I am currently experiencing a phenomenon that I could not have fathomed a decade ago: I am awash in samples. According to my inventory, I am currently hovering around 400 bottles that were sent to me to taste. Since I am a bit of a math geek, I did some calculations: If I average going through 15 bottles a week (three a day—I try not to “ work” on the weekend), that comes out to about 26 weeks of wine.
Half a year.
But that does not tell the whole story as they also keep coming, day after day, week after week. I do not recite this as a sort of “ humble brag” but rather to point out that I had no idea it would ever get to this point—I am having to tell people that I can’t try their wines for the time being. That is a tough pill since many of them have supported me from the beginning.
There is an additional issue: often suppliers send two bottles of the same wine (essentially, it is sent in case the first bottle is flawed in some way). I have no idea what to do with those bottles (there are currently close to 200 bottles that fit that description). Most of the time, I just toss them into the cellar, hoping I figure it out at some point.
Then, one day it hit me: I should drink them. Yeah, I know, a radical concept.
Despite adding roughly 13 weeks to the above timeline, I am determined to catch up by the end of the year (I am not quite sure what being “caught up” will look like yet, but that’s immaterial at this point since I am certainly not there yet) and in that vein, while trying to keep up with current samples, I have begun to pop the 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, about half of which also included a second bottle.
So here are a few of those second bottles.
2018 Division Winemaking Company Pinot Noir Deux Eola Springs Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $39. Under DIAM 10 closure. Reading my note of 18 months ago (from the Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir): “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.” Um, well, no, at least not today. Quite fruity on the nose with black cherry and just (ever-so) slight hints of funk and earth. Wow, quite the difference from a year and a half ago. I might need to call Kate Norris, owner and winemaker (along with Tom Monroe) to try to figure out the almost polar opposites of this wine’s personality. The palate? Uber-fruity (rich, dark cherry) and quite tart, the earth tries to sneak through on the mid-palate, but the fruit shuts that down rather quickly and decidedly. I really can not get over how different this wine is. And me like. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 B Kosuge Pinot Noir The Shop, Carneros, CA: Retail $40. I have been a fan of Byron Kosuge’s wines almost as long as I have been exploring American Pinot Noir (which is a fairly long time at this point). This is my wife’s favorite of his bottlings and the first we have tried together in some time (she usually drinks them on her own when I am on the road—almost all of the other tasting notes of “mine” are actually hers). Really dark in the glass, not just for a Pinot, but this seems to be darker than most full-bodied Cabs I have had of late. The nose is rather brooding as well, with dark cherry, black and blue berries, some spice, and an ever-so-tiny amount of earth. The palate is much lighter on its feet than the nose suggested with mostly red berry (although some darker berries peek through as well) fruit, a bit of that spice, and, well, the earth has left the building, er, glass. Still, there is plenty of acidity (as is the case with all of Byron’s wines) and a memorable finish. Nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Edmeades Vineyard, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $50. It would not take long to count the number of still white Pinot Noirs that I have tried (the sparkling ones, naturally, would take a whole lot longer), but this is the second I have tried in as many weeks. Slightly golden straw in the glass with lovely aromas of peach, pear, white acacia, and ginger spice. The palate is deliciously balanced between the subtle fruit and racy acidity. Although the information about this wine is rather scant, I did discover that it spent nine months in neutral oak, which has no doubt softened that tartness just a touch. Lovely wine. Outstanding. 93 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–to 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.
2016 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Big Tree Block, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $64. B.A.B. Nearly two months ago, I partook in a tasting with various Sokols and Blossers (and Sokol-Blossers, naturally) to celebrate the 50th anniversary the brand. It was informative, fun, and tasty. We did not, however, delve into this Big Tree Block (named, as you may have guessed, for the rather large tree in the block). Which is too bad, as I would have liked to have heard the other opinions on this wine as there is a bunch going on here. Back in 2019, I liked it a lot (90 Pts.) but felt it could use a little time. Now? A “little” time later? It seems to be gaining (a bit of) steam. More fruit, spice, and depth, but it still is looking to find itself—is this an earthy Pinot with an emphasis on balance? Or is it a fruit-forward wine, focused on fun? I wish I had an answer. Still, a wonderful quaff. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Raeburn Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA: Retail $25. A relative newcomer to the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) scene, I have tasted a few bottlings of Raeburn now and I am impressed (particularly given the price point). I have maintained for some time now that “good” Pinot starts at right around $30/bottle and heads north rather precipitously. This challenges that assertion. Fruity (but short of a “bomb”), earth, tart, balanced–pretty much everything one looks for in a Pinot. Sure, it is a bit lacking in depth, but for right around twenty bucks? This really delivers. Very Good. 89 Points.