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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some New Pinot Noir - November 15, 2006

We tasted last week (11/15/06) Some New Pinot Noirs :

  1. DavidBruce SonomaCoast PinotNoir (14.8%; www.DavidBruceWinery.com) 2004: Med.color;
    attractive bit earthy some sour cherry/PN light Burg/toasty/oak some spicy nose; soft fairly lush sour cherry/PN/earthy/mushroomy light toasty/oak flavor; med.long earthy/mushroomy/ bit funky sour cherry/PN some taosty/oak bit spicy finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant rather blocky/chunky earthy kind of Pinot for drinking now; seems more inland than extreme SonomaCoast. $32.00
  2. Babcock PinotNoir Ocean'sGhost SantaRitaHills EstateVnyd (14%; OptimumQuodPossum) 2005: Med.color; deep ripe spicy/black cherry/PN some toasty/oak rather attractive nose; soft/
    lush/attractive black cherry/spicy/PN slight peppery some toasty/charred/oak flavor; med. short soft/ripe black cherry/PN/spicy finish w/ light tannins; a very attractive nose but lacks structure and palate impact. Rather pricey at $55.00
  3. eno the Gifted One PinotNoir FairviewRoadRanch/SantaLuciaHighlands (15.5%; www.EnoWines.com) 2004: Dark color; lovely bright/spicy/cherry/PN slight herbal attractive
    pencilly/oak perfumed/bright/vibrant nose; tart veryvibrant/bright/spicy strong cherry/ floral light herbal slight pencilly/cedary/oak flavor; very long tart bright/cherry/PN/ floral/violets light pencilly/ cedary/oak finish w/ some tannins; needs yr or two; a lovely bright/vibrant cherry/floral aromatic Pinot. Very fair price at $35.00
  4. Lioco Chalone PinotNoir MichaudVnyd/MontereyCnty (14.5%; ph Balance: 3.59, TA:6.2 g/l,
    RS: 0.35 g/l; Brix: 25.1; www.LiocoWine.com) 2005
    : Dark color; rather earthy/dusty/ mushroomy some stewed/plummy nose; soft plummy/earthy/PN rather dusty/mushroomy flavor;
    med.long bit tannic earthy/dusty stewed plums/PN finish w/ some tannins; needs some age but doubtful potential; another blocky/clunky Pinot that lacks fruit and brightness.Pretty overpriced at $45.00
  5. CarnerosCreekWnry PinotNoir CarnerosReserve (14.5%; www.CarnerosCreekWinery.com) 2003: Med. dark color; low key/subtle black cherry/plummy/PN some earthy rather Burgundian/ toasty/oak/smokey nose; soft light/low-key/subtle plummy/black cherry/PN some toasty/smokey/ Burg/oak finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant earthy/Burgundian Pinot. Fairly priced at $22.00
  6. BergstromWnry CumberlandReserve PinotNoir WillametteVlly (13.5%; www.BergstromWines.com; 2600 cs) 2005: Dark color; strong black cherry cola/PN bit appley/ green rather toasty/oak attractive nose; tart/lean/thin black cherry cola/Nehi/PN some
    toasty/charred/oak flavor; med.short thin/lean black cherry cola/PN rather toasty/charred/oak
    finish w/ some tannins; quite attractive cherry cola nose but doesn't deliver on the palate;
    rather thin & lean; way overpriced at $52.00
  7. Capiaux Pinot Noir FreestoneHillVnyd/RussianRvrVlly (14.3%; 153 cs)
    : Dark color; lovely black cherry/PN/ruhbarb very perfumed/fragrant/spicy lovely/complex nose; tart bit tannic/hard very floral/aromatic bright/black cherry/PN light toasty/oak spicy flavor; very
    long/lingering bright/spicy/black cherry/PN light toasty/oak finish w/ some tannins; needs several yrs; a fairly big Pinot w/ lovely aromatics $44.50
  8. Capiaux Pinot Noir PisoniVnyd/SantaLuciaHighlands (14.8%; 295 cs) 2004: Very dark/black color; deep bit closed some herbal/black cherry cola/PN some toasty/charred/oak nose; soft/lush/ ripe light herbal rather black cherry cola/DrPepper/PN some toasty/oak bit tannic flavor; long ripe black cherry cola light herbal soft some toasty/oak bit tannic finish; soft/ripe and a bit Siduri-like in profile. $52.50
  9. Melville SantaRitaHills PinotNoir Estate (15.4%) 2005: Med.dark color; some dusty/walnutty
    spicy some black cherry/PN bit green/appley rather toasty/oak nose; tart rather dusty/walnutty
    black cherry/PN almost OR-like slight alcoholic flavor; med.long bit alcoholic bit dusty/walnutty
    spicy/black cherry/PN finish w/ light tannins; very nice Pinot but almost OR in style. $32.00
  10. Melville SantaRitaHills PinotNoir Estate Jackson Clone 9 (15.3%) 2005: Med.color; slight
    walnutty rather dusty more bright cherry/PN/grapey some toasty/oak/smokey nose; softer/rounder/
    lusher rather grapey/black cherry/bright cherry/PN somewhat toasty/oak flavor w/ light tannins;
    med.long soft/round slight walnutty/dusty grapey/black cherry/PN toasty/oak finish w/ light
    tannins; slighty rounder/smoother on the palate compared to the Estate. $35.00
  11. Melville SantaRitaHills PinotNoir Estate Dijon Clone 777 (15.3%; www.MelvilleWinery.com)
    : Dark color; very strong black cherry/PN/floral/spicy/cola much more fruit some toasty/oak
    lovely perfumed very slight walnutty some complex nose; tart rich/mouthfilling black cherry/cola/
    perfumed/PN light toasty/oak structured floral/perfumed some tannic flavor; very long floral/black
    cherry/PN/very spicy slight dusty/walnutty some toasty/oak finish w/some tannins; needs several
    yrs of age; much more interesting & structured than the others; outstanding Pinot. $35.00
  12. Melville SantaRitaHills PinotNoir Estate Dijon Clone 828 (15.0%) 2005: Med.dark color; bit more dusty/walnutty/less fruit bright/black cherry/cherry/PN some toasty/oak less floral nose; softer
    rather strong black cherry/PN/cherry/slight cola bit walnutty/dusty some tannic toasty/oak flavor;
    long round/soft black cherry/spicy/cherry/slight cola toasty/oak finish w/ some tannins; not quite
    the perfume & aromatics & intensity of the 777, but much the same structure; needs several yrs
    of age yet. $35.00
  13. Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers Calif PinotNoir (AritaHillsVnyd; 14.9%) 2004: Very dark/black color;very intense toasty/oak/pungent/smokey intense black cherry/blackberry/boysenberry/cola/PN huge fruit complex/interesting nose; tart rich/intense/mouthfilling very spicy/black cherry/PN/very ripe/boysenberry/peppery very strong toasty/oak/smokey/charred pretty tannic flavor; very lon tannic/hard strong toasty/charred/oak intense spicy/black cherry/peppery/PN/boysenberry Syrah-like finish; needs much age and should be a great one eventually; maybe the best SQN Pinot I've yet had. $81.50.

