My office these days is a bit of a mess. By my estimation, I have somewhere north of 300 bottles strewn about, taking up space, making it impossible to do yoga here (I don’t really do a bunch of yoga, but I like to think that I do). Most of those bottles are samples that have been sent to me over the last few months (I am catching up, I promise), but a solid 3-4 cases are actually second bottles.
Often (but certainly not always) wineries send along two bottles of the same wine for review in case one of them turns out to be flawed for whatever reason (see below). Of course, the vast majority of the time, the first bottle turns out fine and the second bottle is set aside for, well, a good idea to come along. Seeing that my life is rather devoid of good ideas these days (my latest miscue was agreeing to help out with my son’s little league baseball team—why do I keep doing that?).
Thus, relatively recently, I started listening to the voices both in my head (to create some space and order) and external (my wife: “This is getting completely out-of-control! You need to come up with a plan or I am going to…” [I neglected to listen to the last part of the statement—I had gotten the gist]). I decided to start tasting those second bottles from the Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir when I tasted 100 bottles of Pinot over two days (100 is too many, by the way).
All of the wines have evolved, many of them improving, and just one (I am not counting the flawed bottle) declined (ever so slightly)—which is why I struggle with tasting wines upon release, particularly quality Pinot, since many (most?) are released too early (but that is potentially another post).
2015 Angela Pinot Noir Angela Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35. The first time I tried this wine was a couple of years ago for the Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. I liked it then. Nay, I loved it. It was fruity, tart, balanced, tasty (92 pts. then). Now? It might be even better. Fairly dark in the glass with lovely ripe cherry fruit aromas buoyed by plenty of spice and earth. The palate is equally enchanting with full fruit flavors, perfectly paired acidity, and just the right amount of spice. Yowza, this is good. Excellent. 92 Points.
2015 Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noir Gestalt Block, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. I was sent two bottles of this wine for my Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. The first bottle was great. This one was corked. Ugh. I debate whether I should publish notes on a wine that is flawed, but it is part of the wine industry, unfortunately. These days, bad bottles are not all that common, but it happens, perhaps more than it should. Flawed. Not Rated.
2017 Elizabeth Chambers Cellar Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvée, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35. B.A.B. Another bottle from my 2019 Second Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. I liked it back then (91 Points) and I like it just as much now. Dark and red berry fruit on the nose, hints of dark earth, and just a smattering of spice. The palate is inviting and balanced: fruit, tartness, earth, spice. The finish is punctuated by the acidity and fruit. A lovely iteration from the Willamette Valley. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. While I liked the first bottle (90 points) back in 2019, this bottle is close to a Whoa. Dark in the glass with ripe cherry and plum notes, a splash of eucalyptus, some thyme, black tea, and just an ounce of earth. The palate is bigger than I expected with healthy fruit, a splash of acidity on the mid-palate and a surprising amount of drying tannins on the finish. I liked this initially, but love it now and it might just need another few years or so to be at its best. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Domaine Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. While the first bottle fared well (90 points), this second bottle benefitted from tasting the wine over time and considerable more time open. While I am not quite at the lofty estimation of one user on Cellar Tracker (100 pts?), I have adjusted my evaluation upward. Great fruit on the nose and the palate (dark cherry, blackberry), hints of spice (cinnamon, clove), plenty of tart acidity, and near impeccable balance overall. Delightful. Excellent. 92 Points.
2016 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Another wine that has benefitted both from the extra time in bottle and some additional time open with this bottle. Fairly dark in the glass in both color and aromas with black cherry, forrest floor, and a bit of spice. Lovely. The palate is both fruity (tons of cherry) and balanced (the acidity is lively and present throughout) with a touch of soft tannins sneaking in on the finish. While I liked this wine during the tasting, it seems to be showing better today (particularly with a bit of time open). Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Estate Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. This is now the third bottle of this wine I’ve tried that I had originally for my Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir and it continues to impress. While this bottle is slightly lower (at least in score) than the other two, but still similar notes. While this lists at 25 bucks, it is available in most markets for under twenty bucks. Last year at this time, for my Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir, I found this delightful. I still do. A Classic New World Pinot nose here: plenty of fresh red and black cherry, eucalyptus, and touches of spice and earth. Yum. The palate more than holds up to the nose with luscious fruit, balancing acidity, and a marvelous finish. Gangbusters. Outstanding. Excellent. 92 Points.