Friday, June 5, 2015

California Pinot Noir Update: 2012s & 2013s

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Since my last look at California Pinot Noir, I’ve had the chance to taste through a wide range of interesting Pinots — and I found a few gems.

To generalize widely, the 2012s sport structured tannins and solid concentration, and while the ones I’ve tasted are full of very attractive fruits, they seem to need more time to come around. The 2013s seem a bit more approachable young, showing a slightly fresher approach but still plenty of concentration and body. 

For me, the Dierberg single-vineyard Pinots (made by Tyler Thomas) stood out from the pack for their elegance, beautiful fruit, and lip-smacking freshness. But I found quite a few other impressive Pinots in this crew, including some with a richer, chewier approach.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2012 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve - California
Medium ruby colored. Smells of sweet cherries, raspberries, hints of darker fruit, some root beer, cola and red floral tones as well. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, nice tart aspect. Juicy raspberries, strawberries and black cherries along with cola, caramel, light roast coffee and some rose petal notes. Not incredibly complex, but tasty, bright, attractive especially if you like sweet cola with your Pinot. From Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties. (86 points)

2013 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Grand Réserve - California, Central Coast, Monterey County
Medium ruby color. Nose: sour cherries, tart red currants, roses, some coffee, red licorice candy. Medium+ bodied, medium tannins, moderate acid, this Pinot shows a fruit-forward aesthetic with black cherries, plums, currant jam. Mix in some cola, anise, rhubarb pie and sweet coffee and mocha. Finishes with notes of baked fruit and sweet cola. (86 points)

2013 Carmel Road Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Monterey
Pale ruby colored. Bright wild strawberries and tangy red cherries on the nose, along with some rose hips and cherry cola. Juicy and fleshy on the palate with medium-low tannins and acid. Strawberries, sour cherries, sweet currants and some candied elements to the red fruit, but backed up by notes of rhubarb pie. Sweet cola and toffee linger onto the finish. Simple, pleasant, fun for the price but nothing serious. (85 points)

Spicy, fresh, delicious, worth ever dollar.
2012 Wrath Pinot Noir Ex Vite - California, Central Coast, Monterey
Medium ruby color. Lively, refreshing nose of tangy strawberries and red currants, notes of bay leaf, tobacco, rhubarb and roses. Very bright and fresh on the nose but lots of complex elements going on. Medium bodied, refreshing acid, fine but structured tannins, a bright and zippy approach but plenty of fruit and richness to keep it attractive. Tangy red cherries, strawberries, red currants, some richer dark berries mixed in. Complex, lots of really interesting non-fruit notes: I get sweet cola, incense sticks, tobacco, cedar and red sprinkle pepper as well. Pure Cali goodness but impressive in its tangy, spicy character. From the San Saba Vineyard, this 13.2% alcohol Pinot sees 25% new French oak. (91 points)

2012 Wente Vineyards Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Riva Ranch - California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
Light cherry colored. Tart cranberries and strawberries on the nose, some rose hips and rhubarb as well. Medium bodied, fresh acid, light tannic backbone. The strawberry and red currant fruit is fresh and tart, backed up by notes of damp soil and rose tea. Some toasted oak and mocha last onto the finish, moderate length. Fresh, easy-drinking, perhaps a bit too light for the oak, but a fun wine. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak. (85 points)

2013 Tolosa Winery Pinot Noir Estate - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
Dark ruby color. Tangy red and black plums on the nose, mixed in with rich currant fruit, a complex display of spice and earth elements that plays well together: black pepper, soy, pipe tobacco, paved roads, violets — all sorts of cool stuff going on here. Medium+ bodied, the tannins provide structure but are fine around the edges, moderate acid helps it stay balanced. A darker approach, with black plums and currants, some blackberry and black cherry pits. The fruit is rich and chewy, backed up with notes of violets, flower pots, charcoal, fresh cracked pepper and asphalt. Seems structured enough for four to five years of aging, which would help coax out all the nuances buried in here. Aged one year in 1/3 new French oak. (89 points)

For my palate, the 2013 Pinot Noirs from Dierberg are absolutely delicious.
2013 Dierberg Pinot Noir Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Bright ruby. Gorgeous aromatic display: freshest red currants, raspberries, juicy cherries, the fruit is complex and vibrant, backed up by a lovely blend of tobacco, chestnut, pickling spice and violets. Fine tannins, but plenty of structure, the acid isn’t too high but enough to balance the wine out. The fruit is pure and delicious (red cherries, currants, wild raspberries), toss in some bay leaf, spicy chewing tobacco, cigar box and chestnut. Some sweet cola and cedar, but maintains elegance throughout. A pretty and elegant Pinot now, but it could open up and evolve over the next three to four years. (93 points)

