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Saturday, March 4, 2006. Report on the "Pinot by the Sea" tasting at the 2006 annual World of Pinot Noir, held at The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, CA. The event focused on North American Pinot Noir, although there were several other Pinots from Burgundy and New Zealand.

This event was held over a three-day weekend, encompassing seminars, dinners and comparative tastings, and finally finishing with a large outdoor tasting where wineries poured some of their currently available wines. I only attended the tasting portion of this event, which was very up-front and friendly, offering plenty of opportunity to talk with the proprietors and winemakers first hand. The crowds were moderate in size, and it was relatively easy to visit with winemakers, proprietors and reps - well, except for Kosta Browne, with was quite crowded most of the day.

The tasting notes below give a brief description of the wine's attributes and/or qualities. These wines were generally the current releases for each winery, although some wineries were offering samples from yet-to-be-released vintages.

Some Favorites


2004 Alma Rosa - Encantada
2003 Bonaccorsi - Fiddlestix
2003 Dehlinger - RRV
2004 Dierberg "Steven"
2004 Harrington - Brosseau
2004 Native 9 - Ontiveros
2004 Patz & Hall - Hyde
2004 Peay - Sonoma Coast
2000 Silver - Julia's

Overall impressions: The Cliffs Resort provided a beautiful venue, with a fabulous cheese spread located in the huge tent on a cliffside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Overall, there was an excellent lineup of Pinot producers, and the tasting was excellent. I do wish there had been a larger sampling of wines at each table, but on the other hand, that would also have significantly increased the traffic at each table.

I've tried Pinots from many of these producers in the past, and knew what to expect. However, I found some surprises from Dierberg, Native-9, Alma Rosa and Silver - which were all very good. Others - notably from Bonaccorsi, Peay, Dehlinger, Patz & Hall and a sleeper from Harrington were among the my favorites.

Disappointments? Well, maybe a few - probably more due to the 2004 vintage, than to erratic winemaking. Also, there seemed to be a dearth of wines at each table - at least by some organized event standards. However, I suspect the event coordinators purposely instructed the wineries to pour no more than three wines at the tastings. Sure, it might have been nice had wineries provided more depth by having a few of their additional bottlings. But, that would've caused greater traffic jams at each table, and made it difficult to visit more producers. Besides, there were plenty of wines available, and this may even have been an embarrassment of riches.

Selected Tasting Notes

2004 Pinot Noir - Estate. Deep, dark and perfumy noce. Very nice slightly bright mouthfeel, very good balance and finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix. Interesting smoky/spicy nsoe of dark cherry. Touches of earth and loam accent the nose and mouth, very nice balance and finish.

Comments: Peter & Rebecca Work's (formerly Wine @ Work) is now officially off the ground. One of the more recent Santa Rita Hills vineyards (further east than Melville) is producing some very nice fruit, some of which is going to other producers.


2004 Pinot Noir - Encantada. Richard and Thekla Sanford's new label, and the wine looks like a winner. Lovely red and black fruit, excellent body and balance, and long finish.

Comments: after Richard Sanford left his eponymous winery last year, many wondered how he'd fare. I'd say, just fine, thank you.


2004 Pinot Noir - Clark & Telephone. Smoky red fruit in the nose. Lightly sweet mouthfeel, plenty of fruit, nice balance and finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Taylor Lane. Nose of bing and dark cherry. Very good balance, lots of hi-toned cherry fruit throughout.

2004 Pinot Noir - Las Alturas. Spiced black cherry, with a touch of cola. Nice lightly sweet mouthfeel, plenty of fruit here, long finish.

Comments: this Wagner family operation (son of Chuck Wagner - Caymus) uses some nice vineyard locations, including some family property on Taylor Lane in Occidental.


2003 Pinot Noir - Belle Pente. NIce earthy scent to the abundant black and bing cherry fruit throughout.

2002 Pinot Noir - Estate Reserve. Lovely Kirsch-scented nose, elegant mouthfeel and finish.


2003 Pinot Noir - Fiddlestix. Lovely floral and perfume scents add to the loamy dark cherry nose. Hint of sweetness to the mouthfeel, very nice fruit and tasty long finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Melville. Seemingly deeper and darker than the Fiddlestix, with lots of black cherry and nice structure.

