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08.09.2008

The Best Pinot Noir in California?: Tasting at Pinot Days 2008

pinot_days.jpgThe Pinot Days event, which took place on the last weekend in June this year, brings together one of the largest collections of Pinot Noir producers in North America for the tasting pleasure of the public.

It's taken me quite some time to get this report out. Such tasting reports are the most time intensive blogging that I do, especially when the organizers of events like Pinot Days don't have an electronic list of the wines that are being poured at the event. Which means I need to transcribe the hundreds of wines and scores that I record in my notebook at the event. And that is tough to do with a newborn in the house. But this weekend I finally got a block of time to spend with my scores and crank them out.

I use such events, comprehensive as they are, as a means of judging the overall quality of the vintage in California, if it is possible to generalize in such a way as this. At this most recent tasting, the 2006 Pinot Noirs were on display, and I found them generally good but not as consistent as those who made good wine in 2005 (a problematic vintage in certain places). 2006 seems to have been more consistent in quality across many regions, from Santa Barbara County all the way up to Mendocino than in 2005. However the character of the wines did not seem as strong as in recent past vintages. In particular I found myself encountering a moderate incidence of volatile acidity in the wines, which seemed more prevalent in Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley wines than in wines from the Central Coast areas.

The field of wine also evidences a continued dialing back of extraction and ripeness from levels that seemed to peak in the 2002 and 2003 vintages. This is especially true for the wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands which tend to be some of the most overripe Pinot Noirs made in Northern California. Wines from Garys' Vineyard, Pisoni Vineyard, and Rosella's Vineyard, continue to be moderated to saner levels of fruit and alcohol than in the past.

I'm especially excited about the 2006 wines from the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, which seem to be excellent and certainly worth pursuing in greater depth.

I know that some of you have been waiting for this report for some time (and probably given up on ever getting it), but better late than never. I've called out the few nice roses I found as well as a couple white wines of note. Also, given the increasingly steep price of most Pinot, I've called out those wines that I think represent the best values (under $35).

Enjoy.

Click on the wine names to find online retailers who sell that wine.

PINKS AND WHITES
2007 Patton Valley Vineyard Rose of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $14.
2007 Hartford Family Winery Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: between 9 and 9.5. $22.
2006 Fort Ross Vineyard Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Score: around 9. Cost: $16. Where to buy?
2007 Coterie Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $??
2007 Inman Family Wines Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $ 25
2007 Novy "Blanc de Noir" White Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??


BEST VALUES
2005 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30.
2004 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinotage, Sonoma Coast. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32.
2006 Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35.
2006 Joseph Swan "Saralees Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35.
2006 Mary Elke Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $26
2006 W.H. Smith Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Score: around 9. Cost: $28
2006 Joseph Swan "Cuvee de Trois" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $28
2006 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $30
2006 Fort Ross Vineyard "Symposium" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Score: around 9. Cost: $32
2006 Eno Wines "Never Say Never" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: around 9. Cost: $32
2006 Melville Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. Score: around 9. Cost: $32
2006 Eric Kent "Windsor Oaks" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $33
2006 Byron Kosuge "The Shop" Pinot Noir, Carneros. Score: around 9. Cost: $33
2006 Londer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. Score: around 9. Cost: $35


Complete List of Scores

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2006 Elke Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $38
2006 Derbes Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $45
2004 Derbes "Les Pinots" Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier, Russian River Valley. $44
2005 Calera "Ryan Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $40
2002 Calera "Mills Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $48
2006 Peay Vineyards "Pomarium" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $52


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2006 Freeman "Akiko's Cuvee" Pint Noir, Russian River Valley. $52
2006 Fort Ross Vineyard "Estate" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $39
2005 Fort Ross Vineyard "Reserve" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $49
2004 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinotage, Sonoma Coast. $32
2006 Eric Kent "Stiling Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $42
2001 Elke Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $55
2005 Elke Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $45
2006 Demetria Estate "Le Belier" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $45
1999 Clos Saron Pinot Noir, North Yuba. $N/A
2005 Calera "Mills Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $45
1997 Calera "Reed Vineyard" Pinot Noir (out of magnum), Mt. Harlan. $75
2007 Auteur "Ophelia" Pinot Noir (blend of Oregon and California fruit). $38
2006 Auteur "Shea Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $70
2006 Arista "Longbow" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $48
2006 Ancien "Mink Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Napa. $45
2006 Patton Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $35
2006 Peay Vineyards "Scallop Shelf" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $52
2005 Pelerin "Rosella's Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $48
2006 Saintsbury "Lee Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $45
2006 Hartford Family Winery "Fog Dance" Pinot Noir, Green Valley. $$45
1998 Domaine Naddef "Les Champeaux" Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Burgundy, Fance. $??
2006 W.H. Smith "Marimar" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $48
2006 W.H. Smith "Maritime" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $54
2006 Pappapietro Perry "Pommard Clone" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $49
2006 Pappapietro Perry "Peter's Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $49
2004 Michaud Pinot Noir, Chalone. $38
2002 Michaud Pinot Noir, Chalone. $N/A
2006 Melville "Terraces" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $52
2006 Melville "Carries" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $52
2006 Londer "Canby Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $50
2006 Londer "Paraboll" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $30
2005 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $30
2005 Ladd Cellars "Gaps Crown" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $35
2006 Kindred "Amber Ridge" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $$44
2006 Joseph Swan "Saralees Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $35
2006 J. Wilkes "Block Q" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. $55
2005 J. Wilkes "Block Q" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. $55


