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06.29.2005

California's Best Pinot Noirs?: I'm Still Recovering From Pinot Days

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Don't think you'd ever get tired of drinking Pinot Noir? Try tasting 200 of them on a single day. I attended the First Annual Pinot Days Festival in San Francisco last Saturday and I'm still recovering.

This festival is actually a long time in coming. Several varietals have had their own trade organizations and tasting events for years (Zinfandel - ZAP, Petite Sirah - P.S. I Love You, Cabernet - The Cabernet Society, Rhone Varietals - Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, etc.) but Pinot has languished with inattention from a big budget tasting event perspective.

No longer.

The folks at the Bay Area Wine Project along with some Bay Area winemakers and Pinot Aficionados put together a full weekend of events celebrating Pinot Noir, with a special focus on California (though as you will see below, there was some representation from Burgundy and Oregon, albeit limited).

Held at Fort Mason in San Francisco, like most of the major public and trade tastings in the area, over 100 producers and a few importers showed up to pour their current wines as well as barrel samples from recent vintages.

The event itself was relatively well put together, and was thankfully not the oversubscribed, howling mass that characterizes ZAP these days. Both winemakers and attendees were unhurried and relaxed, except for a few winemakers who were choosing this event to publicly debut their wines.

Overall, I have to say that the quality of the wines was extremely high. In my tasting report below, I've left off the wines that scored below an 8.5 on my 10 point scale simply because there were so many at 8.5 and higher that it didn't make sense to include them. Having said that, however, there were no wines that broke the 9.5 barrier for me and came close to being a 10. This may be a result of the sheer number of wines I tasted (I haven't counted, but I'm guessing it's somewhere near 200) but I'm fairly confident that while there were a number of outstanding wines, I didn't taste one among the group that rose to the 10 point level.

My other observation is that prices are most certainly going up for California Pinots. Again, I haven't made a calculation, but I'd guess that the average bottle price at this tasting was probably around $30, with the most expensive over $80. That's pretty steep, especially when you compare it to Zinfandel or Rhone blends, though still behind Cabernet.

Overall, there are some fantastic wines here, and a number that are great values. I hope my notes are useful.


TASTING REPORT:
All wines are Pinot Noir and from California unless otherwise noted.

2004 A.P. Vin "Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Maria Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $45.
2000 Joseph Swan "Trenton Estate," Russian River Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Joseph Swan "Cuvee de Trois," Russian River Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Kosta Browne Winery "Kanzler Vineyard" Barrel Sample. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Kosta Browne Winery "Amber Ridge Vineyard" Barrel Sample. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Kosta Browne Winery "Cohn Vineyard" Barrel Sample. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Rex Hill, "Maresh Vineyard," Oregon. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Papapietro Perry Winery, Russian River Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $??.


2004 A.P. Vin "Rosella's Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
2003 Brogan Cellars, Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
2001 Calera Wine Company, Central Coast. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Capiaux Cellars, "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Eric Kent Wine Cellars "Stiling Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Kosta Browne Winery, Sonoma Coast. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2003 Kosta Browne Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $38.
2001 Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $85.
2002 Joseph Swan "Trenton Estate," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Keller Estate "La Cruz Vineyard - Block 4" Barrel Sample, Sonoma Coast. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Loring Wine Company "Garys' Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Domaine Arloud "Les Ruchots" 1er Cru Morey St. Denis, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Domaine Serene "Evenstad Reserve," Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $35.
2002 Patton Valley Vineyards, Oregon. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Papapietro Perry Winery "Peter's Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Papapietro Perry Winery "Leras Family Vineyards," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.

2003 Patz & Hall Wine Company "Hyde Vineyard" Carneros. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.
2002 Patz & Hall Wine Company "Alder Springs," Mendocino County. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.
2003 Porter Creek Vineyards "Fiona Hill Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2003 Roessler Cellars "Sangiacamo Vineyard," Carneros. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Skewis Wines "Bush Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $42.
2001 Talisman Cellars "Thorn Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Tantara Winery "Dierberg," Santa Maria Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Tantara Winery "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Higlands. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Woodenhead "Buena Tierra Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $46.
2002 Woodenhead "Elk Prarie Vineyard," Humboldt County. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.


