The Fifth Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir (Part Two)

As I mentioned Yesterday, I tasted 55 American Pinot Noirs earlier this month. 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. There is also a downside to blind tasting as the bigger, fruitier wines tend to stand out more; a topic that I will address in a future post.

55 bottles of Pinot on the counter. 55 bottles of Pinot.

Here is the second set of 20 wines, in the order we tasted them:

2017 Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir Walraven Vineyard, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $55. Sour cherry on the nose, almost a baked cherry pie aspect, with an earthy near barnyard (but not quite) aspect. Quite pleasant and even lovely on the palate with rich fruit, and a bit of depth. The fruit is quite ripe, giving off a sweet sensation, but dry. Excellent. 90 Points.

2019 La Follette Pinot Noir Heintz Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $65. Cherry cola on the nose, with a side of vanilla and earth. Quite fruity on the palate with more of a dark cherry vibe going on here. Nicely balanced. Nice. Excellent. 92 Points.

2020 Our Cellars Pinot Noir Photograph, Central Coast, CA:  Retail $13. Classic Pinot nose: dark cherry, bits of earth, and a hint of oak. Nice. Fruity, a bit of spice, nice acidity, and balance, quite well done. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2019 Sangiacomo Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $65. Sour cherry with a savory note, both on the nose and palate. A really lovely wine that is fruit-forward, with lovely flavors and balance. A tiny bit hot on the finish. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2020 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Fox Trot, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $40? Lovely nose: cherry marmalade, a bit of vanilla, a hint of oak. Classic and delicious nose. Yowza. Great fruit, impeccable balance, zingy, deep, everything and more here. Outstanding. 96 Points.

The next wine (#26 for those keeping score at home) was another wine from the 2020 vintage in the Willamette Valley and this one seemed to be clearly affected by smoke taint. It was pretty close to undrinkable. The winery had sent two bottles and they were the same. 

2019 Cattleya Pinot Noir Belly of the Whale, Sonoma Valley, CA: Retail $85. Cherry cola with a medicinal aspect on the nose. Fruity, on the verge of crowd-pleaser style wine with so much ripe fruit that it comes off a tiny bit sweet. Not my style of Pinot, but this certainly has its place in the market. Excellent. 92 Points.

I thought the table might give out….

2021 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Mount Richmond, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Candied cherry cola with nice fruit (blueberry?) on the nose. Fruit, richness, tons of intrigue, and weight on the palate. Subtle but great tart fruit, with incredible acidity, and is really quite nice. Excellent. 92 Points.

2018 Truett-Hurst Pinot Noir White Sheep, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $52. Rather dark in color for a Pinot and the aromas follow suit with classic dark fruit and a touch of earth. The palate is fruity initially followed by a zingy tartness and an above-average finish, nice. Excellent. 92 Points.

2020 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Pinot de Ville, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $69. One of the darkest wines in the tasting. With really lovely black cherry fruit. Dark on the palate as well, but really well done: rich fruit, weighty, tart. On the darker side of Pinot, and incredibly good.  Outstanding. 94 Points. 

2019 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Dutton Ranches, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $50. Another nose that really worried me, with more than a bit of funk (normally, I like the funk, but…). The palate, though, is quite nice, a bit earthy to meld with the considerable fruit. Nice. Excellent. 91 Points.

2019 La Follette Pinot Noir Black Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $58. More magenta than ruby. More raspberry than cherry. Surprisingly light on the palate with light cherry, good acidity, nice balance. Excellent. 90 Points. 

2019 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Radian Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $68. Black, dark fruit, even plum, wonderful nose, another darker side of Pinot. A touch of earth, even pine. Wonderful on the palate as well, dark, on the verge of brooding. Nice. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2019 Flaunt Wine Company Pinot Noir Sexton Vineyard, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $55. Fruity and a bit cough “droppy” with some dark earth on the nose. The palate has good fruit, but seems overly extracted, maybe. All the components are there, but it is missing a bit of that “verve” factor. Very Good. 88 Points. 

2021 Sostener Winery Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $18. Both the nose and the palate have a Cherry Jolly Rancher a go-go vibe. The palate is quite fruity and there is plenty of acidity, but it lacks a je ne sais quoiVery Good. 89 Points.

2020 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $45. Quite shy initially, but dark fruit eventually comes through on the nose. That same shyness on the palate but the fruit and tartness come screaming in on the finish. Excellent. 90 Points. 

2021 Emery Grant Pinot Noir Estate, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $50(?). Fruity (dark and red berry fruit) and minty on a beautiful nose. Intense fruit that dominates the palate with an interesting mocha note. Big, big, big. Not my style but quite good. Excellent. 91 Points.

2019 Sanford Pinot Noir Block 5 Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $92. Rich, intense baked fruit, with a meatiness and a bit of barnyard funk (I love the funk). Fruity and balanced on the palate with a zingy tartness. Excellent. 91 Points. 

2019 Virginia Marie Lambrix Pinot Noir El Diablo, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $66. Really shy on the nose, with not much there at all, honestly. The palate is fruity, more of a strawberry that comes off a bit sweet. A bit of heat on the finish. Very Good. 89 Points.

2019 Sanford Pinot Noir Vista al Rio La Rinconada Vineyard, Sta Rits Hills, CA: Retail $78. A meaty, savory nose with some darker red fruit in the background. A bit on the dark side in color, too. Mint. The palate is not nearly as dark as it comes off as more strawberry than cherry. Excellent. 90 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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2 Responses to The Fifth Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir (Part Two)

  1. Never asked for one of my new ones . .


    Larry Schaffer Owner / Winemaker for tercero wines 805.245.9584 the best is yet to come . . .


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