Comments: these were the last wines to be made by Michael Bonaccorsi, who tragically passed away in 2004. Finished by Greg Brewer, they represent an interesting transition for the Bonaccorsi label.


2002 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast. Nose of cherry and spice. Nice full mouthfeel, long balanced finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast. Tons of cherry in both nose and mouth. Very nice mouthfeel and finish.

Comments: new producer to me, with some very nice wines.


2004 Pinot Noir - Martinborough. Nose black cherry and vanilla, with hints of nice earthy and spicy notes in the background. Very nice balance, mouthfeel and finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Martinborough. Stinky and a bit stemmy in the nose, with good dark cherry fruit thoughout.

Comments: glad to see a Kiwi producer here. Interesting wines, with seemingly darker spicier fruit than the CA equivalent.


2004 Pinot Noir - Carneros "Estate Selection". Beautiful black cherry nose, with lots of perfume. Moderate mouthfeel, a bit flat on the finish.


2003 Pinot Noir - Lindleys' Knoll. Nose of very spicy black cherry; fairly gripping on the back end. A bit young and primary.

2000 Pinot Noir - Lindleys' Knoll. Much more floral in the nose than the '03. Smooth and spicy on the palate, still a bit of grip on the back end.

Comments: seemed like a narrow range of wines to have open for a major tasting. in any event, I was more impressed with their wines at the Pinot on The River festival in Oct '04.



2003 Pinot Noir - Sonoma County. Light stemmy quality to the cherry fruit, good balance and finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Deep prefumed nose; nice balance and black cheryr in mouthfeel.

Comments: starting to see some changes - for the better, with new winemaker Greg Lafollette aboard.


2003 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Terrific nose of light forest floor scents, lots of cherry fruit, and a pinch of spice. Moderately full on the palate, with plenty of fruit, excellent balance, and long juicy finish.

2000 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Similar to the '03, though less expansive on the palate, and the fruit seemed less forward. That said, there were more interesting notes in the nose and palate, with a finer degree of bark and sap in the nose, and a bit of leaf on th epalate.

Comments: although his wines spoke quite ably for themselves, it was fabulous to see Tom Dehlinger come to this event.


2004 Pinot Noir - Dierberg. Beautiful spiced red and black cherry nose, great balance, and tasty long finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - "Steven". Similar to the Estate, this barrel selection is more concentrated - though still beautifully balanced.

Comments: long a Santa Maria Valley grower, these new offering from Dierberg are excellent.


2004 Pinot Noir - "Migration". Slightly sweet, nice full mouthfeel, and nice finish. Whatever it may lack in complexity, it makes up for in lovely flavors.

2001 Pinot Noir - "Golden Eye". Lovely floral-scented dark cherry nose. Smooth, fine-grained texture, lots of black cherry fruit, excellent balance, and smooth long finish.

Comments: the Goldeneye bottling keeps getting better and better.


2003 Pinot Noir - Keefer. a bit shy on the nose, but has an underlying dark cherry and spice. Moderately full on the palate, with pleasant flavors, very nice balance and finish.


2001 Pinot Noir - Dierberg. Nose of sweet cherry and spice. Nice flavors, balance, and finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Dierberg. Somewhat riper than the '01 in both nose and mouthfeel, with a terrific balance, and juicy finish.

Comments: Norm Yost contines to make a name for himself with Santa Barbara County fruit.


2002 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Spicy cherry, with a touch of citrus and vanilla. Nice full mouthfeel, lots of cherry flavors, and very good balance.

2003 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Similar to the '02, but a bit sweeter/riper in nose and mouthfeel, which - while tasty, seems a bit cloying.


2003 Pinot Noir - Hirsch. Nice cherry fruit throughout, good balance, seemed a bit light on the palate.

2002 Pinot Noir - Hirsch. Very nice Bing cherry nose and flavors, excelllent acids and balance, with a nice citrusy hit on the finnish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Birkmyer. Nice fruit and balance, juicy mouthfeel and finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Birkmyer. Kind of funky in the nose, but lovely hi-toned mouthfeel, with acids galore - but matched by fruit.