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2006 Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $55
2006 Freeman "Keefer Ranch" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $46
2006 Freeman Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $42
2006 Foursight "Charles Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $46
2006 Fort Ross Vineyard "Symposium" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $32
2006 Flying Goat Cellars "Rio Vista Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $40
2006 Eno Wines "Never Say Never" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $32
2006 Eric Kent "Windsor Oaks" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $33
2006 Mary Elke Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $26
2006 Demetria Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $40
2006 Demetria Estate "Cuvee Sandra" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $60
2006 Copain "Kaiser En Bas" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $50
2006 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $30
2006 Copain "Cerise" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $45
2006 Clos Saron "Home Vineyard" Pinot Noir, North Yuba. $45
1994 Clos Saron Pinot Noir, North Yuba. $N/A
2003 Hereszytn Clos Village Vielles Vignes, Gevrey Chambertin, Burgundy, France. $37
2006 Byron Kosuge "The Shop" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $33
2006 Byron Kosuge "Hirsch Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $50
2006 Byron Kosuge "Manchester Ridge" Pinot Noir, Mendocino. $40
2007 Auteur "Sonoma Stage" Pinot Noir, Sonoma. $60
2006 August West "Graham Family Vineyard" Russian River Valley. $48
2006 Arista Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $40
2006 Arista "Mononi Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $56
2006 Ancien "Toyon Farm Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Carneros . $45
2006 Pey-Lucia "Frisquet" Pinoe Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $39
2006 Saintsbury "Stanley Ranch" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $45
2006 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $65
2006 Siduri "Ewald Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2006 Hartford Family Winery "Lands Edge" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $45
2005 Skewis "Reserve" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $50
2006 W.H. Smith Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $28
2005 Huber "Baden" Pinot Noir, Malterdinger, Germany. $42
2006 Pappapietro Perry "Lera's Family Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $49
2006 Miner Family Vineyards "Garys' Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $55
2006 Miner Family Vineyards "Rosella's Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands . $55
2003 Michaud Pinot Noir, Chalone. $38
2001 Michaud Pinot Noir, Chalone. $N/A
2006 Melville Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $32
2006 Londer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $35
2006 Londer "Estate" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $50
2006 Joseph Swan "Cuvee de Trois" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $28
2005 Joseph Swan "Trenton Estate" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $52
2005 Joseph Swan "Great Oak" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $38
2006 Inman Family Wines "OGV" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $45


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2006 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Mendocino. $25
2005 Handley Cellars "RSM Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $52
2006 Goldeneye "Migration" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $32
2007 Gary Farrel "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $50
2008 Gary Farrel "Hallberg Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $50
2006 Freeman Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $42
2006 Flying Goat Cellars "Dierberg Vineyard" Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley. $42
2005 Eno Wines "Fairview Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $38
2006 Elke Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $18
1998 Elke Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $$60
NV Mary Elke "Booneville Bath" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $18
2007 Caloir "Romas Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $44
2007 Caloir "Monument Tree" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $44
2005 Tardy "Au Bas de Combe" Nuits St. George, Burgundy, France. $54
2006 Calera "Mt. Harlan Cuvee" Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $30
2006 Bouchaine "Estate" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $39
2006 August West "Rosella's Vineyard" Santa Lucia Highlands. $48
2006 Arista "Toboni Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $56
2006 Ancien Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2006 Pelerin "St. Vincent" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $38
2005 Philo Ridge Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $32
2005 Copeland Creek Pinot Noir, Sonoma. $25
2006 Roesseler Cellars "Dutton Ranch" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $38
2006 Roesseler Cellars "Sanford and Benedict" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara. $48
2006 Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Carneros. $35
2006 Saintsbury "Toyon Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Carneros. $45
2006 Saintsbury "Cerise Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $45
2006 Siduri "Muirfield" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. $??
2006 Siduri Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $??
2006 Siduri "Sonatera" Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $??
2005 Skewis "Legenfelder Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $44
2001 Skewis "Floodgate Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $N/A
2006 Suacci "Carcienne" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $48
2005 Tandem "Sangiacomo Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $48
2005 Tandem "Van Der Kamp Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain. $48
2006 Halleck "The Farm" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $50
2005 Huia Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand. $30
2006 Tantara "Bien Nacido - Old Vine" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. $48
2006 Tantara "Dierberg Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $52
2006 Tantara "Pisoni Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $60
2006 Ladd Cellars "Moore Ranch" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2006 Ladd Cellars "Swicegood" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2006 J. Wilkes "Hillside Bien Nacido Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. $42

