In the Ring with Pinot Pinot Pinot

Three ladies jump in the ring and go toe to toe for supremacy. Sorry, no mud! These ladies are queen Pinot Noir’s from three different parts of the world and three different price points.

This battle is a semi-blind tasting. I know which three bottles I taste; I just don’t know which wines are in each glass. Ahead of time, my wife pours the glasses and writes the name of the wine on a card placed upside down in front of the glass.

For my friends new to the wine world, Pinot Noir is a noble, fickle lady. The grape is said to be difficult to grow, produces lower yields and is affected greatly by soil and climate. The thin skin produces a light color and a traditional Pinot Noir is soft and pairs well with all kinds of food.

The Battle:

Through the tasting you can see that I’m quickly impressed by one of the wines, uninspired by the other and curious about the third. The first bottle is quickly identifiable as a well made Pinot. The aroma is sweet and bright and the flavor is eloquent, round and balanced. The middle bottle was thin and boring but not tasteless. The final bottle had a very strong scent of earth, sour candied cherry, and graham crackers. A lot of people will like this wine, but for me, I’m not a fan of earthy wines.

The Results:

You’ll have to watch the video to see how the tasting turned out. We’ll just say 1 out of 3 ain’t bad.

The NectarView:

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir

  • The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Tualitan Valley Vineyards
  • The Swirl: A very light rusty brown purple color. Very translucent and clear
  • The Sniff: Bright Rhubarb and Strawberry with vanilla and perfume
  • The Sip: A nice sweet front end with a tart cranberry on the back end. A beautiful acid wash to clear the palate.
  • The Score: At $40, I score this a 3+ – compared to the Signature Cuvee I had from WVV, this doesn’t quite measure up. Much better than some at $20 but others at this price fair better.

See another review by blogger Mary Cressler at Vindulge

2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Pinot Noir

  • The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, nothing else clearly defined on web site
  • The Swirl: Muted red purple jewel tones with 70% transparency
  • The Sniff:  A strong earthy herb aroma with whiffs of sour cherry and toasted oak
  • The Sip: This wine has a big mouth. Definitely herb”ie” (not the Love Bug) and wet dirt along with a candied cherry sweetness.
  • The Score: At only $16 this wine will appeal to a lot of people who enjoy Pinot Noir. I’m not a fan of this flavor profile, but it certainly wasn’t boring. I’ll score it a 4 (out of 5) for value and flavor.

No Cellar Tracker or Cork’d reviews of the 2007 Vintage

2008 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir

  • The Stuff: Not a lot of detail on their web site; 100% California Pinot Noir
  • The Swirl: Muted ruby red tone with about 70% transparency
  • The Sniff: Mild aromas of sweet cherry and strawberry. Mild smoky campfire bacon. Picture yourself coming back from a long hike and your about 100 yards from the camp site – your nose gets a faint whiff of bacon and your heart skips a beat. That is what is very mild on this nose.
  • The Sip: Quite thin on the front end with a touch of sweet cherry candy. A tart backend with a quick finish. Reminds me of the scrawny kid in class that no one pays attention to. As you look back through the year book you say, “Hey, he went to school here?”
  • The Score: There is nothing off balance about the wine, it just leaves me uninterested and flat. At only $8-$10 that doesn’t surprise me and still leaves me looking for a surprise value in this price point. I score it a 2 (out of 5). 

No reviews of the 2008, but the 2007 is reviewed with an average score of 83 from 10 reviews here


Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

9 comments on “In the Ring with Pinot Pinot Pinot

  1. Chris

    Very interesting challenge, Josh. In my very limited experience, maybe 40-50 Oregon Pinots and a few from California and Washington, tasted over the past year or so, this is a grape that has vast differences from year to year, even the same vineyard, price point to price point, and everyone’s palate can react differently, plus or minus, to the aromas and flavors the variety presents. I’ve found the nooks that I like in flavors, body, wineries, etc… It’s really helpful for all wines to find a reviewer who matches your own palate, and you and your challenge exhibits an excellent exposure to that fickle grape and diverse wines known as Pinot Noir.

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Chris! I have noticed the same thing about Pinot. It such a challenge. I seems to be “easier” (said loosely) for a winery to manipulate Cabernet or Merlot from year to year, but Pinot is a challenge. I appreciate you stopping by for a comment.

  2. markmye

    Josh, interest challenge. I find that Pinot is the hardest variety to get “value” at. I’ve heard with wine there:
    1. Good
    2. Cheap
    3. Pinot (Burg)

    You can pick any 2 of the 3. :)

    But yah, people who want to get into Burgs/ Pinots.. don’t.
    your wallet will thank you.

  3. Shannon Casey

    Wow! Really enjoyed this video. You do a great job of explaining the wine in-depth and thoroughly. The semi-blind tasting is a fabulous idea.

    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Shannon! I can’t wait to meet you and your wife some day. I think we would really hit it off.

  4. Mary Cressler

    Fun. I love blind tastings! Always keeping you on your toes and it’s always fun (and sometimes humbling) to surprise yourself. I also find that it makes you pay closer attention since you often have to throw your pre-conceived notions about a particular brand out the door and just trust your palate to what you actually like (not what somebody says you’re supposed to like). We must do a grand blind tastings with a bunch of bloggers some day :)

    1. drinknectar

      A group blind tasting would be sooo awesome. I really need to live in a bigger city where the wine scene is rockin’ – It is my mission to make the wine scene more rockin’ in Spokane! Woohoo!

  5. Thad W.

    Josh, while I am glad you’re including pinot noir in your coverage, I am pained by the selection of wines you are using as a frame of reference on this wonderful grape. To get the quality required in pinot noir, you’re going to have spend at least $20 to find a decent bottle of wine. These price points are all due to the economics in cultivating and crafting pinot noir.

    Also, I encourage you to experience pinot noir with food, as this wine was never meant to be a cocktail beverage. Next time you’re visiting Seattle let me know when you’re coming, as I will enjoy having you over for dinner and an extended tasting of Oregon pinot noirs.

    Keep up the great work connecting folks to wine, especially those from Washington and Oregon.

    1. drinknectar

      Thad – Thanks for the comment. I totally agree and in my limited experience thus far, I have noticed that the best Pinot Noir I’ve tasted have been over $30. I’m still taking the challenge of finding a “decent” $10 offering (people still have budgets).

      When I film my tastings it is usually after enjoying the wines with dinner first. I carry some of those notes over with me into the filming. I have found the same thing, Pinot Noir tastes best with food and is not my choice for a ‘sipping’ wine (although there are a few that fit that category.)

      I’ll be in Seattle hopefully for Taste Washington but my time will be limited. I’m sure we’ll also be over for a Mariner’s game during the summer. Thanks SO much for the invitation and I WILL take you up on it!



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