2012 Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
Vibrant ruby color. Lots of spice on the nose (clove, white pepper, cinnamon), while the red raspberries smells bright and crunchy (mix in some wild cherry candies, coffee grounds). Medium+bodied, the acid helps keep this clean and the tannins are quite accessible. Smooth, velvety but stays soft in its approach. Raspberries, red and black cherries, gliding, smooth fruit matched with notes of cola, sweet coffee, cinnamon and clove, dusty earth, hints of tobacco underneath. Quite delicious, lovely moufhteel, showing near-term accessibility but strength to stay and complexity to unpack. Very pretty, forward yet elegant, and I love the spice tones. (90 points)

2012 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $60
Deep, medium ruby color. Nose of cola, black cherries, raspberry jam, violets, black pepper, tilled soil, charcoal. Full-bodied, dusty tannins with plenty of structure, moderate acid. A plummy wine, also full of black currants and cherries, combined with notes of cracked pepper, bay leaf, charcoal and loam. Juicy and rich but so structured. Notes of soy, charcoal, pepper and root beer add complexity. Full but refined, this will be even more beautiful in two-to-four years. (90 points)

2013 Dierberg Pinot Noir Drum Canyon Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Medium ruby. A bit tight on the nose, takes time to open up the tart red and black currants, more loamy, potting soil notes, deep sense of roses and violets, a hint of pepper. Dusty tannins, balanced acid, the fruit is velvety and rich yet maintains a tart edge, darker currants, black cherries, raspberries. A loamy, earthy aspect with hints of rhubarb and pepper. Rich and chewy finish with notes of roasted chestnut and cedar shavings. Could use some time to calm down (the Sta. Rita Hills wine is a bit more concentrated than the Dierberg Vineyard) but this is a very well-made Pinot with serious deliciousness, really opens up after a few hours. (92 points)

2012 KITÁ Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills

Deep ruby colored. Nose of raspberries and blackberries, red and black cherries, along with loamy soil, sweet rose potpourri, pepper, vanilla, root beer. Very juicy, fresh and attractive nose. Medium-bodied, silky tannins provide a chewy feel, medium acid. The fruit is rich and chewy, black cherries, dark plums, blackberries, add in some vanilla cola, mocha, sweet chewing tobacco, black cherries in ice cream, but also some cracked pepper, loam and Portobello mushroom elements. Despite the forward approach, this shows a lot of subtlety and complexity. Could be popped now, but I would cellar this for three or four years. A lot in here to contemplate over time. I love high acid, and would like this even more if it had a tad more acid, but it’s still quite balanced. 13.1% alcohol, aged 18 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

2013 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Jackson Estate - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Deep ruby color. Rich nose of dark cherries and raspberries, mixed in with cola, sweet oak, violets, loamy soil and caramel. Juicy and chewy feel on the palate, full-bodied, moderate tannins, medium-low acid. The fruit tends toward the black cherries cola and raspberry jam, mixed in with flavors of sweet coffee, caramel, rhubarb pie and root beer. Finishes with cedar and mocha notes. A bit heavy-handed and candied, but fun stuff. Aged in 40% new French oak, includes about 30% American oak as well. (87 points)

2013 Amici Pinot Noir Olema - California, Sonoma County
Light ruby colored. Bright red cherries and cranberries on the nose, some sweet rhubarb pie. Juicy, ripe and forward on the palate, lots of cherry jam and rhubarb pie notes with light roast coffee, floral and sweet cocoa elements as well. Finishes with sweet cherry jam and caramel. Light and fine tannins, a bit of soft, moderate acid, this is an easy-drinking Pinot but a tasty one. Spends 11 months in 30% new French oak. (85 points)

2012 Frei Brothers Pinot Noir Reserve - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Vibrant clear cherry color. Bright red berry fruit jumps out on the nose, and I get cola, roses and notes of clove and cinnamon-spice. Juicy and bold fruit on the palate, black cherries and raspberry jam hits the right spot. Soft tannins, bright acid. I get notes of sweet cola, light roast coffee and a hint of red hot candies. Juicy, clean and pleasant, crowd-pleasing stuff. (87 points)

2013 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
A gorgeous bright ruby color. Very floral on the nose, lots of roses and with some clove and baking spice notes, all of this on top of some bright red cherries and strawberries. Bright and juicy on the palate with light/dusty tannins and tangy acid. Red apple and strawberry mix with sweeter raspberry jam elements, but an overall tangy red fruit approach. Notes of cola, sage and cranberry sauce add complexity. Open and accessible now but may develop in the near-term. (88 points)

2012 La Merika Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast
Light ruby colored. Smells like black cherries, some stemmy elements along with sweet cola and vanilla. Medium-bodied, medium acid, jammy black cherries and currants on the palate, the oak muddies up the wine and there’s some stemmy, sharp elements on the midpalate. Sweet cola and burned coffee overwhelm the back end to the finish. I can’t score this wine. It’s not chemically faulted, it’s just abysmal. (No score)

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