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2006 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $30
2006 George "Vintage IV" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $50
2006 Gary Farrel Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $42
2006 Flying Goat Cellars "Rancho Santa Rosa" Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $44
2006 Enkidu "Tina Marie" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $42
2006 Enkidu Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $28
2006 Dovetail Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $39
2006 Dovetail "Indioli Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $52
2006 Clos Saron "Texas Hill" Pinot Noir, North Yuba. $40
2005 Domaine Prince de Menode "Ladoix" Burgundy, France. $31
2005 Serveau "Les Sorbets" Morey St. Denis 1er Cru, Burgundy, France. $73
2006 Bouchaine Pinot Noir, Carneros. $24
2006 Roesseler Cellars "Red Label" Pinot Noir, California. $28
2006 Roesseler Cellars "Griffin's" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $35
2006 Roesseler Cellars "La Encantada" Pinot Noir. $46
2006 Tandem "Auction Block" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain. $60
2006 Tandem "Silver Pines" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain. $60
2006 Tantara "Garys' Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $52
2006 Native 9 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. $55
2006 Inman Family Wines "Meredith" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $45
2005 Sonnet "Kruse Vineyard" Pinot Noir, York Mountain. $40

Comments (10)

Enobytes wrote:
08.10.08 at 7:19 PM

As always, great report out Alder. I know how exhausting these things can be, so kudos to a job well done. My homies weren't representin; why do Oregon winemakers feel that competing with France is worth a trip across the pond but they won't give their southern neighbors (CA) the same effort?

Alder wrote:
08.10.08 at 8:09 PM

Pamela,

There were a couple of oregon wineries there. And in the past (though not this year) the folks from NorthWest Wines have been pouring their portfolio.

It's easy to understand however, it's quite expensive for these wineries to participate in such events, even without the travel costs.

08.11.08 at 9:47 AM

Pamela,
You will note that Patton Valley Vineyard, from Oregon's Willamette Valley, did quite well ( disclaimer: I am the winemaker for Patton Valley ). You are also right, there were only a handful of Oregon wineries present.
I felt that the event was very California centric, initially Pinot Days wasn't even going to feature any sort of seminar or focus tasting for Oregon. It seems they were wanting some of Oregon's 'big names' to come. Just who those might be I will leave up to you.
That said, I looked foreword to pouring my wines shoulder to shoulder with some of California's best growers and producers. If Oregon is to stake a claim as the best Pinot Noir region in the New World we have to get into the ring and earn the title. Gladly, our efforts didn't go unnoticed. Thank You Alder for your kind reviews.

Pamela wrote:
08.11.08 at 7:57 PM

Jerry, I was happy to see Patton Valley representing Oregon (thank you for attending!). The point I was trying to make was that the ratio of CA versus other regions seemed to be quite skewed and I was disappointed to see that. I understand the cost issue that Alder points out, but sometimes it is necessary for a business to incur these costs to promote their brand, especially when it comes to promoting outside of their own state. Hopefully more Oregon producers will participate in the coming years. BTW, I love your wines and I am happy to see your efforts didn't go unnoticed.

08.18.08 at 7:02 AM

Steve is actively seeking involvement from the Polarfleece Mafia... in fact in the Chicago event he had Tom from Le Cadeau moderate a pretty cool panel on Oregon Pinots to a bunch of glassy-eyed Sonoma swillers. The word is spreading...

08.18.08 at 7:50 AM

Steve is actively seeking recruits from within the polarfleece mafia. In fact he had Tom Mortimer moderate a panel on Willamette Valley Pinot to a pack of Sonoma Swillers... The word is spreading.

10.23.08 at 9:15 AM

Great report. My knowledge of US Pinots is limited and these reports help a lot when deciding which wines to taste in the future. Thank you.

Nathan wrote:
09.03.09 at 9:01 AM

Great report on California Pinot Noir Red Wine. I like how you note that the 2005 vintages seem to have more character than 2006, I have found this true with other varietals as well.

H. C. Bo Boger wrote:
11.26.09 at 5:12 AM

My wife and I have four children, we can emphathize w/ your time restraints and the "antiqueness" of the data gathering. It is much appreciate, our best to you and yours. Thank You. Bo Boger, IL.

Robert wrote:
10.17.10 at 2:02 AM

Real quality information and research...I agree that California PN 2005 vintages do generally have more character than 2006

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