcanic soils and farmed completely by hand. The planted clones are Pommard 3 and 115, 667, and 777.  The Clouds Rest Pinot Noirs are aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak and bottle aged an additional 18 months to 3 years. The noted winemaker since the first vintage in 2002 is Anthony Austin. The single vineyard-designate Pinot Noir is sold on the website."

- Tarras Vineyard, 2008, Estate, Central Otago, New Zealand, $30.  Excellent example of Central Otago, my personal favorite Pinot Noir region in New Zealand (Marlborough sorry, I love your Sauvignon Blanc, but prefer Cental Otago's Pinot Noirs).

- CRU, 2008, Appellation Series, Santa Maria Valley, $35.  If you like spicy Pinot Noirs, then Santa Maria is the appellation for you!  Locals refer to a natural jalapeno flavor in the wine. 

- Laetitia Wine.  Another great choice from the Santa Maria Valley region, and well priced.  Entry level Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir is a steal at San Francisco Costco right now for $19.99. 

- John Tyler Wines.  Along this same vein, the little Russian River Bacigalupi vineyard is famous for its spice, almost on parr with Santa Maria Valley's.  The original is John Tyler's Bacigalupi, $58

- Armida Winery.  Look for Armida's Bacigalupi, $38

Bonus points went to
- Clos Saron.  I got to taste their "Out of the Blue Cinsault", a refreshing change from a day of just Pinot Noirs.  From the Pinot Files: "Gideon Bienstock and wife Saron Rice have developed a very small and young vineyard in the northern limits of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Gideon has over 28 years of experience in the wine industry as buyer, seller, educator, writer and winemaker (he is also the winemaker for the famed and nearby Renaissance Vineyard & Winery) and Saron has considerable knowledge of viticulture. Together, they have set a goal to transcend all of the preconceived notions that exist about what winegrowing possibilities exist in this region. What they have started, and what they have accomplished to date, is highly unusual from just about every point of view. They only work with organic fruit and farm all of their grapes, including sourced grapes, themselves. They specialize in Pinot Noir and non-traditional blends of other red and white varietals. Winemaking is pure and simple - no acid corrections, no fining or filtration, no inoculations, no racking and very minimal sulfur dioxide additions during barrel aging. The Home Pinot Noir Vineyard and tiny winery are located in a cool microclimate in the Oregon House Valley just west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 4,500 vines are planted on a gentle, well-drained, north-east facing slope."  This is a winery I have to keep my eyes on!