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

As I mentioned last weekMonday, and yesterday, I tasted 48 American Pinot Noirs a couple of weekends ago. With the help of three other wine writers here in Houston, 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 four 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 12 tasting notes, below.

All 48 lined up, ready to be popped.

2019 Chemistry Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $22. Under screw cap. On the dark side once again, with another fantastic nose Whoa. Great fruit, vanilla, hints of spice. On the palate? Holy cow. Rich, fruity, layered, a bit of darkness to it, Yowza and holy cow. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2019 Westmount Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $25. Under screw cap. Medium color but dark another lovely nose or brooding cherry and earth. The palate is quite weighty with fruit and a bit unctuous. Not my style, but a nice wine. Excellent. 91 Points.

2018 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros, CA: Retail $44. Medium to dark with a lovely nose yet again. Holy cow. Great fruit and spice. On the palate this is quite lovely and certainly whoa worthy. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2018 Cultavin Cellars Pinot Noir 99 West, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $20. Dark, meaty, almost bloody on the nose, this is whatever beyond brooding is. Rich and “really brooding” again with intense, brooding flavors but great balance with tartness and some tannins on the finish. Excellent. 92 Points.

2015 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $40. Whoa. Another medium to light colored wine w ripe Bing cherry with a splash of spice whoa. Holy cow. Another outstanding wine. Great fruit, tart, balance, finish. I’m trying to nitpick, but I can’t. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2018 Stoller Pinot Noir Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $32. Dark in the glass with a bit of funk (I love the funk) associated with this dark cherry, the palate, though? Great fruit, tartness, depth, fantastic. Excellent. 90 Points.

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

2018 Brooks Pinot Noir Crannell Eola – Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. Rich, smoky nose of dark fruit (black cherry & wild strawberry), rose petal, and the palate? Oh my goodness. Another one that is completely off the charts. Holy son of God. Rich, dark, a tad unctuous, but the fruit, acidity, balance. Outstanding Plus. 97 Points.

2019 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $45. A bit dark with some dark cherry Jolly Rancher, even a cherry cola thing going on. Quite fruity and ebullient on the palate. This is really a fantastic wine. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2016 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Medium dark in the glass, dark cherry and a whole lot of goodness on the nose yowza. The palate is rich (and a little dirty) with dark fruit, great tartness, and a boatload of goodness. Yowza. Excellent. 91 Points.

018 Brooks Pinot Noir Old Vine Pommard Eola – Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. Medium dark with another amazing nose of dark cherry and a touch of earth. Rich, great fruit, comes off as a tiny bit sweet, but oh my goodness, this is fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2018 Hyland Estates Pinot Noir Coury Clone Old Vine, McMinnville, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $45. Medium color to dark with a bit of a muted nose. Great on the palate, rich, lovely, a bit heavy on the fruit, even a bit jammy, but hey, if that is the worst you can say? Excellent. 92 Points.

2018 Iris Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. On the dark side of color and the meaty side of aromas. The palate is perfectly pleasant and tasty. A fantastic Pinot. Excellent. 90 Points.

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

Top Wines 

Before I enumerate my top wines, I have to say that I was impressed by the overall quality of the wines this year, which I think was a solid notch or three above any of the previous three years. I personally scored almost a third of the wines “Outstanding” or higher (which certainly caused me to pause, but the wines were really good).

The task I presented the other writers at the tasting was rather simple: give me a list of the “top wines.” I did not ask for a minimum or a maximum, just the “top wines.” Two of the writers listed thirteen while the other listed eight. 

There were three wines that appeared on all four lists:

  • 2018    Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dutton Ranches ($45)
  • 2019    Chemistry Pinot Noir ($25)
  • 2015    Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve ($45)

And there were another five wines that appeared on three of the four lists:

  • 2018    Brooks Pinot Noir Crannell Eola – Amity Hills ($55)
  • 2018    Chehalem Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains ($30)
  • 2016    Montinore Estate Pinot Noir Reserve ($30)
  • 2019    Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($20)
  • 2019    Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Sly One ($65)

As for my own “top wines”? Whoa. It was really difficult to choose, but here they are:

  • 2019    Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Sly One ($65)
  • 2018    Brooks Pinot Noir Crannell Eola – Amity Hills ($55)
  • 2018    Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dutton Ranches ($45)
  • 2019    Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Estate Clonal Series – Dijon 777 ($60)
  • 2020    Flaunt Wine Company Pinot Noir Peake Ranch Vineyard ($50)
  • 2019    Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($20)
  • 2019    Chemistry Pinot Noir ($25)
  • 2015    Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve ($45)

Many thanks to my partners in crime: Sandra Crittenden (Wine-Thoughts), Katrina René (the Corkscrew Concierge), and Rebecca Castillo (MyVinoRules) for their help and expertise!

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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