The Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir (Part One)

Last month, I put out a call for samples for my Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. For last year’s Tasting, I received 31 wines, which made for a healthy representation of Pinot Noir from Oregon and California. This year, I expected to receive a similar number.


Thanks to the fine people at Willamette Valley Wine and Pinot in the City* as well as Jackson Family Wines, the response was close to overwhelming. In fact, I decided to split the tasting into two days since I received one hundred bottles of Pinot Noir.

I thought the table might give out….

*Pinot in the City is a large tasting of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and it is coming to Houston in February! You can get tickets and more information HERE.

Thus, this past Saturday and Sunday, I invited several wine writers and professionals from the Houston area to my home to taste through 52 Pinots on Saturday and another 48 on Sunday.

Bagged and waiting for numbers.

2017 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Temperance Hill Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $50. Bright with black cherry and a touch of earth. Fairly light in color. Quite tart and particularly delicious. Close to a whoa. Excellent. 92-94 Points.

2017 Byron Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. A bit on the darker side both in color and aroma. Vanilla and red fruit. Rich and full with a nice level of tartness. On the bigger side of Pinot. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Barrel Select Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Fairly light with cranberry and sweetness. Rather closed on the palate, with not a whole lot going on until the finish, which is tart and spicy. Might need more time. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2016 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Blue Wing Vineyard Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $30. The best nose of the flight, rich and deep with multiple yummy aromas. The palate is not quite as expressive with subtle fruit but also some depth. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.

2016 King Estate Pinot Noir Domaine Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $70. Medium color. Rich nose of candied cherry, even chocolate. The palate is fantastic: rich, tart, lengthy finish. Excellent. 92-94 Points.

2018 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Whole Cluster Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. A bit extracted it seems and is a bit thin and overly tart. It does not seem off in any way, just a bit basic. In a pretty strong field, this seems a bit out of place. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.

Hard at “work”?

2017 Westwood Pinot Noir Calera Clone Annadel Gap Vineyard Sonoma County, CA: Retail $65. The nose seems a bit corked but the others did not seem to think so, a bit of fruit, but not much. The palate is rather flat, but some fruit inches its way in on the mid-palate. I might need to revisit. Very Good. 87-89 Points. After the reveal, I decided that we should open the second bottle, knowing that this wine should have shown better. I was right: not corked on the nose, but rather shy, on the palate, this second bottle was completely different. Subtle, yet good fruit, earthy. The palate is spicy, reserved, and balanced. Much, much better. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $35. Medium-light in color. Lovely nose: fruit, earthy, a bit of spice. Very nice. Excellent. 92-94 Points.

2017 Wente Vineyards Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Arroyo Seco, CA: Retail $30. A really tart nose of pronounced cranberry. Really fruity. Really, really fruity. A bit on the flabby side, but this is still quite tasty. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2014 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains, OR: Retail $50. Dark and earthy with very little fruit on the nose. The palate has some nice fruit, though, with plenty of minerality and some chalky tannins. I am thinking this needs some time. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

2016 Wine By Joe Pinot Noir, OR: Retail $19. Dark color with a really dirty nose: it smells like topsoil. The palate tastes just like the nose: There is some fruit, but way too heavy on the earth. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.

2016 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, McMinnville, OR: Retail $26. Bright cherry, and quite lovely on the nose, which continues onto the palate. Quite a pleasant quaff. No argument here. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.

2017 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Jolie Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $66. Great dark, cherry, a touch of vanilla, and a hint of pine. On the palate, this is a legitimate whoa: fruit? Check. Depth? Intrigue? Check. Check. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.

2018 Lucky Rock Wine Co. Pinot Noir Country Cuvee Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. Tart, maybe unripe cranberry on the nose. The palate is tart and spicy—Really yummy. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Siduri Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $35. Dirty and rustic nose with wild cherry, spice, and chalk. Fruity and lovely, this is also fabulous. Just short of a whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2017 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey, CA: Retail $25. Minty, pine, and dark cherry. Fruity, rich, another winner here. Excellent. 90-92 Points.


















About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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