2004 Pinot Noir - Brosseau. Lovely nose of dark cherry and spice. Rich mouthfeel, excellent balance, and impressive grip on the finish.

Comments: this small project is owned by Bryan Harrington, who is making his wine in Berkeley. Very nice Brosseau bottling.


2003 Pinot Noir - York Mtn. Nose of lightly burnished cherry and spice. Spicy full mouthfeel, very good balance and finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Reserve. This barrel selection interestingly seems to almost add an '"aged complexity" to the nose. Nice mouthfeel, balance and finish.

Comments: with fruit from the York Mountain AVA near Paso Robles, this producer bears watching.


2004 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Very rich in nose and mouth, with expansive flavors, very nice balance and long flavorful finish.

Comments: not much can be said of KB that hasn't been mentioned already. Arguably the hottest Pinot producer in CA at the moment, their table was jammed throughout the entire tasting. But, I managed to get my glass in just close enough to get a pour of the RRV.


2003 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Nice sappy spice to the dark cherry nose. Very good mouthfeel and balance, lots of spicy fruit, and long finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Similar to the '03, but not quite as rounded, and somewhat more ripe in profile.

Comments: the former Fred MacMurray Ranch is the namesake here. I hadn't expected much, but was plesantly surprised.


2004 Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Good cherry and dark cherry in the nose. Bit too sweet on the palate; good balance and finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Nice dark cherry nose, very good body and flavors, good balance and finish. Nicely made.


2004 Pinot Noir - Rosella's. Lots of light cherry fruit and spice. Surprisingly tame on the palate, and seemingly a bit underfilled. The flavors are there, but something's missing.

2004 Pinot Noir - Double L. Very nice deeply scented dark cherry nose. Gripping on the palate, with lots of fruit and flavors, and very long finish.


2004 Pinot Noir - Ontiveros. Lightly sweet and very juicy in nose and mouth. Fabulous fruit-filled mouthfeel, elegant long finish.

Comments: the first offering from James Ontiveros - and an excellent one it is! The name is a homage to the Ontiveros family, which has been in California for 9 generations.


2004 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast. Lightly sweet in nose and mouth. Nice flavors and initial mouthfeel; a bit flabby on the finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Hyde. Beautiful spiced nose of dark cherry. Delicious flavors, excellent balance and finish.


2004 Chardonnay - Estate. Lots of mineral-scented citrus in the nose. Lively balance, very tasty and long finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - Estate. Spicy bing cherry, with touches of dark berry. Beautiful balance - elegant, yet gripping mouthfeel, long finish.

Comments: Chardonnay? Yep, the Peays like to hide stuff under the table.


2003 Pinot Noir - Marin Co. Nose of red and black fruit, with light spice and citrus notes.

2004 Pinot Noir - Marin Co. Similar to the '03, but livelier balance and finish.


2004 Pinot Noir - "Southing". Dark cherry fruit, ripe flavors, lovely balance, and smooth long finish.

2004 Pinot Noir - "Ten". Larger framed than the Southing, this is absolutely packed with dark fruit. Very nicely balanced, and nearly chewy long finish.


2000 Pinot Noir - Lake Marie. Nice earthy, scent to the cherry fruit. Full mouthfeel, excellent balance and finish. Martinelli clone.

2001 Pinot Noir - Lake Marie. Similar to the '00, but bigger in mouthfeel, and even somewhat earthier.

2002 Pinot Noir - SBC. Lovely spiced-cherry nose and flavor. Excellent balance long smooth finish.

2000 Pinot Noir - Julia's. Big and juicy in both nose and mouth, perfect balance, and very long finish. Very nice!

2001 Pinot Noir - Julia's. Hi-toned cherry fruit, decidedly acid-balanced, very nice fruit, and long juicy finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Julia's. Juicy red fruit, very nice balance, and long fruity finish.

Comments: always on the edge with his acids and fruit, winemaker Benjamin Silver had several beauties he was pouring, and was the obvious exception to the "rule" of pouring less that three wines. Way to go Ben.

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