The Fourth Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir (Part Three)

As I mentioned Tuesday, I tasted 48 American Pinot Noirs over the weekend. The design was to taste through the wines blind, which means that I did not know which wine was ever in my glass (well, my four 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.

When I tell people about these tastings I hold at my house, the response is nearly uniform: “Oh, sounds like really tough work.” Truth be told, while it might fall short of “tough work” it certainly is not “easy.” Tasting so many wines within a fairly narrow band of flavors and attributes (they all come from the same grape, after all), can be difficult to verbalize the subtle differences.

It is also tough on the teeth–by the end, we were all in need of a toothbrush. Badly in need.

All 48 lined up, ready to be popped.

Here are the third set 12 wines, in the order I tasted them:

2019 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. Under screw cap. Medium color, with a rich nose of Bing cherry, vanilla, lovely. Another wonderful palate—great fruit, balance, and verve. Holy cow. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2018 Chehalem Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Big Ass Bottle. Wow, what a difference a year (or two) makes). Medium dark color with a meaty, almost iodine aspect to it. The palate is more of a dark cherry, brooding, baked fruit, with killer acidity and balance. Yowza. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2018 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $45. Big. Ass. Bottle. Agglomerated stopper (non-DIAM). Medium color, muted nose with some great cherry and earth. Tart, but subtle fruit, great acidity and depth. Really lovely wine. Excellent. 92 Points.

2016 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate, McMinnville, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. A tad dark, but great black cherry fruit, some dark earth, and a lovely chutzpah. Great fruit and balance, another fantastic wine. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2018 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir Claudia’s Choice, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. Medium to dark color with a decided dirty/slate and dark cherry on the nose. Quite nice on the palate, but, honestly, it suffers from its competition here. Very Good. 89 Points.

2018 Fullerton Wines Pinot Noir Bella Vida Vineyard, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Meaty and salty with not much fruit to speak of on the nose. On the palate, this is quite nice, perfectly fine and perhaps even lovely. If this were opened on a given night? I would stay to the end of the bottle. Excellent. 90 Points.

I thought the table might give out….

2016 Crescere Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $100. B.A.B. Medium to dark color, with an overly rich, extracted aspect on the nose. The palate is much the same, with an over-extracted and VA aspect that does not help. Very Wagner-esque. Very Good. 88 Points.

2015 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Tall Poppy, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Medium color, muted nose with a hint of bacon. Good fruit, however, on the palate with decent balance, but a relatively short finish. Nice. Very Good. 89 Points.

2018 Fullerton Wines Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard, McMinnville, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Medium to light color with a bit of a dirty nose of dark cherry, earth, slate. The palate is quite fruity, on the other hand, but there is a grittiness that I find interesting. Rich and intense with some drying tannins. Where to place this? Very Good. 89 Points.

2019 Bells Up Winery Pinot Noir Candide, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $54. Medium color with a luscious nose of fruit and a touch of spice. Whoa. Tart, fruity, and great balance on the palate. This is another fantastic wine. Excellent. 92 Points.

2019 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir The Famous Gate, Carneros, CA: Retail $95. Dark in color and aromas, this is on the other end of the spectrum of Pinot Noir with some dark earth and spice. Lovely on the palate with great fruit and balance, fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points. 

2018 Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Medium to dark color with a lovely nose of tart black cherry and earth. Another fantastic wine. Wow, this is a great lineup (thank you very much). Excellent. 91 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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