A couple weeks ago, I received an invitation that I simply couldn’t refuse from a good friend and seasoned beverage director. He held an unprecedented Pinot Noir tasting at his home. The array of wines offered an excursion through current vintages of Pinot Noir with a focus on California and Oregon producers with a sprinkle of Burgundy and New Zealand.
The findings, as expected, displayed the various styles available to consumers based on terroir and winemaking practices. The flight ranged an estimated $25 to $100 retail pricing, covering both established and iconic producers as well as newcomers in the field.
As the tasting progressed, drastic differences were palpable, from rich and bold examples like Duckhorn’s Golden Eye from Anderson Valley, all the way to structured and elegant wines like Nicolas Jay from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
There was an overall consensus that the lower-priced wines displayed lighter, simple and less nuanced examples but like in every tasting there were a few exceptions.
Let’s dive into some of the most memorable and worth finding wines. In no specific order of price or region, here my notes.
2016 Agnes Paquet, Burgundy ($25,) an ideal soft and feminine example coming from the birthplace of classic Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located just above Meursault in the Haut-Coté. This base level wine offers layers of blueberry pie with a floral violet bouquet and cleansing acidity. Agnes Paquet started making wine in 1999.
2017 Panther Creek ‘Winemaker’s Cuvee’ Willamette Valley ($26), bringing a dose of blackberry patch on the nose with a balanced and lively pomegranate note with plenty of tension and energy. A well-established producer since 1986.
2016 Melville Estate Sta. Rita Hills ($38) offers a unique expression with hints of smoked meat, a Beaujolais like granitic layer and a pleasantly bitter finish. Melville Estate was founded in 1989.
2017 Calera Central Coast ($25) powerful and seductive with elevated red cherry notes, a muscular and velvety texture and a long finish. This celebrated winery released its first wine in 1975.
2017 WALT Blue Jay Anderson Valley ($44) exotic and expressive with hints of spice, toast and hibiscus flower, a wine with character and a zesty personality. A project by Katherine Hall from Hall Wines.
2017 Patrice Rion Cóte de Nuits Village Burgundy ($44) a masterpiece! Gifted with elegance and finesse. Inviting notes driven by dried rose petals and a hint of grapefruit peel draw you in to showcase tension and stamina in every sip. Patrice Rion started producing wine in 1990.
2018 Failla Sonoma Coast ($38) a lively and youthful reminiscent of a summer wild strawberry patch with a gentle but seductive complexion. Founded in 1998 by talented winemaker Ehren Jordan.
2015 Joseph Swan ‘Saralee’s Vineyard’ Russian River Valley ($42) a beautifully mysterious character full of black tea, black cherry, and crushed violets, in a league of its own. Established in 1960 without a doubt a legend in the wine world.
2018 Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast ($39) a spice dominant wine overcome by clove and allspice with a subtle strawberry compote and a touch of sour cherry. A well known name is in the Pinot Noir world with its first commercial release in the early 80s.
2014 Hyde & Sons Carneros ($65) showered with layers of red fruit driven by cherry and raspberry wrapped around sun kissed roses, concentration and a juicy core. No doubt Hyde is a Carneros grower institution since the early 1970s.
2016 Deovlet Sanford & Benedict Sta. Rita Hills ($60) savory notes of dried fruit and shriveled potpourri are complemented by an earthy layer that gives this wine masculinity and consequence. A young star, Ryan Deovlet started his own brand in 2008.
2017 RAEN ‘Royal St Robert’ Cuvee Sonoma Coast ($65) Generous from the get-go with black fruit jumping out of the glass, an intellectual wine that captures the imagination with broad texture, red and black berries and a savory finish. Produced by Dante and Carlo Mondavi since 2013.
2015 Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley ($65) graceful and balanced like Beethoven’s Fifth. Showing a dark cherry core with a touch of cranberry compote, dried herbs and forest floor. This project created by Music producer Jay Boberg and Burgundy Star Jean-Nicolas Méo released its first vintage in 2014.
It is always a treat to taste several wines side by side, the lineup comprised by more than 100 wines made for an excellent comparison amongst great wines.
Eduardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.