The Top Ten American Pinots from the Third Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir

As I mentioned Monday and 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).

Today, I am also including what I consider to be the top wines from the endeavor, which are included after the last 18 tasting notes, below.

All 54 lined up, ready to be popped.

2017 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dutton Ranches, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $55. Medium color, fruity, classic nose of tart cherry and bits of earth and spice. Yum! Big fruit on the palate. Big fruit! Spicy, loaded with flavor, and a tad hot on the palate. As I said, this is a bit hot, but it is also really friggin’ tasty. But big! Did I mention that? Excellent. 90 Points.

2018 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $40. Fruity, as in the “I wanna be a pleaser of the crowd” kinda fruity (i.e., a touch over-extracted, perhaps) with a slight hint of funk. The palate is a bit to the contrary. Yes, there is fruit, but it is surprisingly reserved and, well, in balance. Not at all the boisterous bully that I expected. In fact, this is quite nice. Excellent. 91 Points.

2018 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir Signature Selection, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $22. A shade darker than “average” with a meaty, smoky nose. Somewhat remarkable as it smells a lot more like smoked baby back ribs than it does Bing Cherry. That meatiness and smokiness persist on the palate.  Very Good. 88 Points.

2018 Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. Fairly dark in color with touches of meat and iodine out in front of the red and dark berry fruit. The palate is solid—nothing really to gripe about, but nothing to run down the hall doing cartwheels over, either. Fine, nice. OK. Very Good. 89 Points.

2017 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Emerald Ridge, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $66. Fruity (red and blueberries) with eucalyptus, and an herbal quality (not quite a full-blown mint, but close). The palate opens with fruit, but never quite comes around to the tartness I am looking for in a Pinot. Still? Pretty darned good. Very Good. 89 Points.

2017 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $65. A bit dirty and dark on the palate here with dark cherry and freshly tilled earth—right in line with a classic Pinot nose. Good fruit, acidity, balance on this palate—and a finish to match! This is what most would hope a Pinot to be. Excellent. 92 Points.

The crew hard at work (from two years ago).

2016 Bryn Mawr Vineyards Pinot Noir Krista’s Block, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills, OR: Retail $50. Dark red fruit, mocha, a touch of flinty dirt. Some fruit, but rather austere on the palate. That flintiness is there, as is some of that dark berry fruit. Fine but unspectacular. Very Good. 88 Points.

2017 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Goodchild High 9 Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, CA: Retail $35. Rich red cherry fruit with a healthy dose of vanilla. Scrumptious nose if you like that dynamic (which I do). Good fruit, but the acidity is a bit light, causing some imbalance. I would have no problem with this being poured in my glass, but not something I would seek out. Very Good. 88 Points.

2016 Spellbound Pinot Noir, CA: Retail $14. Cranberry and rhubarb a go-go here—quite tart on the nose. Not nearly as tart on the palate, but the fruit seems a bit extracted here and rather one-dimensional on the whole. Very Good. 88 Points.

2017 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Redwood Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $62. A very intriguing nose (a good thing) with not exactly red fruit, certainly not black fruit, but not quite blue fruit. A touch of sweetness, and a rich, wet, earth note. Yum. Really wonderful fruit, great balancing acidty, healthy tanins, and a fabulous finish. OK. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2018 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Jolie, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $65. A brilliant crimson in the glass, but a whole lot of funk on the nose. Funky. Parliament kind of funky. I normally love the funk, but this is a bit much, at least on the nose. Brett and a bit of reduction. The palate is decidedly better with plenty of fruit, good acidity, and a lengthy finish. But that nose. Very Good. 89 Points.

2018 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir “Red Cap”, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $25. While I thought the previous wine was funky, this makes that wine smell like a walk in the park. Sulfur, iodine, meat, vegetal, and little to no fruit. Yowza (and that is a bad ‘Yowza’ to be clear). While better on the palate, that is a decidedly low bar. Fruit, acid, tannin, but that nose? Whoa (again, not a good thing here). Very Good. 87 Points.

The full line-up has grown since the first year.

2018 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Afleet, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $70. One of the lighter pinots, at least in color thus far. Hints of funkiness and red fruit, this is a bit shy on the nose. Fruity, good acid, balance. This might be a touch overly-fruity for me, but it works. Excellent. 90 Points.

2018 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. A shade to the dark side with black and red fruit, eucalyptus, vanilla. At least on the nose? This falls into the “yum” category. Solid on every front, this is nice, but not extraordinary. Excellent. 90 Points.

2015 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Tall Poppy, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Bright cherry and fresh earth, this certainly shows promise. The fruit is certainly subtle on the palate but balanced with tartness and acidity. This is not a world-beater type of Pinot, but it is demure, lovely, and tasty with a lengthy finish. Excellent. 91 Points.

2016 Siduri Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $62. There are not many noses in this line-up of 54 wines that I find more appealing: rich (but not unctuous) fruit, touches of earth, hints of vanilla. The palate did not disappoint. Great fruit, acidity, and verve. Yeah, I can do this all day long and twice on Sunday. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2017 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $30. Tart, lean, and with a touch of funk, this is well within the realm of “classic Pinot.” The fruit is front and center on the palate until a wave of acidity comes in on the mid-palate. The finish is long, spicy, and a bit hot, but this is a nice wine. Excellent. 92 Points.

2017 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Another really lovely nose of round red berry fruit with some baking spice and minerality. The palate takes a minute or so to get going, but when it does, the fruit comes rushing in along with some complexity and drying tannins. More, please. Excellent. 91 Points.

Top Ten Wines (alphabetical)

  • 2016 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins, Anderson Valley
  • 2017 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Lindley’s Knoll, Russian River Valley
  • 2017 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Fox Den, Green Valley of Russian River Valley
  • 2017 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Redwood Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
  • 2017 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley
  • 2017 La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
  • 2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
  • 2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Estate Vineyards, Russian River Valley
  • 2016 Siduri Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills
  • 2018 Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

I would also like to give a shout out to the 2018 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve. While it did not make the list of top wines this year, it showed particularly well again this year (it was one of the top wines last year). For a wine that is available in most grocery stores across the country, usually for under $15, that is certainly worthy of remark.

Coming in December: Tasting American Sparkling wines!


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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2 Responses to The Top Ten American Pinots from the Third Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir

  1. I’ll be moving to Oregon soon and don’t know too much about Pinots there. Thanks for sharing!


  2. We love Pinots, so thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.


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