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 (actually it was 166 bottles if you count the wineries that sent two bottles of each wine).
*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.
When I tell people about these tastings I hold at my house, the response is nearly uniform: “Oh, sounds like really tough work.” Truth be told, while it might fall short of “tough work” it certainly is not “easy.” Tasting so many wines within a fairly narrow band of flavors and attributes (they all come from the same grape, after all), it can be difficult to verbalize the subtle differences.
It is also tough on the teeth–by the end, we were all in need of a toothbrush. Badly in need.
2017 Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Gap’s Crown Petaluma Gap, CA: Retail $70. Lovely nose of fresh cherry and just a hint of earth. Whoa on the nose. Fruity and tasty on the palate—particularly lovely. Excellent. 93-95 Points.
2017 Failla Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard Eola – Amity Hills, OR: Retail $65. Flinty and dirty on the nose, but fruity and rather delicious on the palate. Fruit, acid. Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Domaine Bousquet Pinot Noir Reserve, Argentina: Retail $21. A bit of extraction here, with cherry coughdrop. More depth than the other ones with this characteristic. Mineral and a great finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Big Tree Block Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $70. A bit stewed tomato, a bit medicinal. A bit meaty with good acid, lingering finish, and a touch of tannin. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $40. Good fruit with a bit of funk. But lovely red fruit. Fruity and fun on the palate but not incredibly deep. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir Commuter Cuvee Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $18. Solid cranberry nose medium color. Good fruit, fine acidity, admirable finish. Solid top to bottom but no real “wow” factor. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Jackson Estate Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $40. Darker in color and in aromas with a touch medicinal. More good fruit and secondary flavors (leather). Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $25. Lovely nose with subtle fruit, solid palate, juicy and perfectly fine. Yum, even. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Cline Cellars Pinot Noir Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. A touch of funk here. Brett? But otherwise good fruit. The palate is dark and a bit brooding, but good acid and a solid finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2015 Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noir Gestalt Block Willamette Valley, McMinnville, OR: Retail $60. Cherry cola even Doctor Pepper on the nose of this fairly dark Pinot. Fruity and acidic. A solid effort with a solid finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve California, CA: Retail $20. Rich and lovely both on the nose and the palate this is another winner. Whoa. Excellent. 93-95 Points.
2016 Cast Wines Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $60. Dark, on the verge of meaty. Solid, mostly, tons of fruit, but comes off as a bit flabby, needing a dash of acid. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Domaine Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Dark nose, dark palate, with cinnamon. Not my style on the palate, but it is perfectly lovely for this style: dark and brooding. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Chehalem Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains, OR: Retail $30. Classic nose: balanced fruit and earth. Good fruit, lacking a bit of depth but finishes tart and fine. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Division Winemaking Company Pinot Noir Deux Eola Springs Vineyard Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills, OR: Retail $39. Dirty and flinty. With strawberry, albeit faint, on the nose. Good fruit, a bit funky still on the palate, but this seems like a great food wine. Some healthy tannins on the finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton, OR: Retail $60. Oaky and vanilla. Fruity, oaky, big. Needs beef, probably a lot. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Byron Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria County, CA: Retail $50. Funky and fruity on the nose. Big, rich, extracted to a certain extent. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Coeur de Terre Pinot Noir Sarah Jane’s Reserve Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Medium color, dark red fruit, a bit of heat on the nose. Cough syrupy, medicinal on the palate. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2012 Ribbon Ridge Winery Pinot Noir Ridgecrest Vineyards Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $69. Dirty and flinty nose. Plenty of fruit with a bit of effervescence on the palate. A serviceable Pinot. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Stoller Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $35. Smoky and gamey. Meaty and flinty on the palate. This is the winner of the flight of four. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.