2004 A.P. Vin "Gary's Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2001 Arcadian Winery "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9. Cost: $40.
2003 Alfaro Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains. Score: 9. Cost: $39.
2004 August West "Rosella's" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Calera Wine Company, "Jensen Vineyard," Mt. Harlan. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Calera Wine Company, "Ryan Vineyard," Mt. Harlan. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2000 Calera Wine Company, "Mills Vineyard," Mt. Harlan. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
1998 Calera Wine Company, "Selleck Vineyard," Mt. Harlan. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Capiaux Cellars, "Widdoes Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Capiaux Cellars, "Widdoes Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2003 Capiaux Cellars, "Chimera." Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2004 Capiaux Cellars, "Freestone Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Casa Vincola "Tayerle," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $24.
2003 Chasseur, Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Clos Saron "Pinot Too," Sierra Foothills/North Yuba. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 Domaine Alfred, San Luis Obispo. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Domaine Alfred "Califa," San Luis Obispo. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Eric Kent Wine Cellars "Stiling Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley. Score: 9/. Cost: $??.
2002 Goldeneye Winery (Duckhorn), Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2000 Gryphon Wines "Reserve," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Gryphon Wines "Reserve," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $88.
2001 Hartford Family Winery, "Seascape Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Hartford Family Winery, "Velvet Sisters Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 J. Wilkes "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Barbara County. Score: 9. Cost: $50.
2001 Joseph Swan "Saralee's Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Keller Estate "La Cruz Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2004 Loring Wine Company "Rosella's Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 MacPhail Family Wines "Toulouse Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2003 Morgan Winery "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2002 Nicholson Ranch Winery "Cactus Hill Reserve," Sonoma. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Nicholson Ranch Winery, Sonoma Coast. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Frederic Magnien "Les Suchots" 1er Cru Romanee, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2003 Vincent Dureuill "Vielles Vignes" Rully, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Domaine Serene "Jersualem Hill Vineyard," Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Lachini Family Estate "Lachini," Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 9. Cost: $36.
2001 Freja Cellars "Winemakers Reserve," Willamette Valley, Oregon.Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Toulouse Vineyards "Estate," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Truchard Vineyards, Carneros. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Vision Cellars"Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Woodenhead "Wiley Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $42.
2002 Papapietro Perry Winery, Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Porter Creek Vineyards "Fiona Hill Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $28.
2002 Porter Creek Vineyards "Hillside Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $55.
2003 Roessler Cellars "Savoy Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Siduri "Vander Kamp Vineyard," Sonoma Mountain. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2002 Skewis Wines "Floodgate Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2002 Skewis Wines "Montgomery Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2002 Tandem Winery "Auction Blocl" Barrel Sample. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2003 Tantara Winery "Bien Nacido Adobe," Santa Maria Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $??.


2004 Alfaro Family Vineyards Estate Barrel Sample. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $39.
2001 Arcadian Winery "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
2003 August West "Rosella's," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2004 August West "Graham Family Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Bouchaine Vineyards, Carneros. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2004 Brogan Cellars "Helio Dorio" Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $75.
2004 Brogan Cellars "Summa Young Vines" Barrel Sample, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Byron Vineyard & Winery, Santa Maria Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Casa Vincola "Tayerle," Las Brisas Vinyard, Carneros. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.
2003 Chasseur, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2004 Clos Saron "Home Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Sierra Foothills/North Yuba. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $45.
2004 Dain Wines "Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Mendocino County. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Dutch Bill Creek Winery, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Dutton-Goldfield Winery "McDougall Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $48.
2003 Eno Wines "Fairview Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2004 Eno Wines "Fairview Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
2002 Failla Winery "Hirsch Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $48.
2002 Gryphon Wines, Anderson Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Gryphon Wines "Reserve," Anderson Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Hartford Family Winery, "Sevens Bench Vineyard," Carneros. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2000 Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $88.
2002 J. Wilkes "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Barbara County. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
2002 MacPhail Family Wines "Toulouse Vineyard," Anderson Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $35.
2003 Marguerite Ryan Cellars "Silacci Vineyard," Monterey. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Marguerite Ryan Cellars "Peay Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Marimar Torres Estate "Don Miguel Vineyard." Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Marimar Torres Estate "Christina." Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Mon Lis "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Morgan Winery "Rosella's Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2002 Nicholson Ranch Winery "Estate," Sonoma. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Murdoch James "Blue Rock," Martinborough, New Zealand. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Stoller Vineyards "Chehalem," Dundee Hills, Oregon. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $34.
2003 Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Patz & Hall Wine Company, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $33.
2003 Perbacco Cellars, Arroyo Grande Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2002 Perbacco Cellars "Barrel Select Dionysus", Arroyo Grande Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $40.
2003 Roessler Cellars "Las Brisas," Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Saintsbury "Reserve", Carneros. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch," Carneros. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Siduri "Hawk's View Vineyard," Oregon. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Siduri "Pisoni Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Talisman Cellars, Russian River. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Tandem Winery "Keefer Ranch." Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Testarossa Vineyards "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Testarossa Vineyards "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Toulouse Vineyards "Estate," Anderson Valley. 1st vintage. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Vision Cellars "Rosella's VIneyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Woodenhead, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $32.


