As I mentioned yesterday, I tasted 54 American Pinot Noirs over the weekend. With the help of my wife, I was able to taste through the wines blind, which means that I did not know which wine was ever in my glass (well, my six glasses, as I tasted that many at a time).
Tasting wines blind is always a good exercise as knowing what a wine is can always introduce bias when it comes to evaluation. Blind tasting also can produce a few surprises, as was certainly the case this time around.
Here are the second set 18 wines, in the order I tasted them:
2016 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $42. Another fruity, juicy, lovely nose of fresh and ripe dark and red cherry with a hint of meat. That ripe cherry is front and center on the palate with zingy acidity, plenty of weight on the mid-palate, and a finish that lasts for a while. Yowza. Excellent. 93 Points.
2017 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $55. Mostly flint and smoke with strawberry and cherry lurking behind. Tart, really tart cherry on the palate, initially, it is rather subtle, but not by the mid-palate. Wow, that’s tart. By the finish? It’s full-blown under-ripe cherry, but you know what? I like on it. After this opened a bit and I had another chance to try it? Pretty close to amazing. Make sure to offer a healthy decant here. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $28. On the dark side, here, with a really muted nose. Rich fruit on the palate, though, really surprising. It is actually fantastic once it gets past the lips, with balance and nice flavors. Eventually, some candied cherry came through on the nose, but still rather faint. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Nielson by Byron Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County, CA: Retail $20. Funk. Not quite Brett, I don’t think, but there is a reductive, sulfur thing going on. Normally, I like the funk, but this is a bit over the top, even for me. The palate is fruity, but that funk is definitely still there. Very Good. 88 Points.
2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Reserve, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. A lot of salinity here, almost a seashore salty mist going on joined by a meaty component. Not much fruit to find on the nose, however. The palate comes off a bit flat as what fruit there is comes off as dried and there is a rather unpleasant meaty (stinky sock?) aspect on the finish. 87. After tasting again, the odd elements were reduced if not eliminated. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Chemistry Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $20. Another odd nose. Hmmm. Something going on there, I am not quite sure what, though. The palate is far better than the nose, however, with some fruit, acidity, and balance. But that nose… Very Good. 88 Points.
2018 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $45. Fairly dark in the glass, and a bit hot, but there is some nice red fruit here as well. The palate is fairly big with dark berry fruit, heat, and spice. While this certainly blows past restrained without so much of a blink, there are some redeeming qualities. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Lindley’s Knoll, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $55. Darker in both color and in red fruit with black cherry, and some black raspberry. The palate has all that one needs in a New World Pinot: fresh fruit, bracing acidity, plenty of weight and spice on the mid-palate, and a fruity, lengthy finish. Very nice. Excellent. 93 Points.
2017 Left Coast Estate Pinot Noir Cali’s Cuvee, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $25. Fruity (dark and red cherry), flinty, earthy, quite a lovely nose going on here. Another lovely palate with nice tartness, ample fruit, and a bit of intrigue. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2015 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, OR: Retail $40. Another classic nose with tart cherry, freshly tilled dirt, a bit of slate, and just a hint of smoke. Another fantastic wine: fruit, acid, depth, this is certainly a “fruity Pinot” but it has all the necessary components. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Stoller Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. Dark and shy in the glass, it’s difficult to eek any aromas out, but the palate is a pleasant surprise, with great fruit, balanced tartness, quite lovely, in fact. Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate, Willamette Valley, McMinnville, OR: Retail $26. Yowza, lovely nose. Fruit, earth, minerality all show up and say “how d’ya do?” Another perfectly delicious wine: fruit, that minerality/flintiness, and a great balance all the way through. Nice. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Ron Rubin Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $22. Dirty, flinty, and a tad bit smoky on the nose with some dark cherry fruit peeking its head out eventually. Fruity, on the palate. Really, really fruity. So much fruit that it is easy to forget or overlook the acidity. Good. If you like fruit. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $40. Meaty, cherry, and a bit funky in the glass. No real evidence of funk on the palate as this is really, really nice. Yes, there is a ton of fruit here, but it is balanced and quite delightful. Yum. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Land’s Edge Vineyards, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $50. Quite the muscular wine on the nose here with firm red fruit, a touch of heat, and minerality. The palate also comes off a tad hot, but there is more than ample fruit and plenty of chutzpah. Excellent. 90 Points.
2017 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. Really nothing on the nose here. Nada, zilch, zippo. Big fruit on the palate, though, without being “fruity.” It is more of a mouthfeel and a weight more than anything else. This is perhaps a bit disjointed and out of balance. Very Good. 87 Points.
2016 Siduri Pinot Noir Lemoravo Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $30. Dark in the glass with flint, funk, and fumée. The palate is fruity, but comes off as overly extracted. I would not necessarily seek this wine out, but nor would I be overly upset if I were served this wine. Very Good. 87 Points.
2017 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $48. Red fruit, an herbal aspect (I swear it is celery root, but…), some minerality, iodine, beef blood. Really rich on the palate as one might guess from the nose, with deep cherry, strawberry, and rhubarb. A bit big, but good. Excellent. 91 Points.