Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pinot Noir Tasting

More than any other red varietals, Pinot Noir tends to hide behind its terroir and reflect the flavors of the soil. Therefore, it is a fascinating exercice to compare several Pinots from different parts of the world side by side, and that's exactly what we did at our last Wine Club tasting party right before Thanksgiving

We started with a zippy Pinot Noir Rosé from California to waken our taste buds, then moved to Burgundy, New Zealand, and finally traveled along the US Pacific Coast, from Oregon to Santa Barbara County. This was a particularly interesting exercise because tasters expressed many split opinions about the wines. So in the end, which wine emerged as the winner? Hard to say except that as the tasting was wrapping up, there was not a single drop of Burgundy left.

The wines we tasted:

• 2007 Etude Pinot Noir Rosé: Etude Winery specializes in two classic red varietals: Pinot Noir that grows in the cool Los Carneros appellation, and Cabernet Sauvignon from the warmer Napa Valley. The winemaking team believes that winemaking begins in the vineyard and that inspired grape growing diminishes the need for winemaking intervention. My notes: bright salmon color, fresh berry nose, juicy, with notes of honey. A good wine to accompany spicy dishes.

• 2005 Savigny-Lès-Beaune Premier Cru Aux Gravains Domaine Camus Bruchon: Savigny-Lès-Beaune, situated to the north of the town of Beaune, is the third largest producing appellation in Burgundy's Côte de Beaune. It produces almost exclusively red wines (90%) under the village and premier cru appellations. Lucien Camus of Domaine Camus-Bruchon is considered one of the finest red winemakers in the Côte de Beaune, crafting well balanced, deep and complex wines. My notes: at first, not very expressive on the nose, more earthy than fruity with some good acidity. Some tasters found the wine rather light but it opened up towards the end of the evening, developing a attractive, fragrant Pinot nose and a more complex body.

• 2006 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard: Amisfield is a New Zealand producer of Pinot Noir, aromatic whites and sparkling wines. It is located in Central Otago, the most southerly wine producing region in the world where Pinot noir is the leading grape variety (approximatively 70% of plantings). The estate consists of 60 hectares of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. My notes: medium color, aromas of ripe berries, soft and sweet on the palate, and in my opinion, slightly heavier than the rest of the line-up.

• 2005 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir: Oregon Pinot noir pioneer David Lett founded The Eyrie Vineyards in 1966. In 1979, Lett participated to a competition in Paris and his wines placed third among all Pinots. In a 1980 rematch the Eyrie wines moved to second place. The competition instantly put Oregon on the map as a world class Pinot noir producing region. The winery is located in the Red Hills of Dundee, about 30 miles south-west of Portland, Oregon. The Estate Pinot Noir comes mostly from younger vineyards planted in the 1980's. It is aged in mostly neutral oak casks, unfined and filtered only if necessary. My notes: medium red color, attractive aromatic nose, medium bodied, earthy with juicy, fruity flavors on the palate, very attractive. For me, one of the best Pinots of the evening (but not all tasters were fond of it).

• 2006 Harrington Pinot Noir Wiley Vineyard: located in San Francisco, Harrington wines makes Pinot Noir wines from five different California appellations: Chalone, Sonoma Coast, Los Carneros, Wild Horse Valley, and Anderson Valley. Situated ten miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Wiley Vineyard is one of the westernmost vineyards in the Anderson Valley appellation. It is a chilly area surrounded by coastal redwoods and it is often the last Pinot Noir vineyard being harvested in the Anderson Valley. My notes: medium color, understated nose, sour cherry aromas, tart and spicy in the mouth, slightly unbalanced in terms of acidity. Many tasters didn't like it.

• 2004 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir Bailey's Branciforte Ridge: originally established in 1863 as the Jarvis Brothers Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard is one of the oldest continuously operated vineyards in California. The Branciforte Ridge vineyard is a relatively new vineyard established in 2000, just two miles away from the historic Jarvis Vineyard at the old winery location. My notes: deep color, sweet cherry and vanilla aromas, smooth on the palate, good length.

• 2006 Melville Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills: The family-owned Melville Vineyards and Winery is located in the Santa Rita Hills, in the western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County. The estate has 139 acres planted with 255,000 vines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and two Rhone varietals, Syrah and Viognier. The Estate Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir from the Melville Santa Rita Hills estate. 33% of the fruit was fermented as whole-clusters, the rest being de-stemmed. My notes: deep color, forward nose of ripe black cherry and berry, smooth and full-bodied on the palate, revealing tobacco and stewed prunes notes on the finish. This was the richest wine of the whole selection and the highest in alcohol (15.1%). It was also a good match for bitter-sweet chocolate. Here again, there was some disagreements about the wine, some tasters finding it too strong and alcoholic, and others loving it.

Our next wine club tasting event is scheduled later this month and will feature wines from the Rhône Valley so stay tuned!

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Second Guess The Wine tasting party
•  Wine and Cheese pairing
•  Champagne Tasting

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Wine Star said...

Hi interesting wine blog, do you want to exchange links with my ?

Uzi said...

Nice collection of PN for one evening.