California Pinot Noir is a beautiful thing. As I was blind-tasting my way through a bunch of them recently, I was struck yet again by the range of styles, aromas and flavors. Yes, many California Pinots are expensive, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can find some really good wines at relatively affordable prices.
All bottles were received as trade samples and tasted blind.
2010 Pence Ranch Winery Pinot Noir Estate - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
The aromas are full and savory, with blackberry, rhubarb, roasted plum, some tobacco. Juicy and berry-driven on the palate, with velvety tannins and bright acid. The notes of earth and black pepper and bay leaf are delicious, adding a savory touch to all the bright strawberry fruit. Long finish. A bright and juicy pinot, but it pays homage to the Old World as well. (90 points)
2009 Storm Wines Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Love the bright cherry color, and how you can see your fingers through the wine. Intensely floral on the nose, equally matched with cherry and red plum aromas. There’s also this earthy, olive-like aroma that, tasting blind, makes me think of Burgundy, but the juicy and deep fruit screams California. The tannins are grippy, the acid rushes, the fruit explodes. The strawberry, wild cherry and red plum is both rich and tangy at the same time. The fruit mixes in with notes of dill and tobacco, along with a touch of toast. The finish is like some sort of beautiful fruit and herb cocktail. This is a really interesting and thought-provoking wine that deserves a good decant and a home-cooked meal. Only 13.5% alcohol. (92 points)
2010 Artesa Pinot Noir Carneros - California, Napa, Carneros
A mixture of sweet and sour cherries on the nose, along with some violets, vanilla and oak. On the palate, this is a medium-bodied wine with fine tannins and noticeable acid. The cherry and strawberry fruit tastes cool and juicy. I also enjoy the rose hip tea, coffee and cedar notes that last onto the finish. Overall, this is a lighter, fresher styled pinot that is easy to enjoy. (87 points)
2010 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir Estate - California, Napa, Carneros
The cherry and cranberry fruit on the nose is ripe but snappy, and the notes of rhubarb, white pepper and milk chocolate make this a pleasure to sniff. Bright raspberry and cherry fruit, backed up with a good dose of acid and some fine, easy-sipping tannins. The juicy fruit combines with subtle pickle and earth notes, and a solid finish. This wine seems destined for drinking over the near term, but that’s not to say it’s a simple wine. (88 points)
2011 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
The aromas of cranberry and wild raspberry have a cool and crisp aura, and the notes of cracked pepper and bay leaf blend together very nicely. The tannins are easy-going but provide enough structure, and the acid is fresh and consistent. The raspberry and sour cherry fruit is ripe but snappy, like berries fresh from the forest. There’s also a meaty-brothy aspect that is quite prominent, along with cracked pepper and herbs. Throughout, the wine maintains a light presence on the palate. An elegant pinot, very delicious, but it strikes me as best for drinking sooner rather than later. (89 points)
2008 Azari Winery Pinot Noir Corkscrew - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Juicy on the nose, with fresh blackberry and raspberries mixed with a bit of dust and pepper. Really tangy on the palate, with medium tannins. All kinds of juicy cherry flavors, rounded out with hints of leather and earth. Goes down easily. (87 points)
2009 Azari Winery Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Aromas of raspberry, black cherries, cola, hints of earth. Velvety tannins set the stage for gushing black cherry and plum fruit, backed up by notes of sweet roses, mocha, vanilla coke and toasty oak. Moderate acid helps keep the wine together. The finish is full of vanilla and toast. Overall, a solid, silky and fruit-forward wine. (87 points)
2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Cherry jam, mixed berries and rhubarb on the nose. The palate shows medium acid, light tannins and bright cherry and raspberry fruit. Notes of sweet basil and rosemary add some complexity. Hints of earth and olive came out with time. (87 points)
This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.