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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 Pinots - August 22, 2013

We tried last night (8/21/13) Some Pinots:

  1. WindGap PinotGris WindsorOakVnyd/ChalkHill (#1270 of 162 cs; 12.5%)2008: Med.gold some copper/brown murky color; strong grapey/flowery some cidery/phenolic/apple cider/aldehydic fairly complex nose; very tart rather phenolic/cidery slight grapey/flowery flavor w/ fair tannins; long very tart/lean earthy strongly phenolic/cidery/aldehydic bit grapey/flowery complex finish w/ fair tannins; a quite interesting skin contact white w/ ample phenolic character and some attractive underlying aromatics. $36.00
  2. WindGap PinotGris WindsorOaksVnyd/ChalkHill (12.8%; #272; 123 c2009: Darker, bright burnished bronze/gold/orange color w/ perfect clarity; much more fragrant/perfumed/floral strong cidery/phenolic/ appley/aldehydic slight earthy/dusty some orange/orange blossom/orange muscat bit smokey/tobaccoy rather complex nose; tart/lean/austere rather phenolic/cidery/aldehydic somewhat floral/orange blossom/ orangey bit richer/extracted complex flavor w/ fair tannins; longastringent/lean/tannic/ tart rather phenolic/cidery/aldehydic rather rich/structured some floral/grapey/orangey/orange blossom slight tobaccoy/smokey/forest fire/pungent complex finish w/ fair tannins; much more perfumed and phenolic than the '08. $32.00
  3. WindGap PinotGris WindsorOakVnyd/ChalkHill (6 brls/138 cs; 12.6%; #197) 2010: Med.dark orange/burnished bronze/gold rather cloudy color; some fragrant/grapey ratherphenolic/cidery/ aldehydic bit orange/orange blossom/ripe fruit light earthy/smokey complex nose; softer/lusher rather phenolic/ cidery/tannic bit fragrant/orangey fairly complex flavor with light tannins; long bit metallic tannic/ phenolic/ aldehydic/cider some earthy/dusty bit perfumed/orangey finish; my favorite of the WindGaps; seems a biit softer/ lushher/less austere thought still strongly phenolic. $32.00
  4. WindGap PinotGris WindsorOaksVnyd/ChalkHill (#913; 12.8%; 4 brls/107 cs) 2011: Dark burnished bronze/deep golden color w/ perfect clarity; much stronger floral/grapey/orangey/orange blossom quite fragrant some phenolic/aldehydic/cidery complex nose; very tart/lean/austere some grapey/orangey/floral rather phenolic/cidery w/ some astringent/bitey tannins; very long tart/lean/austere rather grapey/floral/
    orangey/very ripe somewhat phenolic/aldehydic/cidery finish w/ ample tannins; seems to have lots of
    ripe/overripe fruitbut pretty phenolic & tannic on the palate; a bit hurtey. $32.00
  5. Ken Zinns Pinot Gris Grace PatriotVnyd/El DoradoCnty (SaH: 24.4 Brix; 10 days of skin contact; 13.46%; pH: 3.6; TA: 0.59) Ken Zinns/Dave Teixeira/Eno Wines/Berkeley 2011: Rather orange/burnished bronze/golden color w/ perfect clarity; some earthy/chalky/dusty lightphenolic/ cider/ aldehydic quite perfumed/grapey/appley quite lovely nose; soft rather strawberry/grapey / floral/ perfumed/orangey light earthy/chalky/ ElDorado light phenolic/cidery/appley fairlly rich/lush flavor w/
    modest tannins; very long rather soft/ rich/lush grapey/appley/orangey/strawberry slight phenolic/cidery
    finish w/ light tannins; much more fruit (but not the complexity) and less of a phenolic load than the
    WindGaps; quite an attractive rendition of PG & my favorite if them all. $nc (KZ)
  6. Darting PinotMeunier Trocken Pfalz (Q; A.P.Nr. 5 160 346 015 11; 14.0%) 2009: Med.light color; rather earthy/mushroomy/dusty bit metallic somewhat plummy/pungent/burnt/toasty/oak very ripe nose; soft rather ripe/overripe plummy/strawberry some earthy/mushroomy bit charred/burnt/oak flavor w/ little tannins; long very ripe/plummy/strawberry some earthy/mushroomy some burnt/charred/oak finish w/ little tannins; seems on the overripe side and totally uninteresting. $19.50 (KK)
