Along the Pinot Trail in California
2009 Brogan Cellars Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $65. Sourced from Burt Williams’ vineyard.
purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of dark cherries and berries with
hints of herbs and brioche. A full mouthful of Pinot Noir, featuring flavors
of ollaliberry pie, blackberries and mocha. Very smooth and sexy with
perfectly balanced t n ‘a. Delicious the next day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle. A wowzer.
2009 Husch Nash Mill Vineyard Estate Bottled Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 18 cases, $40. This winery is celebrating 40 years. The
vineyard from which the grapes are sourced is located at the cool
northern end of the Anderson Valley. Planted in 2003, the vineyard
consists of four acres of Pinot Noir and includes clones Pommard 5 and
Dijon 667 and 777. Very low yields due to frost in this vintage.
Moderately light in color in the glass. Embracing aromas of black cherries, black
raspberries and woodshed picking up intensity over time in the glass. An hi-collared
wine with crisp and bright flavors of dark cherries, dark red berries, cola,
baking spice and Hoison sauce, wrapped in ripe, grainy tannins, finishing with an
amazing persistence rarely seen in California Pinot Noir. Beautiful interplay
between fruit and tannin. Class in the glass that will thoroughly please Pinot connoisseurs. Only available at
2009 Londer Vineyards Corby Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $28.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Vibrant aromas of strawberries, cherries with a confected note, fading over
time in the glass. Ripe strawberry and red cherry flavors in a lighter, silky styled wine with an earthy
underpinning. Nothing out of place but doesn’t excite. Decent.
2009 Mary Elke Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $18.
Moderately deep reddish-purple
color in the glass. Lovely mix of berry and candied black cherry aromas with added subtle notes of
dried rose petals and potpourri. Very tasty with an impressive mid palate attack of spicy black cherry
and Hoison sauce flavor, offering some persistence of cherry fruit on the dry finish. Medium-weighted,
sweet, ripe and forward, with supple tannins and supporting acidity. Impressive wine at this
price point. Very good.
2009 Saracina Klindt Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $30. A boutique winery founded by John Fetzer and
spouse Patty Rock in 2001.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue
in the glass. Shy and demure aromas of black raspberry jam
with an exotic tea note. A beautiful wine with plenty of earthy
dark fruit presence in the mouth. Notes of spice, brewed tea,
and plum sauce add interest. Crisp and clean with a minerality evident on the
long aristocratic finish. Impeccably crafted to last in the cellar. Still fine the next
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2009 On Point Christina’s Cuvèe North Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 306 cases, $34. Released June 16,
2011. Sourced from Londer, Gap’s Crown and Floodgate vineyards. Clones 115, 667, 777, 828 and Swan.
Aged 15 months in 27% new French oak barrels. Bottle aged 6 months.
Pleasant perfume of mixed dark
berries, plum and oak. Soft and smooth, but rather nondescript, with flavors of blackberries and dark plums
and some black cherry showing up on the finish. Gossamer tannins make for easy drinking but the wine lacks
focus. Decent (+).
2009 Pfendler Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 400 cases, $45. This wine incorporates
fruit from each one of Kimberly Pfendler’s four vineyards located in the Petaluma Gap (Penngrove, Pullis,
Helgren, and Pfendler). Clones are Swan, Calera, Pommard and Dijon 828.Crafted by noted winemaker Greg
Bjornstad. 100% de-stemmed, 7-day whole berry cold soak, 8 months sur lees aging and 11 months total aging
in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of darker fruits
with hints of pepper and oak vanillin. Moderately rich and intense blackberry, cassis and sweet black plum
flavors persisting through the lengthy, fruit-driven finish. A bit clunky and out of sorts now, needing another 6 to
12 months in bottle to fully come together. Good (+).
Russian River Valley
2009 Holdredge Old School Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $38.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. The aromas are promising, offering scents of black cherries, brewed tea, baking
spice and subtle oak char. On the palate the wine is oaky, with flavors of burnt wood, under ripe red fruits,
green notes and piercing acidity on the finish. A flawed wine. Unsatisfactory.
2008 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 198 cases, $60. Last vintage for this
vineyard designate as the vineyard is dying out due to phylloxera.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the
glass. Brooding aromas of cherries, spice, and oak vanillin. Delicious
fruit bombast featuring perfectly ripe flavors of black cherries and black raspberries, with notes of sassafras, cola
and exotic spices. Very broad in the mouth and distinctive, leaving a lovely
cherry kiss on the lingering finish. Harmonious in every way. I guarantee you will love this wine. An All-
American for sure.
Santa Cruz Mountains
2007 David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $27.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of black cherries, leaf and oak lead to flavors of strawberries, black raspberries and cherries.
Earthy with sweet tasting fruit that is veering toward an overripe profile. Well oaked with firm tannins and sharp
acidity on the finish. Decent. (This winery, which at one time produced stellar Pinot Noir under the hand of
David Bruce, is now a commercial high-output factory of mostly generic appellation-based Pinot Noir. Bruce’s
advancing age prevents him from being significantly involved in the winery)
2008 McHenry Estate Swan Clone Estate Bottled Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 74 cases,
$35. From a special block in a 2.3-acre vineyard at 1,800 foot elevation the top of Bonny Doon Road, five
miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. The vines derive from cuttings propagated from Joe Swan’s vineyard.
