Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tasting Report: California Pinot Noirs

Out of all my blind tastings, those feauturing California Pinot Noirs tend to be among my favorites. I love the diversity of styles and flavors and the challenge of trying to detect the vintage characteristics and the influence of California’s diverse terroirs. I’ve visited the San Francisco Bay Area twice since my last tasting report on California Pinot Noir, and nothing beats tasting these wines on their home field. Still, blind tasting this bunch was a blast.

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind as part of a report for the daily wine blog Terroirist.

SRP: $21
A darker purple color. Aromas of dark plums, black cherries, prunes and notes of cinnamon and clove. Velvety on the palate, with fine tannins and medium acid. Rich blackberry and black cherry fruit, along with notes of vanilla, roasted coffee and toffee. A richer style (did someone slip Cab in here?) with a warm, toasty finish. The fruit comes from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties. (85 points)

2012 Magnolia Court Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast
SRP: $15
Aromas of sweet red cherries, red licorice some herbal notes. A light and juicy approach, with soft tannins and tangy acid. The red cherry and cranberry fruit is sweet but snappy, rounded out with creamy oak and vanilla flavors. Soft finish with notes of clove. A crowd-pleaser to drink in the near term. (85 points)

2010 Alta Maria Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $24
Aromas of rich plum, black cherries, some pepper and cranberry sauce elements. Juicy and ripe on the palate, with black cherry and tangy plum fruit. Fine tannins and crisp acid make this so pleasant to sip. Some pepper and black olive, too, and the toast is well-integrated. I was surprised to see this was a generic appellation blend, because it drinks like a single-vineyard Pinot. Great QPR. (89 points)

2010 Dierberg Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $44
Bold aromas of black cherries and plums, along with a bunch of rose and violet aromas, a hint of loamy soil. On the palate, some fine tannins, medium acid and rich fruit (black cherries, currants and a bit of strawberry mixed in). Earthy, with tobacco and a good amount of cedar and mocha. Generous, but showing some restraint as well. Long finish with notes of vanilla and pepper. (90 points)

2012 Fess Parker Pinot Noir Parker Station - California, Central Coast
SRP: $13
A medium cherry color. Bright cherries and currants on the nose, along with some red flowers and cinnamon-spice. Tangy red berries and black cherries, moderate tannins, freshness from the acid. I like the mix of herbs and sweet red flowers, some slight notes of vanilla and mocha on the finish. Impressive stuff for the price, and a crowd-pleaser. (87 points)
2011 Fess Parker Pinot Noir Ashley’s Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $50
Juicy red cherries, black cherries, some chocolate and caramel. Fleshy plums and cherries on the palate, easy tannins, medium acid. Secondary flavors of smoke, caramel and sweet violets. Big and fruity, but enough balance to make this quite pretty. (88 points)

2011 Dierberg Pinot Noir Drum Canyon Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
SRP: $44
Aromas of fresh black cherries, wild strawberries, sweet vanilla, some spicy pepper. Medium tannins with rounded edges, the mouthfeel is creamy, and the acid that keeps it fresh. Cranberries and tart red cherries mix with notes of rhubarb, root beer and white pepper. Some notes of caramel, vanilla and mocha, but not too much, and the wine maintains some restraint and elegance. Easy to drink now, but it should get more expressive over the next year. Love the tart finish. (91 points)

2011 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $49
Bright ruby colored. Exotic nose of cherries, earth, smoke, rose petals. The aromas really gained complexity with some swirling and time in the glass. Medium-bodied, medium acid, the tannins have some solid grip. The cherry and raspberry fruit is snappy and pure, backed up by rose petals, white pepper, roasted chestnut and vanilla. Forward, but well-structured. Perhaps a bit tightly-wound, this will likely get better over the next year or two. (89 points)

2011 Gracianna Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $48
A clear, bright ruby color. Smells fresh, lots of strawberry, cherry and raspberry, underlined by flavors of pickling spices and rhubarb. On the palate I get crushed berries, bright strawberry and plums, supported by tangy acid and fine tannins. It’s got sweet notes of bubblegum and maraschino cherry, but also some nice pepper and tobacco as well. Despite the ripe fruit and 14.8% alcohol, this wine shows some restraint and elegance. (88 points)

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