  7. Pravis Dolomites PinotNoir IGT: Vigneti delle Dolomiti (12.5%; www.Pravis.It) Lasino 2009: Med.color; some perfumed/cherry/black cherry/PN rather mineral/granatic/earthy/stony terroir-driven nose; tart/lean quite earthy/stony/granatic bit herbal/pepper some perfumed/black cherry/PN flavor w/ some hard/bitey tannins; long tart/tangy/grapefruity rather stony/mineral/granatic some black cherry floral PN peppery finish w/ somewhat hard/bitey tannins; a wine w/ some PN fruit but mostly dominated by the Dolomites terroir; rather interesting Pinot at a good price. $18.00 (DiVino)
  8. Donkey&Goat PinotNoir BrokenLegVnyd/AndersonVlly (U; 12.8%) 2011:Med.light color; rather pretty cherry/bright/PN/floral slight earthy/dusty some pencilly/oak attractivenose; rather tart/lean some earthy/dustybright/light/cherry/PN bit pencilly/oak flavor w/ light tannins;med.long rather earthy/dusty light cherry/PN/slight pencilly/oak finish w/ light tannins; a pretty enough AndersonVlly Pinot but just that; bit pricey at $45.00
  9. Harrington PinotNoir ThompsonVnyd/MendoCnty (40+ yr old/MartiniClone; 14.3%) 2010: Med.light color; some earthy/tomatoey/Mendo quite attractive cherry/strawberry/black cherry/PN/spicy light pencilly/oak nose; tart bit earthy/tomatoey/Mendo slight mushroom/truffle quite bright/cherry/ strawberry/PN light pencilly/oak flavor w/ light/delicate tannins; very long light/delicate/cherry/ strawberry/PN/black cherry/spicy light pencilly/oak slight Mendo/tomatoey finish w/ smooth/elegant tannins; speaks some of MendoCnty/tomatoey/ UkiahVlly red w/ a light/delicate/graceful PN fruit. $40.00
  10. Harrington PinotNoir RRV (14.3%) 2011: Med.light color; deeper lightearthy/dusty very strong black cherry/PN/spicy/Windex/perfumed light pencilly/oak classic RRV Pinot lovely nose; tart light herbal/ peppery/spicystrong black cherry/PN/cola/quite spicy light pencilly/oak rather delicate/elegant/ polished flavor w/soft/light tannins; long spicy/black cherry/PN/cola slight herbal/peppery/earthy light pencilly/oak finish w/ light/smooth tannins; a pretty classic RRV PN and emminently drinkable at a very good price. $30.00
  11. Harrington PinotNoir WileyVnyd/AndersonVlly (13.5%) 2011: Med.light color; fairly bright/cherry/ PN/zippy bit tight/closed quite pretty slight walnutty/earthy/funky light pencilly/oak attractive nose; fairly tart slight earthy/funky/,ushroomy some cherry/PN/bright/vibrant flavor w/ light tannins; med.long tart/tangy light cherry/PN/earthy slight pencilly/oak finish w/ light tannins; quite a pretty/lithe PN w/ classic
    AndersonVlly character but seems a bit tight & closed right now. $40.00
  12. Harrington PintNoir StoriVnyd/RRV (14.2%) 2011: Med.dark color; very strong black cherry/PN/ strawberry/spicy light toasty/oak slight pungent/licorice some complex quite fragrant/perfumed nose; fairly tart rather rich/lush very strong black cherry/PN/strawberry/cola very spicy/framboise light toasty/oak flavor w/ modest tannins; very long/lingering black cherry/PN/very spicy slight peppery/licorice light pencilly/ oak somewhat complex finish w/ modest tannins; on the big/muscular side for a Harrington PN but not over-the-top in any sense; a beautiful RRV Pinot in a classic Harrington style. $40.00
  13. Costigan mystery wine. Very dark color; strong blackberry/Syrah-like/black cherry/boysenberry bit alcoholic/fumey sone toasty/oak slight cracked black pepper; soft/ripe/lush black cherry/blackberry/Syrah-like sometoasty/charred/oak bit alcoholic/hot flavor w/ fair tannins; rather hard/tannic/extracted some black cherry/Syrah/blackberry slight cracked black pepper some alcoholic/fumey some toasty/charred/oak
    finish; this wine used to be intensely cracked black pepper/cold-climate Syrah in character but has lost most of that; I assumed it fit the PinotNoir theme and labeled it as a SantaRitaHills PinotNoir...since they all have some Syrah added to them. Wrongo/dongo. It was a Syrah.

