Notes on a blind tasting of Californian Pinot Noir from the 2005 and 2006 vintages.
I should disclose that I am a fan of elegance and complexity in wine and that necessarily narrows my choices to some degree when it comes to new world wines. It was interesting to revisit California Pinots after many years of basically ignoring them from a buying point of view and sampling them only infrequently.
2005 Sonoma Cutrer Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – as it happens, one of the most appealing wines for me popped up first. It showed a lovely sweet pinot nose that featured cherry fruit rather than funk, and an acceptable level of oak, and excellent flavour intensity and length. I have seen reviews claiming this wine is dead or dying. I suggest those posters look to either their cellar conditions or those of their suppliers.
2005 Etude Pinot Noir – a more mature but equally sweet nose here, but on palate, simpler and sweeter and while pleasant, ultimately unsatisfying.
2005 Kendall Jackson Seco Highlands Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir – based on all previous experience with this producer, I was more than a bit surprised when this wine was revealed. It had an earthy nose with dark cherry, was medium bodied but not overly sweet and a nice crisp finish. Decent wine, needs drinking.
2006 Delicato Loredona Vd Pinot Noir (Monterey) – even more surprised to hear this producer, never one of my faves. Light strawberry nose middle of the road rather bland wine that didn’t merit extensive discussion.
2006 Ch. St. Jean Sonoma Pinot Noir – primary fruit nose with a herbal component, medium body, not much complexity, ending a bit short with some cola notes. Getting old and probably never that good.
2006 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir – a nicely perfumed nose didn’t make up for a flatness in midpalate, nor the sweet simple finish that tailed off.
2006 Inman Russian River Meredith Vd. Pinot Noir – a new producer for me and not one I will likely revisit. Bland lightweight simple and watery wine.
2006 Davis Bynum Russian River Pinot Noir – slightly sweet fruit in the nose, sweet lush fruit in the mouth, decent, but with too much wood and a dry finish.
2006 Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir – this one wasn’t showing much in the nose and it had simple, sweet, somewhat diffuse flavours in the mouth with an unexceptional finish.
2006 Fess Parker Bien Nacido Vd. Pinot Noir – a little grassy spice in the nose made this instantly more interesting than most of the others, and significant tannin immediately showed up in the mouth, along with good fruit levels. Finished long and sweet. Best wine of the night for me.
2006 Byron Nielson Vd. (Santa Maria) Pinot Noir – found this one a bit odd – ripe to almost over ripe nose, and it followed through with a ripe impression in the mouth. No remaining tannin, overly soft finish and over oaked. A miss for sure.