Plunging into the Pile of Pinot

Normally on Fridays, I present tasting notes from the various random samples that I had tasted over the course of the week. The wines below, however, were not selected randomly. In fact, they are all second bottles that were sent for my Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir which occurred in the Fall of 2019 and included 100 different wines (wineries often send a second bottle in case there is a problem–see below). Since then, I have been trying to decide what to do with these second bottles. Then, one day it hit me: I should drink them. Yeah, I know, a radical concept. So here are a few of those second bottles.

2015 Angela Pinot Noir Angela Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35. I liked it two years ago. 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. The first bottle was great. This one was corked. Ugh. Not Rated.

2017 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60.  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 Elizabeth Chambers Cellar Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvée, McMinnville AVA, OR: Retail $35. B.A.B. Another bottle from my 2019 Third Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. I liked it back then 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.

2018 Grochau Cellars Pinot Noir Commuter Cuvee, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $18. I liked it back then (90 pts) and I like it now. Good fruit without being over-the-top, a bit of earth, some gravitas. The palate is fairly fruity but buoyed by both a racy acidity and some earthy notes. No, it will not cause you to drop to one knee and propose to whatever person suggested or sold you this wine. It will, however, bring some delight to an otherwise typical night of swiping left. Excellent. 90 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, OR: Retail $60. Another wine that has benefitted both from the extra time since the tasting 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.

2016 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir Spectrum, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail: $65. I first tasted this a couple of years ago, for my Largest Blind Tasting of America Pinot Noir (there were 100–to0 many). At the time, I liked this wine a lot (92 Pts) and tonight’s uncorking was validation. Dark in the glass with black cherry, red fruit, intrigue, and vanilla. The palate is quite fruity as well, along with just a hint of barnyard (which eventfully burned off). Mint, menthol, and bits of earth spice on the nose. The palate? Fruity, spunky, with just of smidgen of funk and earth (both of which I love). This wine did not show quite this well initially, but wowza is it good. Excellent. 92 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 Third 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: 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. Excellent. 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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