More Sips of California Pinot Noir
2008 Alta Maria Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $23.
Lovely scent of black cherries, baking and peppery spices, and
subtle oak toast. Light and easy in the mouth with tasty black cherry and darker
berry flavors caressed by dry fine grain tannins. Some persistence on the fruity
finish which displays a grassy, vegetal note. Good.
2009 Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., $25. A
popular wine with 12,835 cases of the 2008 vintage sold out. Aged 10
months in 25% new French oak barrels. Sourced from the estate
Nielson Vineyard planted in 1964.
Deeply colored. Nicely scented with
aromas of black raspberry tart, black cherries, smoky oak and rose
petals. Sweet and rich with a powerful core of dark red stone fruits
and berries and underpinnings of earth, anise and grilled meat. The tannins are
supple and the wine’s richness and velvety mouthfeel courtesy of the alcohol will
find fans. A grocery store staple that is in wide distribution. Good.
2008 Dehlinger Goldridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $45. Sourced from
sections of the estate vineyard where the vines are planted on deeper soils causing the vines to be
more vigorous. The resulting wines take on a red fruit character and an approachable structure. 100%
de-stemmed, punched down by hand, aged in the winery’s underground cellar.
Alluring scent of Bing
cherries and baking spices that holds up nicely over time in the glass. Discreetly concentrated array of
delicious red cherries, strawberries and red currants on the palate, fanning out in waves to reach a
pleasing finish that makes you want to take another sip. Beautifully composed and thoroughly harmonious, this
crowd pleaser is highly approachable now but will perform well for ten years. This is a wine to buy by the case,
but you must be on the mailing list. Eva Dehlinger, who has taken over the winemaking chores from Tom
Dehlinger since 2007, is continuing the excellence of this cherished and iconic producer.
1997 Dehlinger Goldridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $39. Note the wrinkles in the hand-applied label.
Reddish-brown in color. Old wine aromas of old book, roasted plum,
sawdust and worn leather. Impressive fruit concentration for a 13-year-old wine
and drinking beautifully. The tannins have completely faded away and the juicy
and silky dark fruits complimented by hints of citrus, spice and seasoned oak
make for a delicious treat. This wine will appeal to lovers of old Pinot Noir.
2008 Derby Wine Estates Derbyshire Vineyard San Simeon San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.50, 246 cases, $36.
The vineyard, planted in 1998, borders the Hearst Ranch and is located
one mile inland from the Pacific Ocean. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Aged
20 months in 44% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Powerful and
penetrating aromas of ripe, fresh black raspberries and black cherries.
Delicious essence of sweet Pinot fruits with the slightest hint of pepper and
citrus. Very silky and harmonious with bright acidity that will serve it well at the
dinner table. Still singing beautifully the next day from a previously opened and
re-corked bottle. Impressive effort from a unique coastal California site.
2007 Derby Wine Estates Derbyshire Vineyard San Simeon San Luis Obispo County Reserve Pinot Noir
15.3% alc., pH 3.65, 249 cases, $42. Clones 115, 667, 777. Aged 34 months in 80% new and 20% neutral
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Deeply colored. The fruit-filled nose offers aromas of plums, black
currants, and blackberry jam with toasty and smoky oak in the background. A blocky wine with plenty of sweet
dark fruit but too much oak-derived notes of mocha, brown sugar, and toasted brioche. As much as I liked the
2008 regular bottling from this producer, this full-throttle wine displays many traits that I disdain in Pinot Noir: over ripeness, high alcohol, generous extraction, and too much oak. Decent.
2008 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $40. Label art is by Kerry Mansfield, photographer.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely hi-tone Bing cherries spiced with
cardamom and clove are featured in this juicy and well-endowed wine. Hints of
oak toast, cherry cola and red hard candy add accents. Very typical Russian
River Valley Pinot Noir. Nicely proportioned tannins, but could use a touch more
acidity. Very good.
1997 Kalin Cellars Cuvee DD Sonoma County Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $35.
Amazing reddish-purple color with a hint of brickish change at the rim. Terrific
and impressively nuanced nose offering scents of black cherries, plums, leather,
old wood, old book, vitamins and sweet smoke. Rich and full-bodied flavors of
sweet black cherries and blackberries with hints of oak, bacon, cola and citrus.
Amazingly fresh and vibrant fruit set off by balancing tannins and acidity. The
fruit really grabs hold and lingers on the finish. Fades some over time in the
glass so drink up when you pop the cork. I have to take my cap off to this
incredible 13-year-old California Pinot Noir.
2008 Littorai Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $80.
Moderate reddish-purple colorin the glass. Aromas of ripe strawberries and
melons. Charming black raspberry and black cherry fruit with a silky smooth
mouth feel. Notes of cola, grilled fruit, hard red candy and tar in the background.
A lovely kiss of cherry on the finish. You have to love the soft texture, elegance
and balance of the wine and it has charm with a capital C, but from a flavor
perspective, it is not my favorite Littorai Summa bottling. Very good.
2007 Lula Cellars Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 315 cases, $39.
Lula is winemaker Jeff Hansen’s maternal grandmother’s name.
Hansen was previously the winemaker and owner of Amici Cellars in
Napa. The inaugural release from a 5-acre vineyard planted in 1998 in
the mountain town of Comptche, 10 miles east of village of Mendocino.
65% pommard, 30% Dijon 115 and 5% Dijon 777. 4-day cold soak.
Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. Great label.
purplish-red color in the glass. Brooding aromas of plum sauce, dark berry
melange, and leaf. Charming fruit core replete with vivid flavors of black plums,
black raspberries and blackberries persisting on the intensely aromatic finish.
Perfectly integrated oak and well proportioned ripe tannins. This wine has real mountain character, tasting like
other intriguing Pinots I have had from Comptche, a little-known, but superb growing area for Pinot Noir.
2008 MacMurray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $18.
Initially there are attractive scents of spiced
cherries and strawberries, but smoke emerges over time as the wine sits in the glass. Moderately rich core of
fruit heavily tainted by smoke and tar flavors. Typical of many 2008 smoke affected Pinot Noirs from the
Sonoma Coast. Unsatisfactory.
2008 Montage Vineyards Flocchini Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.82, <180 cases, $24.95. Pommard clone,
Swan selection, La Tache suitcase selection. Vineyard is located in the
Petaluma Gap area. 100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermentation,
hand punch downs, aged on the lees for 18 months in 30% new
French oak barrels.
Initially the aromas of intense strawberry, black
cherry and roasted plum are striking but fade some over time in the glass. Very
ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors that are fat and opulent with
underpinnings of wood spice, root beer and brown spice. Very plush and
velvety on the palate. Plenty of Pinot for the price. Good.
Note: Montage is a promising newer producer based in Oxnard, California and owned by John Gooden. Both
the Etzel Vineyard and Flocchini Vineyard bottlings are good values and sold through the winery’s on-line store
at www.montagevineyards.com and various retail locations. Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount.
Note: The following seven wines were taken from my cellar. I had not visited the wines in a few years.
Stylistically, the Radio-Coteau wines are deeply colored, rich, and fruit-driven with plenty of tannic backbone, in
some cases generous oak, and savory aromatics. The wines need hearty food. Although this producer has a
devoted following, the style is currently not my cup of tea.