Aged 21 months in Francois Freres French oak barrels.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of
redder fruits, spice, green stem and geranium. Classically styled with elegant flavors of red cherries and
supportive notes of oak, sandalwood and green garden. Bright acidity with mild fine-grain tannins, finishing
with a dusty, spiced red fruit quality and a hint of grapefruit. A delicate wine that will not appeal to blockbuster
Pinot Noir lovers, but has its charm. Good.
2009 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 780 cases, $49. Grown and bottled at the estate 2,000 feet
above the floor of the Santa Clara Valley.
color in the glass. Muted but attractive nose offering aromas of berry
cobbler and pumpkin spice. Really wakes up the mouth with flavors of
dark red raspberries and strawberries, black cherries and plum sauce
with complimentary oak. Very classy juice with well-mannered tannins, and
bright acidity on the remarkably long, mineral-driven finish. A clear statement
of terroir. Very young, becoming more interesting and fruity over time in the
glass, and simply great two days later from a previously opened and re-corked
bottle. Best to decant if you must drink now.
2008 Neely Upper Picnic Block Spring Ridge Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $37. The Spring Ridge Vineyard,
located in Portola Valley, is owned and farmed by Varner and offers six
blocks: Hidden, Home, Amphitheater, Bee, Upper Picnic and Picnic.
Varner is known for Chardonnay but produces superb Pinot Noir under
its own label and Pinot Noir under the Neely label. Dr. Kirk Neely owns
the Spring Ridge Vineyard and the wines are crafted by Varner twins Jim and
Moderately light purple color. Fresh and clean aromas of mixed
berries, black cherries and spice box. Delicious on the attack with an emphasis
on nicely spiced black cherries. Vibrant and refreshing with mild tannins and
some persistence on the finish. The impeccable balance predicts age ability.
2008 Neely Hidden Block Spring Ridge Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $37.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Ripe and fruity nose with aromas of black cherries and
darker berries with a hint of oak. Earth-kissed black cherry and dark red berry flavors with an appealing
earthiness and supportive oak highlights. Medium-weighted, crisp and juicy, with silky tannins. A wine for
those who prefer the earthier, riper side of Pinot Noir. Very good.
2009 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.55, 1,286 cases, $24. 66% estate vineyard, 34%
four other Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards. 25-50% whole cluster,
indigenous yeast fermentations. Aged 10 months in 33% new 3-year
air-dried French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Modest fruity aromas of cherries, berries, red plums and yeasty
brioche, picking up intensity over time in the glass. Tasty core of red and black
berries and plum with a hint of leaf and herbs. Silky in the mouth with moderate
dry, dusty tannins. A well-structured offering that aims to please. Good (+).
2008 Varner Three Blocks Spring Ridge Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $37.
Moderately deep red color in the glass. Aromas of forest floor, berry jam, and oak vanillin. Darker fruits are
featured including blackberries and black currants. Earthy and brooding with fairly firm tannins and the slightest
oak in the background. Silky textured with a very respectable fruit presence on the finish that should benefit
from further bottle aging. Try not to pop the cork for a year or two. Very good.
Santa Barbara County
2009 Alta Maria Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $24. Sourced from Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills vineyards among others.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Alluring aromas of black cherries, berries, wood spice and toast. Flavorful red and
black cherries, raspberries, and red plum with supportive oak notes. Medium-weighted and crisp with
some length on the finish. Well-structured with fine-grain tannins and comes across refined and silky
on the palate. A terrific value. Very good.
2009 Pali Wine Co. Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 112 cases, $48, screw cap.
Clones 667, 777, 115 and Pommard 4 from this vineyard that was planted in 1998. Aged 15 months in 50%
new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromas of deep, dark fruits with hints of
oak, spice and vanillin, veering to roasted fruit aromas over time in the glass. Intense and attention-grabbing
flavors of blackberries, black raspberries, black currants and the faintest oak, persisting on the fruit-driven
finish. Very plush and soft in the mouth. Plenty to like in this wine, but the ripeness of the fruit distracts.
2009 Pali Wine Co. Cargassachi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 48 cases, $48, screw cap.
Clone 115. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of humus, underbrush, oak, and cut flowers with a hint of alcohol peaking out. Darker fruits are
featured with a rustic, earthy bent. Moderately aggressive tannins with some very pretty black raspberry and
black plum fruit. A savory wine that carries a floral note to the finish. Good (+).
2009 Queen of Hearts Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $12.29. Nice package.
color in the glass. Charming aromas of strawberries, cranberries, balsam, red hard candy and spice
fading some over time in the glass. Light, even dilute, with cherries featured. Hints of strawberries, vanillin
and sandalwood add interest. Alcohol peaks out on the finish. An easy drinker that has enough charm to hold
your attention. Decent (+).