And the usual but short BloodyPulpit:

1. SQN: This Pinot was a classic example of what many dismiss SantaRitaHills Pinots as being Syrah-like. I thought it was distinctly PinotNoir; but not the ethereal/elegant/delicate style of Pinot that I know&love from Calif. It's a huge wine that I liked a lot, even if it is Syrah in style. It has a lot of things going on in it. No reason to believe that it won't be a great wine down the road. However, if it said DogpatchWines PinotNoir, I suspect a lot of folks would vilify the wine for its lack of Pinot typicity. I'm not one to worship at the altar of varietal typicity.
2. JacksonClone: Back in the late 1800's, UC (Berkeley I presume) established an experimental vnyd up in the Foothills near Jackson. It only lasted about 10 yrs and then was abandoned. Some 15-20 yrs ago, this abandoned vnyd was rediscovered. Apparently, UC/Davis has resurected the vnyd and taken cuttings from it and propogated them for sale in Calif. This
Jackson Clone 9 was the first commercial wine I've yet seen from that old vnyd. It would make a good story methinks. From that era, you wonder where they got that Pinot. Jackson is not an obvious place to grow Pinot, but then the thinking towards Pinot may have been a bit different in that age.
3. MelvillePinots: I've always like the Melville Pinots; fairly big and robust but definitely SRH
Pinot. They're often above 15%, but usually carry the alcohol well and do not seem overripe.
All of these Pinots had that slight walnutty character I associate w/cold-climate Pinot and most often find in OR Pinots. Of these clones, I thought the Jackson to be the less interesting
and only a slight step above the regular Estate. My fave was the Clone 777 easily. It had more body & structure and much more interesting aromatics. The Clone 828 was in between.
4. Capaiux: A couple in our group are big fans of the Capiaux Pinots and shared these two with us. I was pretty impressed with both of them. I particularly liked the RRV version.


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