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04.26.2011

The Best Central Coast Pinot?: Tasting at the World of Pinot Noir

WOPN_grand_tasting.jpgI don't know about you, but spending a couple of days tasting Pinot Noir while strolling along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean is definitely my idea of a good time. Back at the beginning of March, I joined several hundred other wine enthusiasts for the World of Pinot Noir, a two day festival celebrating Pinot Noir set in the idyllic seaside tourist town of Shell Beach.

Well known for its festive atmosphere and an emphasis (though not an exclusive focus by any means) on showcasing the Pinot Noirs of the Central Coast, WOPN, as it is abbreviated, draws Pinot Noir lovers from across the country.

I've written already about a couple of the seminars I attended there (one about younger Burgundy producers, the other about the now infamous alcohol and balance seminar), and offered some tasting notes from some of the international Pinot Noirs I tasted, but it's taken me some time to write up my notes from the Grand Tasting event.

But I recently had the benefit of a long flight and a decent night's sleep that got me the few hours I needed to tabulate, organize, and publish my scores for more than 100 Pinot Noirs that I tasted over the course of a couple afternoons.

The highlight of the tasting was my personal discovery of the wines from the young winery Presqu'ile, whose second vintage of two extraordinary wines were a head-turning combination of elegance, brightness, and finesse. I will be bringing you the story of this winery in another post, but you shouldn't wait until then to go out and buy some, as there may be none left by then.

Of course, the highest rated wine from the tasting, was an older vintage of Au Bon Climat, which would have been hard for any current release to compete with in its aged hues and aromas. There's nothing like older Pinot Noir, especially when it's made with the deft hands of a zealot like Jim Clendenen.

So without further ado, here's what I liked.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

1998 Au Bon Climat "La Bauge a Dessus" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $n/a
A light ruby orange color in the glass with a faint haze to it, this wine smells beautifully of red apple skin, sweet cedar wood, and wonderfully warm red fruit. In the mouth the wine offers bright, juicy flavors of cedar and red apple skin stretched smooth and taut over a faintly dusty core. This faint dust though seems almost an illusion as it is quickly replaced by (transformed into?) a long lingering wet kiss of caramel on what I can only describe as my kind of finish. Outstanding.


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2007 Au Bon Climat La Bauge a Dessus Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $35
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright floral and cranberry aromas. In the mouth the wine has a fantastic aromatic sweetness that adds a neon quality to the cranberry and raspberry flavors. Excellent acidity gives the juice to the wines electric light and faint tannins keep it real. Long finish. Click to buy.

2008 Sanctuary Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley $36
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and raspberry aromas. In the mouth a wonderfully complex mixture of raspberry, cedar, and wet dirt flavors swirl on a supple soft-textured body. Flavors of green herbs emerge in the finish. Nice acidity, great length.

2009 Presqu'ile Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $42
A cloudy light garnet color in the glass, this wine has a remarkable nose of raspberry and exotic floral scents mixed with deeper notes of wood. In the mouth, the wine offers much the same - great raspberry fruit and that delicate floral perfume that wafted out of the glass. Filigreed flavors mix with the faintest of tannins amidst a perfectly balanced wine. Quite delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Click to buy.

2009 Presqu'ile Presqu'ile Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $55
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of raspberries and white flowers. In the mouth it is bright with juicy raspberry flavors and a hint of redcurrant. Faint tannins and perfect acidity hold the wine suspended in a taut levitation above the palate where it seems to linger for a very long finish. Delicate and poised. Fantastic.13.7% alcohol. Click to buy.

2009 Anne Amie Vineyard Annahala Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $45
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherries and raspberries. In the mouth cherry and raspberry fruit have an aromatic sweetness that is grounded by faint cedary tannins and hints of dirt. Great acidity. Juicy and delicious.

2008 Chasseur Blank Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2007 Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mount Harlan. $40
2008 Calera De Villiers Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mount Harlan. $35
2008 Hofstaetter Barthenau Pinot Noir, Alto Adige, Italy. $??
2009 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $40
2009 Peay Vineyards Pomarium Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $53
2009 Peay Vineyards Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. $??
2008 Peay Les Titans Syrah, Sonoma Coast. $??
2009 Pfendler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $45
2008 Big Basin Alfaro Family Vyds Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. $44
2009 Cartograph Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino. $38
2009 Freeman Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $41
2009 Freeman Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $46
2009 Freeman Akiko's Cuvee Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $52
2008 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Australia. $35
2009 Lynmar Quail Hill Vyd Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2008 Suacci Carciere Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $45


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2006 Gantenbein Pinot Noir, Switzerland. $??
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry fruit mixed with the aromas of sweet oak and white flowers. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of raspberry, cherry, and sweet oak, though the oak is well integrated into the bright, floral wine. Nice acidity and balance.

2008 Anne Amie Vineyard Prismé Pinot Noir Blanc, Willamette Valley. $45
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of apples, pears, and floral aromas. In the mouth it offers a creamy texture and flavors of apples, pears, cold cream and light floral notes. Juicy thanks to great acidity, the wine has a long finish. Very satisfying.

2009 Paul Lato Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills. $65
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries, flowers, and a hint of wet dirt. In the mouth that wet dirt flavor sings with ripe raspberry and cherry fruit, amidst bright acidity and faint tannins. 14.8% alcohol.

2007 Sanctuary Bien Nacido Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. $36
Med garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, raspberries, and green herbs. In the mouth the wine is juicy with flavors of raspberry, lavender and cherry. Wonderful acidity and a silky texture carry the wine through a long finish tinged with orange rind. Delicious.