2004 Alfaro Family Vineyards "Gary's Vineyard" Barrel Sample. Score: 8.5. Cost: $39.
2003 Martin Alfaro, "Schultze Vineyard", Santa Crus Mountains. Score: 8.5. Cost: $28.
2003 Ampelos Cellars, Santa Rita Hills. First vintage, 85 cases made. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Arcadian Winery "Pisoni Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $75.
2002 Arcadian Winery "Fiddlestix Vineyard," Santa Rita Hills. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
2002 Arcadian Winery "Dierberg Vineyard," Santa Maria Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
2003 ROAR "Garys' Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Buchli Station (Bouchaine), Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Byron Vineyard & Winery "Nielson Vineyard," Santa Maria Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Casa Vincola "Tayerle," Las Brisas Vinyard, Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $24.
2003 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County. Score: 8.5. Cost: $19.
2002 Chateau St. Jean "Durrell Vineyard," Sonoma Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $45.
2003 Clos Saron "Home Vineyard," Sierra Foothills/North Yuba. Score: 8.5. Cost: $45.
2002 Copeland Creek, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Copeland Creek, Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Dain Wines "Alder Springs" Barrel Sample, Mendocino County. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Davis Bynum "Bynum and Moshin Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Dutton-Goldfield Winery "Dutton Ranch," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2003 Dutton-Goldfield Winery "Sanchietti Vineyard," Russian River Valley/Green Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2001 Elkhorn Peak Cellars, "Estate - Jamieseon Canyon," Napa Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
1999 Elkhorn Peak Cellars, "Estate - Jamieseon Canyon," Napa Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
2002 Eliott Family Cellars "TR Elliott - Queste." Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Eliott Family Cellars "TR Elliott - Queste." Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Eno Wines "Presumed Innocent" Morelli Lane Vineyards, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2002 Esterlina Winery (Sterling), Anderson Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Esterlina Winery (Sterling), Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Failla Winery "Keefer Ranch" Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $42.
2001 Fort Ross Vineyard "FRV." Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Gundlach Bundschu Winery "Rhinefarm Vineyard," Sonoma Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $32.
2003 Hamel Wines "Campbell Ranch - Annapolis," Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $28.
2003 J. Wilkes "Val-Foss Vineyards" Napa Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $27.
2003 Kingston Family Vineyards "Alazan," Casablanca Valley, Chile. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Brian Kosuge Wines, "The Shop Vineyard" Barrel Sample, Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Morgan Winery "Twelve Clones," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Morgan Winery "Double L Vineyard," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
2003 Mahoney Vineyards "Las Brisas," Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Nicholson Ranch Winery "Estate," Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Domaine Delarche Grand Cru Corton Renardes , Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Lange Winery, Willamette Vallet, Oregon. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Rex Hill "Dundee Hills Cuvee," Oregon. Score: 8.5. Cost: $32.
2003 Shea Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 8.5. Cost: $47.
2003 Elk Cove Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Hamacher Wines, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Old World Winery "Laughlin Valley," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Old World Winery "Powerhouse Vineyard," Potter Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Old World Winery "Windsor Gardens," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Paraiso Vineyards "Paraiso," Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $28.
2004 Point Concepcion Wines "Cargasacchi Vineyards," Santa Rita Hills. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Roessler Cellars "Red Label," Sonoma County. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Saintsbury, Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Siduri "Keefer Ranch Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Siduri Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Skewis Wines "Salzgeber Vineyard," Russian River Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $40.
2003 Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Central Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Talisman Cellars "Truchard Vineyard," Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Tandem Winery "Sangiacomo Vineyard," Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2002 Truchard Vineyards, Carneros. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Tudor Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2003 Tudor Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2002 Vision Cellars, Sonoma. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Whetstone Wine Cellars "Hirsch Vineyard," Sonoma Coast. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Tantara Winery "Rio Vista," Santa Rita Hills. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.

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