And the same ole stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. SkinContactWhites/OrangeWines: All five of these PG's were made w/extended skin contact, but in a reductive manner (little/no air contact after completion of fermentation). I prefer to simply label these as skin-contact whites (regardless of their orange/copper color), rather than "orange" wines. I prefer to refer to "orange" wines as skin-contact whites, but made in an oxidative style; like the Gravner/Radikon/Georgian/qvervi paradigm. Since there is no real/precise definition of "orange" wines; this is the usage I prefer to adopt...and everybody else danged well better adopt that usage as well, I say!!

These 5 PinotGris were a very interesting bunch to taste. They all showed a similiar character that I can only call "phenolic" for want of a better/more precise word; but to varying degrees. But this phenolic character was the dominate character in the noses, with a bunch of underlying nuances from other things. Nothing that I would characterize as PinotGris varietal character...at least as I recognize it. They all showed a noticible tannic bite on the palate.

Of these 5 PG's, I liked KenZinns the best because it had a reduced level of phenolic character and more underlying fruit and a bit more lushness. Of the WindGaps, it was probably the '10 I liked the best because of less tannins and a bit more fruit/lushness on the palate.

These 5 PG's were a tough bunch to taste. Most of the people in the group did not care much for
them and were sorta left scratching their heads in puzzlement at what these wines meant. I think,
with food, they would be much more attractive wines to most of my tasters. I actually kinda liked the
wines and thought they were some of the better examples of skin-contact whites. "Interesting" was the term that kept running thru my mind as we tasted them. "Gobs of hedonistic fruit"??? Nope...not these wines. But definitely interesting. But, then, I'm a bit more opened minded when it comes to tasting eccentric wines like these. As we've been admonished to do by certain Monktown attourneys....you have "to think outside the box". I made a point to serve all of these PG's at a cool/room temperature/red wine temperature to minimize the tannic impact on the palate. When I put the leftover blend in the fridge overnight and tried it the next day, it was fiercely tannic and unpalatable. Room temperature also seems to enhance the phenolic/aldehydic character in the wines...for better or worse. Just don't serve these types of wines at too cold a temperature.

Whither skin-contact whites?? Got no idea. One of the benefits of making whites w/ skin contact is
that the higher tannin levels allow you to make wines w/ lower SO2 additions....the HolyGrail for
"natural" winemakers. The higher tannin levels, in theory, should allow them to age longer. Didn't
necessarily see that in this WindGap collection. Maybe, some 10 yrs down the road, the virtue of
these skin-contact whites will become more obvious. I'm clueless.

But, because these wines are rather on the eccentric side, I think they will appeal only to a pretty
small niche of wine drinkers who are more adventurous, not to your everyday white wine drinker. They won't sell at TraderJoe's I suspect. Or maybe only the the customers of very hip somms. But I
find these types of wines fascinating and am curious just how far these winemakers can push the boundaries until they make something w/absolutely no redeeming features. Thus far they're not there.
2. Ken Zinns: An old....errrr...long-time friend dating back to our early days at ZAP. Lives over in the
EastBay area. Like bad pennies, we kept running into each other at various wine events in Calif. We
share a lot of wasted band width on www.Grape-Nutz.com of Eric Anderson's Site. He makes a few of his own wines at both Eno w/ Sasha and Harrington w/ Bryan. A big help on the recent NEB4 event as well. This is the first KenZinns wine to receive a review by TomHill; a much more impressive imprimateur than's ever come out of Monktown. Fame & fortune is certain to follow....
3. Bryan Harrington: Gotta yield to Ken on this one as he's followed Bryan's work from the very start. But I was just right behind when I found out he was making Nebbiolo. Makes his wines in a rented space in a grungy/industrial part of SanFrancisco..one warehouse over from the GowanusCanal....or SanFrancisco's version of that putrid waterway. An iron fabrication shop occupies the front half. Alas, Katie the Riveter has long departed. But the wines coming out of this less-than chi/chi facility are pretty amazing.

Bryan's original passion was to make PinotNoir. And he makes some of the best around. But in a lighter/delicate/more balanced style than many in Calif. Not the kind to garner big scores from Monktown attourneys. But they're some of my favorites. Since then, Bryan's taken a few
detours from the Pinot rat-race and expanded (maybe gone off the deep end??) into other/lesser known varietials. Can we say Fiano/Teroldego/Nebbiolo? I think maybe Bryan is on the fast track to out-Rorick MattRorick in searching out varieties that are "forlorn hopes". The two of the must get together sometime to compare notes.



[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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