2008 Pey Marin Pinot Noir, $39
2008 Chasseur Joyce Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $??
2008 Cold Heaven Make Peace Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $??
2007 Baxter Tolouse vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $45
2007 Baxter Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. $60
2007 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $30
2007 Ladd Cellars Moore Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $38
2005 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2008 Three Sticks Durrell Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $55
2008 Three Sticks The James Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $55
2007 Vergari Van Der Camp Vinyeard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain. $39
2008 Weingut Rudolph Fürst Franken Centgrafenberg Grosses Gewachs Spatburgunder, Germany. $70
2007 Weingut Dr. Heger Achkarrer Schlossberg Grosses Gewachs Spatburgunder, Germany. $60
2007 Gantenbein Pinot Noir, Switzerland. $??
2009 Kosuge Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma coast. $50
1992 Henri Gouges Les Pruliers Pinot Noir, Nuits St. George, Burgundy. $??
2008 Pfendler Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $45
2008 Big Basin Woodruff Family Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. $48
2007 Clouds Rest Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $100
2008 Clouds Rest Femme Fatale Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $50
2005 Clouds Rest Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $100
2009 Failla Perlescence Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $94
2008 Failla Occidental Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $130
2009 Freeman Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $41
2008 J Vineyards Nicole's Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $50
2007 Robert Sinskey Three Amigos Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. $56
2007 Robert Sinskey Vandal Vineyard Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. $56
2008 Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. $38
2008 Willakenzie Pierre Leon Pinot Noir, Wilammette Valley. $35
2008 Ancien Red Dog Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Mountain. $??


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2006 Stonier Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Australia. $20
2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley.
2009 Tyler La Encantada Bye, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills.
2008 Pey Lucia Frisquet Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $32
2009 Paul Lato Fiddlestix Vuneyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $70
2009 Cargasacchi "Jalama Vineyard" Pinot Noir, $20
2008 Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mount Harlan. $40
2007 Ladd Cellars Cuvee Abigail Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $38
2008 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $30
2009 Tyler Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. $36
2005 Weingut Rudolph Fürst Hunsruck Spatburgunder, Austria. $??
2007 Weingut Dr. Heger *** Spatburgunder, Austria. $60
2005 Weingut Manincor Pinot Noir, Alto Adige, Italy. $50
2008 Weingut Johanneshof Reiniscth Grillnhugel Pinot Noir, Austria. $35
2008 Tarras The Steppes Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand. $34
2008 Kingston Family Vineyards Alazan Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile. $30
2009 Cartograph Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $38
2004 Clouds Rest Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $100
2007 Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. $??
2009 Failla Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $100
2008 J Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $35
2009 Lynmar Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. $??
2008 Zotovich Cellars Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $38


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2008 Tyler Presidio vineyard, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara. $??
2007 Zotovich Cellars Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $38
2009 Masut Pinot Noir, Mendocino. $40
2009 Longoria Lovely Rita Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $32
2008 Center of Effort Pinot Noir, Edna Valley. $40
2009 Point Conception Jalama Vineyard - Salipuedes Pinot Noir, $20
2008 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $40
2010 Calera Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Pinot Noir, $16
2008 Anne Amie Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. $35
2008 Vergari Pinot Noir, Sonoma. $20
2008 Moehr-Niggli Barrique Pinot Noir, Switzerland. $??
2008 Weingut Manincor Pinot Noir, Alto Adige, Italy. $50
2009 Weingut Johanneshof Reiniscth Pinot Noir, Austria. $20
2008 Kingston Family Vineyards Tobiano Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile. $20
2008 Hanzell Sebella Pinot Noir, Sonoma Valley. $42
2008 Thomas Fogarty Rapley Trail Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. $??
2009 Roessler Gaps Crown Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $??


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2007 Longoria Fe Ciega Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. $54
2009 Moehr-Niggli Maeienfeld Pinot Noir, Switzerland. $??
2008 Hofstaetter Reserva Mazon Pinot Noir, Alto Adige, Italy. $??
2008 Villa Maria Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand. $34

Comments (7)

Roger Ivy wrote:
05.02.11 at 10:35 AM

Scoring 100 wines in an afternoon, what a monumental yawn and total BS. What an ego !

David Price wrote:
05.02.11 at 1:07 PM

Two afternoons, if I'm not mistaken. Yes, palette fatigue kicks in at some point (probably later for seasoned tasters) but I appreciate the effort to taste and make notes about all these wines - at the least it gives us some direction and at most it allows us to make some specific choices, especially about wines not generally known to many of us. Keep up the good work my man!

Laura wrote:
05.02.11 at 2:01 PM

I find the eloquence and precision of your tasting notes very helpful, Alder. Nicely done.

P. Ramos wrote:
05.02.11 at 6:05 PM

Was Melville, Brewer clifton, Sea Smoke not there? I think Greg Brewer( Brewer-Clifton, Melville) is one of the hottest wine makers in Central Coast... Looking forward to trying Presqu'ile though. Thanks for the heads up.......

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.02.11 at 9:11 PM

Actually TWO afternoons, and last I checked no one is forcing you to read this blog, Mr. Ivy. So go somewhere else less yawn-worthy.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.02.11 at 9:18 PM

Melville was there, as was SeaSmoke, but I know those wines well, and skipped them in favor of some others I hadn't tried.

Cecil Montana wrote:
05.03.11 at 12:11 PM

I've heard many good things about Presqu'ile recently. Excited to try some wine from a new and upcoming vineyard. Thanks for a good read!

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