Gems in My Glass . . . January 2010

Pinot Noir, Tasting Notes No Comments

A remarkable lot of top notch pinot noir tickled my palate early in the New Year:

2008 Testarossa Winery, Santa Maria Valley, Sierra Madre Vineyard: Enticing aromas of cherry, berry and vanilla draw you into the glass and remain focused and flavorful with layers of earth, exotic spice and subtle oak. Silky tannins and a persistent add to its charm.

2007 Roar, Santa Lucia Highlands, Garys’ Vineyard: Bright, concentrated perfectly ripe cherry fruit rises from the glass; spice notes and good acidity balances the juicy fruit beautifully; finishes with a sweet oak finale.

2007 Kosta Browne, Sonoma Coast: Dense aromatic bowl of fresh cherries fill the nose, and layers of tar, earth, forest floor and dark berries add provocative flavors on the palate; complex and well structured with smooth, firm tannins.

2007 Patz & Hall, Carneros, Hyde Vineyard: Pretty cherry and berry aromatics persist and mesh attractively with cola and a hint of tobacco and earth on mid palate, balanced and elegant with velvety tannins.

2008 Dahlia Reserve, Monterey County: Dark fruit and oak notes rise from the glass and broaden on the palate alongside dried cherry and shades of raspberry-filled cookie flavors adding interest; nicely structured.

2007 Dutton Goldfield, Marin County, Devil’s Gulch: Earthy forest floor aromas integrate seamlessly into cherry fruit and mushroom notes, delightfully integrated oak and firm tannins complete the luscious package.

2007 Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley, Deep End Blend: Pretty berry and cherry fruit on the nose, with spice and tart cranberry notes opening up on mid palate. Delicate and well balanced with a fresh, clean and lasting finish.

2007 Beaux Frères, Ribbon Ridge, The Beaux Frères Vineyard: Earthy, dried cherry aromas followed by cherry cola and spicy notes taking center stage on the palate. Elegant structure with essence of forest floor and wild cherries remaining focused throughout.

2007 Failla Wines, Sonoma Coast, Hirsch Vineyard: Mushroom and earth notes jump from the glass with cherry and herbal essence adding complexity on the palate. Earthy wild cherry qualities remain through the finish; well crafted.

2006 Calera, Mt. Harlan, Ryan Vineyard: Rich dark cherry fruit dominate the aroma. On the palate a lush mouthful of earth and brown spices with dense, concentrated cherries broadens generously; finishes with pleasing smoky notes.

2007 Peay Estate, Sonoma Coast, Scallop Shelf: A hint of judicious Brett on the nose followed by rich, fresh cherry compote flavors and a delightful dose of earthiness on mid palate. Finishes with a dash of root beer and nicely integrated oak.

2007 De Ponte Cellars, Dundee Hills, Baldwin Reserve: Baked cookies sprinkled with cinnamon open up on the nose, wild berries and cherries laced with cocoa join in on the palate; balanced and easy to quaff.

Pinot Noir – A perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Pinot Noir, Tasting Notes No Comments

A Thanksgiving feast, with family and friends around the table deserves a worthy wine, and at my house it will be Pinot Noir. In the past six months I have tipped many a glass filled with wonderful wine crafted by Pinot Noir producers from near and far, and I’ve once again been completely wowed. This captivating varietal is grown all around the world, including regions in California, Oregon, New York, the Burgundy region of France, Australia and New Zealand. Each area displays a site specific uniqueness, and yet it is difficult to pick an absolute favorite – although different, one is as lovely as another. What is it about this alluring grape that draws winemakers, tasting professionals and consumers so passionately? The understated strength, the elegance, the velvety tannins, the layers of cherry, smoke and earthiness? Whatever it is, once you’ve been smitten, you’re forever hooked! Many winemakers agree that bigger berries do not produce bigger flavors, rather quite the opposite – smaller berries tend to produce wine with more intensity and concentration of flavors. What are optimal conditions? Well, this cool climate loving grape does NOT like excessive heat. It ripens early, and must be kept away from harsh, long sun exposure. It thrives in cooler regions, appreciates a coastal influence and well drained soils.

From the Santa Lucia Highlands Appellation in California comes a beauty crafted by Winemaker Bill Brosseau at Testarossa Vineyards. Their 2002 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir screams powerful rich fruit in the nose, followed by concentrated, dark black cherries and a hint of earthiness on the palate. Skillfully structured with a long, lingering finish.

Winemaker Christian Roguenant produced a winner in Baileyana’s 2002 Grand Firepeak Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Edna Valley. Intriguing spicy aromas and cherry infused flavors frame the earthy, black cherry core. The cinnamon spice carries beautifully from the nose, through the palate, to the memorable finish.

From France, the 2002 Christophe Perrot Minot Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers Premier Cru is a darkly hued, powerfully structured wine with earth and mushroom aromatics, deep red fruit, richly textured and nicely focused. An elegant, pretty wine from a great Burgundy vintage.

Flowers Vineyard & Winery’s 2000 Camp Meeting Ridge from the Sonoma Coast appellation is stunning! A mere whiff of the seductive smoky, spicy aroma beckons you further into the glass. On the palate dark cherries and bright fruit flavors fill the mouth and unveil layers of spice and mineral notes. Complex and polished, with silky tannins and great length.

Dutton Goldfield’s Devils Gulch Ranch 2001 Pinot Noir (Marin County) grabs the senses quickly with aromatic ginger and cinnamon spice and a hint of oak filling the nose. Spiciness holds through the luscious mouthful of mixed berry and dense black cherry flavors – wonderfully packaged.

Landmark Vineyards 2001 Grand Detour Vanderkamp Vineyard from the Sonoma Mountain appellation opens with welcoming toasty aromatics and hits the palate with a blast of juicy ripe black cherries and a savory dose of mushroom and earth. A well balanced, delicious wine.

The Central Otago region of New Zealand is gaining impressive accolades for this varietal. A fine example is Akarua’s well structured 2002 Pinot Noir. Concentrated plumy fruit, attractive smokiness, and a provocative forest floor earthiness shine on the palate, with great depth and supple generous tannins on the finish.

Steve Rasmussen at Talley Vineyards scored well in the Arroyo Grande Valley with the 2002 Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir. Nice tobacco and spice aromas lead to generous, dense cherry and wild berry jam and cola notes unfolding on the palate. Finishes with gorgeous velvety tannins.

The Santa Rita Hills appellation is the home of the 2002 TAZ Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir made by Jon Priest. Here is an deeply structured wine that opens with candy apple aromas and fills the palate with intense, ripe black cherry flavors and a hint of minerality.

From Oregon comes Van Duzer Vineyards 2002 Willamette Valley Estate Homestead Block Pinot Noir. Deeply colored with leather aromas, this wine coats the mouth with rich red fruit and spices that linger seductively through the finish. Nicely structured wine from a standout vintage in Oregon.

I just can’t get enough of this versatile varietal. It’s an incredibly beautiful, food friendly wine that will pair famously with your Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful it will be on my table!