Friday, March 19, 2010

Tasting Notes: Pinot Noir

Brad Post:

The 2004 film “Sideways” brought a tremendous amount of attention to the varietal known as Pinot Noir. Famed in the Burgundy region of France, Pinot Noir is known for its particularities and temperamental nature frequently cited as being difficult to grow and fussy in the cellar. However, this thin-skinned wine grape has the potential to produce extraordinarily good wine when the stars align. And fortunately for us, during this tasting, a singular season in 2007 brought those stars together over California. For this tasting, we sampled three wines, one from Oregon and two from California. Just a reminder, each of the three wines were served “blind”.

1. Erath (2007) Pinot Noir (OR). (13% Alc., Source: HyVee, Cost: ~$15).
Of the three wines, side-by-side, this one possessed the least intense color and trended south of garnet. Moving toward brown. Light earthy notes reminiscent of forest floor followed quickly by wood smoke predominated the nose. A thin, almost watery, heavily oak-infused smoke-fest intercepted my taste buds and finished rather quickly. Simple. The rainy 2007 Oregon harvest season is evident in this thin wine and no amount of oak can hide the fact this Pinot is just “okay”.

2. Fetzer (2007) Valley Oaks Pinot Noir (CA). (12.5% alc., Source: HyVee, Cost: ~$7).
A gorgeously ruby hued, deeply intense, Pinot Noir quickly captured my attention at first sight. Syrupy long legs. Blackberry, cherry, fig, and black pepper unfolded as I took successive whiffs holding back the urge to taste. Amazing! On the palate this bottom shelf wine intrigued all of my senses first with a wonderfully complex array of blackberry, cherry, jam, black pepper, near perfect amount of smoke, and just enough tannin to bring it home! “Taste bud ADD”. There is a lot going on in this wine! Rich, full-bodied with a long lasting and very pleasurable finish. Great value!

3. Concannon (2007) Central Coast Pinot Noir (CA). (13.5% alc., Source: HyVee, Cost: ~$22).
Deep and intense ruby tinted Pinot with a satin-like viscosity suggested something delicious in my glass. Initially shy, giving a brief glimpse of the impending complexity, this 2007 Central Coast Pinot Noir first offered up a round of bell pepper and dark fruit. Captivating. Deliciously layered, first with bright black cherry and garden raspberry; followed momentarily later by rounds of campfire smoke, vanilla, tobacco and black pepper. Each sip elicited a more complex and fascinating olfactory sensation. Perfectly balanced tannins and an extraordinarily wonderful finish. Delish!

Post Tasting Notes: Prior to the tasting I had only cursory knowledge of the 2007 growing and harvest season, basically I understood 2007 to be a great year for Pinot Noir. I also was aware that Oregon was making some extraordinary wines. What I didn’t put together was how significantly different the growing/harvest season was between Oregon and California. In Oregon, the 2007 year was cloudy, wet and particularly rainy at harvest (and as you might suspect, rain at harvest time means sugar levels in the grapes tend to reduce and increase water – not a good thing for high quality wines); while in California, it was a near-perfect season. Same year vastly different outcomes! We enjoyed all three wines but the 2007 California Pinot Noirs were spectacular!


  1. Brad,

    Very interesting about the Fetzer. I see that as an economy brand and it is WONDERFUL when an inexpensive wine comes in tasty. Thanks for the heads-up.

  2. Post-Post Note: We retasted the wine again last night -- still very tasty and a great value, I noticed the wine was made and bottled in Burgundy (Vin de Pays, D'Oc). I'd previously, without delving in too far, had thought it was a California product -- wrong.