Pinot Noir, the noble Queen of Burgundy. The vine that produces ample aggravation for some and amazing reward for others. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes Pinot Noir as “the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”
My romance with Pinot Noir has yet to be discovered. At times we’ve stolen away for a quick embrace but each encounter left me feeling betrayed and empty as I longed for the full thick flavor of Cabernet or the smooth softness of Merlot. One affair caused my heart to quicken. A sultry, sweet seductress from the Willamette Valley gave me hope for a lasting romance. But alas, it was not meant to be, as I returned to my spicy lover, Syrah. When my good friends Ed Thralls, Joe Herrig and Tamara Belgard announced the group Pinot Noir twitter orgy on July 15, I secretly agreed. I kept my cheating intentions from my lovers and eagerly circled the date on my calendar.
As the date arrived, I found myself excited to share in the rendezvous with six Pinot Noir from Oregon and California. The sultry queen prepared herself and the seven of us hid away in a quiet room of the house. While my wife did homework in a nearby room, I explored each of them uncovering layers of lush fruit, velvet vanilla and even hints of spice. One queen was a little dirty and liked it funky. I hope it wasn’t too kinky that I brought my video camera to capture the passion, excitement and lust. One intoxicating beauty captured my heart. Her scent, her taste will remain in my heart and on my lips for eternity. Alas, I have discovered the joy of Pinot Noir.
2008 Duck Pond Cellars Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 98% Pinot Noir 2% Gamay Noir; Aged 7 months in oak; 13.5% ABV; 17,000 cases
- The Swirl: Light cherry cola color with sparkling jewel tones at the edge. About 40% opaque.
- The Sniff: More immediate presentations of earth and cedar that open up to subtle aroma of cranberry and light cherry.
- The Sip: A good structured Pinot Noir that would pair well with all kinds of food dishes. The Duck Pond lacks depth in layers and structures to compete with more expensive wines, but for the price point this is certainly a label to keep on your radar.
- The Score: At $20 retail I score this a 3/5
2007 Tom Eddy Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Manchester Ridge; Aged 9 months in 66% new French oak; 14.6%ABV; 72 cases
- The Swirl: Smoky cherry with muted color at the edge. About 50% opaque
- The Sniff: Candied cinnamon and cherry with slight undertones of earth and funk
- The Sip: Amazing structure that I described during the tasting as “elegance in a glass.” There is a slight tartness on the finish that presents cranberry and vanilla. Wonderful acidity.
- The Score: At $55, Tom Eddy shows they can do more amazing Cab. 3+/5
2007 Solena Estate Domain Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Yamhill Carlton District; 11 months in 52% new French oak; 13.9%ABV; 573 cases
- The Swirl: Light cherry colors with pink undertones and pink hued edges. About 50% opaque.
- The Sniff: Mushroom, earth, funk, and hints of cranberry
- The Sip: Layers of earth, vegetal components, and thin cherry fruit. A good acidity finish cleanses the palate to prep you for another sip. Could see this pairing well with ham, turkey, and Christmas.
- The Score: At $45 this is the type of Pinot that some may turn their nose up. It’s a well made wine with good structure and layers. If you like terroir driven Burgundian Pinot, you’ll love this wine. Give it a sip before you commit to a whole case. 3+/5
2008 Solena Estate Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Hyland Vineyard; aged 13 months in 80% new French oak; 13.7%ABV; 300 cases
- The Swirl: Medium plum and garnet colors with about 60% opacity
- The Sniff: Cherry cola, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
- The Sip: Elegant vanilla on the front palate with enchanting tart strawberry and under ripe cherry. Love the layers in the wine as it progresses during the sip. Finish is strong and lingering with a very well balanced acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this may be a special occasion Pinot for a lot of people. A safe bet that will impress you with every sip. Drink alone or pair with food for a memorable experience. 4/5
2008 Meiomi Belle Glos Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara; 9 months in 60% new French oak; 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Strong plum color with good color to the edges. Presents about 50% opaque
- The Sniff: Tight aroma of red berry, baking spice and cedar.
- The Sip: A book of layers that turns one page at a time across the entire drinking experience. I love the initial smooth mouth coating feel where the wine envelops your tongue and gives it a nice warm hug. Beautiful ripe strawberry and cranberry flavor appears and then transforms into a smoky baking spice. The long lingering finish wraps up a fantastically well made wine.
- The Score: At $25 this is a superstar Pinot Noir that fits in most people’s budgets. A MUST try! 4/5
2008 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Las Alturas; Aged 9 months in 60% new French oak; 14.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Medium dark plum and crimson colors that borderline Merlot. About 70% opaque
- The Sniff: Close your eyes and picture yourself in the kitchen. Your grandma just baked her world famous cherry pie. The room is filled with aroma of bright ripe cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and that slight burnt aroma from the pie filling that spilled on the rack. That is this wine!
- The Sip: The aroma comes across very well on the palate as well bringing supple fruit flavors that showcase the amazing winemaking and extraction achieved by Joe Wagner. This Pinot Noir is without a doubt the best Pinot Noir I’ve had to date and is an established baseline for me.
- The Score: $44; a wine to remember, long for and diligently seek out. 4+/5
Cool video from Joe Wagner, winemaker of the wine reviewed above
The Blind Tasting Results
The Pinot Noir twitter event turned into an all out smack down pitting region against region. This gave me an idea. I decided to taste along during the event AND then host a blind tasting with 12 of my closest wino friends. Prior to people arriving I brown bagged and tagged each wine. I was the only person who knew the contents. My friends were instructed to taste the wine, take notes and then make their votes indicating a 1 with their favorite and a 6 with their least favorite. Below are the results in order from least favorite to favorite:
- Solena Estates DDL $45 – Avg Score 4.5 (received a 2 and several 3’s)
- Duck Pond $20 – Avg Score 4.1 (received several 3’s)
- Solena Estates Hyland $50 – Avg Score 3.9 (polarizing with lots of 2’s and 6’s)
- Tom Eddy Manchester Ridge $55 – Avg Score 3.6 (received two first place votes, no 6’s)
- Belle Glos Las Alturas $44 – Avg Score 2.8 (received mostly 2’s with a few 1’s and one 6)
- Meiomi Belle Glos $25 – Avg Score 2.0 (received mostly 1’s with a few 2’s and 3’s)
Put 12 palates in a room and you see the diversity of taste, but in the end a consistent pattern emerges.
Things overheard at a Pinot Noir tasting!
@winecouver: She thought his Pinot lacked length. The poor winemaker hung his head in shame. #pinotentendre
@SipwithMe: I’m thinking someone’s going to have a really big Pinot in their mouth soon. #pinotentendre #pinotnoir
@girlwithaglass What is happening when your tongue feels like you are sucking on wood? #pinotnoir #pinotentendre
@NINhilista Excuse me, but your pinot is showing…Thx 4 multiple corkasms! 😉 #pinotentendre
Tags: Pinot Noir