Friday, March 03, 2006

Pinot Noir Blind Tasting

Our wine tasting group met again last month for a Pinot Noir tasting. It is interesting to notice that the wines that people brought were all from California except one that was from Oregon (it was also the only one from the 2003 vintage). More surprisingly, they were all from wine regions north of San Francisco — no Sideways Pinot here.

First, we tasted the 2003 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley. Located in Oregon's Northern Willamette Valley, Domaine Serene is a winery that utilizes environmentally responsible and sustainable farming practices. The wine, unfined and unfiltered, was aged 16 months in French oak barrels, of which 74% were new. It had a dark garnet color. The nose was discreet but pleasant. On the palate, it was fruity and tannic with some notes of brown sugar. Overall, some tasters found it young and irregular with some good potential while others found it fresh and well-balanced. It was ranked second in the tasting.

Our second wine was the 2002 David Bruce Pinot Noir Truchard Vineyard Los Carneros. Located in the cool Los Carneros appellation, the Truchard Vineyard has 270 acres planted with 10 different grape varieties on various types of soil: clay, shale, sandstone, volcanic rock and ash. The wine was the darkest of all. It had a powerful nose with sweet blackberry aromas. On the palate, it was big, chewy and oaky with a long finish, but some tasters found it too intense and alcoholic. It came in third place just one point behind the Domaine Serene.

Our third Pinot was the Oak Arbour Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley. Mendocino County's Anderson Valley is slowly emerging as one of California's best region for Pinot Noir. A mere 10-15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the valley enjoys a cool, coastal climate with night and morning fog and warm summer days, which is ideal for Burgundian varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and classic Alsatian varieties like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris. This wine had a much lighter color than the David Bruce. It had also a lighter nose with floral and fruity aromas. On the palate, it was slightly sweet but elegant and well balanced. The group found it very food friendly and placed it in first position. This wine was my favorite too! There is a duck on the label so this makes me think about having a duck magret — one of the culinary traditions of Toulouse &mdash with the wine.

Our next wine was the 2002 Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir Los Carneros. Robert Sinskey Vineyards is a winery that strongly believes in organic farming, natural winemaking, and emphasizes elegance over power. The wine had a dark color and a shy fruity nose. On the palate, it was a bit flat and tart with a short finish. A few tasters favored it over the ones with a bigger style. I personally have to admit that this wine was more difficult to appreciate coming after the first three. The wine finished in fifth position.

Then we tasted the 2002 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Lindleys' Knoll Russian River Valley. The wine comes from a certified organic vineyard in the Russian River Valley, planted with 14 year-old vines on well-drained hillside soils. The wine was aged in French oak for 17 months, and 30% new oak was used. It had a pleasant aromatic nose with notes of strawberry. On the palate, it was tight, woody and acidic, leaving a short finish. The group found it too young and quite unbalanced and placed it in fifth position.

Our last wine was the 2002 Terra Valentine Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. The wine showed a lighter color and a discreet nose of citrus and grapefruit. On the palate, it was sweet, too sweet for many tasters, with flavors of vanillin oak leaving a somewhat bitter and acidic finish. The wine finished in fourth place just one point above the Davis Bynum and the Robert Sinskey.

Now, following the tradition that we started with our 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon blind tasting, we are saving a second bottle of these wines for a future tasting, and I am very curious to see how these wines will taste in one or two years!

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