That's certainly my experience, Bill -- but they seem to age very well. The winemaker told us the same thing at a tasting he led in 1998. Here are a portion of my notes from the event:
Parts I and II: Pinot Noir in California and Oregon: Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Mike Etzel of Beaux Frères. Jim Clendenen was an excellent, amusing speaker. He said that terroir was very important to Pinot Noir in California, which had many different regions and therefore great variety in its Pinots. He described an “under brush” or “briar” or “forest floor” [Tanzer] taste that was distinctive in Pinot Noir. Tastes of hard spices, especially black pepper, and juniper are also found.
Clendenen had a number of good lines:
“If you like a wine, determine if you know enough to like it.”
“Every tasting is a postcard from a wine’s long evolution.”
“Tasting notes from a wine maker about his own wines are apt to be lies and self aggrandizing.”
During the tasting, there was a long, somewhat confusing, discussion of reductive molecules that are added to wines to prevent oxygenation. These molecules give wine an off-flavor. Clendenen said he removed them by tossing a copper penny into the wine; in Burgundy he said winemakers used a copper spoon for the same purpose. A member of the audience said pennies were no longer made of copper. Clendenen said he never checked the dates on the pennies, he just tossed them in. “Maybe there’s something else in my pocket that does the trick!”
[WLDG: Paul Winalski, April 12, 1998: US pennies have never been made out of copper except for a year or two immediately following World War II, when they were made from copper recycled from rifle shells. Until very recently, they were made from bronze. Then, circa 1988 I think it was, inflation had caused that amount of bronze to be worth more than one cent, so they started making pennies out of some cheaper zinc alloy clad with copper. The zinc alloy is toxic, so I don't think throwing pennies into wine to neutralize sulfite is a very good idea any more. He'd be better off getting one of those Burgundian copper spoons.]
Other good quotes in addition to a few sprinkled through the report:
There was a discussion of what was the best wine various speakers had tasted. Graillot: “The wine I’m going to have this evening.”
Through this Torii Mor
This earth gate
To make glad the soul
Label on 1994 Torii Mor Pinot Noir.
Incestuous Products from Like Minds.
Au Bon Climat Motto.
Mike Etzel was shy but demonstrated commitment; he said that he had worked with other winemakers (including Ken Wright) before going out on his own; he has now made four vintages.
During the tastings, Albert L. Hotchkin said that color was irrelevant in Pinot Noir; pale reds could have extraordinary flavor. On the other hand, most wine lovers believe that darker red means better Pinot Noir; consumers often say color doesn’t matter, but then find another reason not to like the paler versions. As a result, there is pressure on winemakers to make a darker Pinot Noir.
Flight 5: 5a 1995 Au Bon Climat Reserve Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County California. Deep red color; good fruit and spice aroma; very good fruit and spice taste with lots of spice; complex, well balanced tannins; took some time to develop its best flavor; 15 to 20 second finish. T4*. [Clendenen: “This wine is made in a reductive style and it needs time to develop.]
5b 1995 Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros California. Good red color; very aromatic fruit and spice aroma; very good fruit and spice taste, flowery overtones; heavy mouth feel; ten second finish. 3*. [One of the panel said: “This wine says ‘Grab me! Drink me, now!’ But you may not like the third glass.”]
[WLDG: Paul Winalski, April 12, 1998: Saintsbury Reserves: These have always been favorites of mine. Although they often are forward and fruity when young, they respond quite positively to being kept for 8 years or so. The 1989 and 1990 are wonderful right now.]
Flight 7: 7a 1994 Au Bon Climat LaBauge Au-Dessus Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County California. Very good fruit aroma and taste; strong pepper and spice taste; a “bright” flavor, very succulent; very nicely balanced; 10 to 15 second finish. T4*+. [A general favorite of the panel and members of the audience.]
7b 1994 Bethel Heights Southeast Block Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon. Very good fruit aroma and taste; some pleasant herbal overtones with a bit of earth; very complex over time after a sweet attack; good mouth feel; ten to fifteen second finish. T4*. [One of the experienced tasters at our table said that he tasted eucalyptus in this wine; it reminded him of Cabernet Sauvignon. Tashjian said that would be a serious flaw in Pinot Noir.]