I really enjoy blind tastings -- it's amazing how much a known name can really prejudice anyone's reading of a wine, even despite our best attempts at objectivity. Last night I sat down with 5 winemakers for a blind tasting of 8 California Pinot Noirs over $20. The host, a good friend of mine, threw in one "ringer" -- he wouldn't tell us what kind of ringer it was, but we were on the lookout for a different varietal or two-buck-chuck. The results after a couple hours of careful tasting? Most of us (but to be fair, not all) had gravitated to one wine which, although it was not in the style that most of us preferred for California Pinot, it was the best integrated and most drinkable wine in the group.
Which one did we pick ? The $9 ringer.
We were all floored. This little winery which buys grapes in bulk and has a consultant winemaker had leveled the competition, which included wines from names like Siduri, Dehlinger, Seasmoke, Hartford Court, and Williams-Selyem. Not only that, but some of those wines, at least one of which is going for $120ish at auction right now, tasted downright bad.
Bright ruby in color, the wine makes a clear, bright impression in the glass with a big nose of chocolate, black cherry and cola. It feels very round in the mouth with light cranberry, bigger cherry, and hints of plum flavors. The finish is clean, albeit a little short.
All of us agreed that this was a wine that was probably better appreciated on its own, or with some soft cheeses, rather than the standard fare you might put with a Pinot. Because of its fruit you might want to treat it more like a Syrah or Zinfandel and drink it with some grilled meats or even BBQ. My recommendation for the day is beef and andouille sausage burgers with asiago cheese.
Overall Score: 9
How much?: $9
You can buy this wine at lots of places -- supermarkets (e.g. Andronicos) and online.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
I'll Drink to That: Danilo Nada of Nada Fiorenzo Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 8/23 Vinography Images: Night Sorting Small is Beautiful: The Champagnes of Savart I'll Drink to That: Karl duHoffmann of Anchor Brewing Warm Up: Jerez de la Frontera I'll Drink to That: Antonio Flores of González Byass California 2015 - Vintage of Fire Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 8/16 A Selection of Georgian Wines
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune