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Rosella's, Garys & Pisoni Comparative Tasting

Wineries which source fruit from these vineyards specify individual farming preferences and the timing of picking, so each winery’s fruit from the same vineyard is not identical. In addition, age of vines, clonal mix, soils and microclimate will vary. Throw in the wide range of winemaking practices, and there is a range of character and styles shown by the Pinot Noirs produced from any one of these vineyards. That said, our group found a clear difference in the wines from each vineyard in 2009 regardless of the producer, and valuable generalities can be made. I believe that the reader will gain enough knowledge to understand differences in bottles of Pinot Noir from each of these three Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards and thereby make appropriate buying decisions. The emphasis in this tasting was not on judging the wines as to comparative preferences and quality, but on finding differences in wine characteristics such as color, fruit type, aromas and flavors (other than oak), acidity, tannins, and finish. In other words, discovering terroir-based features.

The wines were all tasted single blind except a couple of wines I tasted at home after the event and these tasting notes are so designated. All wines were properly stored after winery or retail purchase and tasted in appropriate Burgundy stemware over the course of a few hours in the late morning, initially without, and later with, appropriate food. All wines were opened and poured about an hour before the tasting to permit the wines adequate exposure to air.

As a side note, it was impressive, but not unexpected, that both Jeffs were able identify their own Pinot Noirs at the conclusion of the blind tasting.



Rosella’s Vineyard


2009 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderately light in color. Demure red fruits and dried herbs on the nose. Lighter weight red and blue fruits on the palate with mild, fine tannins, good acidity, and a touch of heat on the finish.

2009 Miner Family Winery Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Lightest and reddest color in the lineup. Aromas of slightly confected cherries and oak spice. Delicate in weight, with discrete flavors of red cherries and berries, and oak-driven herbs and spice including cinnamon. Soft tannins, bright acidity.

2009 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderately light reddish-purple color. Shy aromas of purple fruits with a touch of oak and cut flowers. Medium weight flavors of dark red and purple fruits offering an appealing lusciousness on the palate augmented by soft, fine-grain tannins and good acidity.



2009 A.P. Vin Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderately light in color. More savory and woodsy on the nose with bright red cherry and red berry fruit aromas. The most extracted wine with substantial plush red fruits wrapped in soft tannins and accented by oak spice.



2009 Loring Wine Co. Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Darkest color in the lineup. Very ripe fruited, almost pruney on the nose. Dark, ripe stone fruits with a healthy tannic backbone. Difficult to discover terroir-based features in this wine.



2009 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Slightly confected dark red cherries and berries with a floral note. Moderately rich with layers of red fruits, picking up interest and intensity over time in the glass, offering a lengthy finish highlighted by oak spice.



Gary's Vineyard


2009 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate reddish-purple color. Aromatic with scents of fresh cherries and dried herbs. Middleweight flavors of juicy black cherries with a hint of savory herbs. Delicious and beautifully balanced with supple tannins and good acidity. Exceptional.





2009 Tantara Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate reddish-purple color. Aromas of black cherries, dried rose petals and crusty brioche. Delicious black raspberry and black cherry core wrapped in silky tannins, and displaying bright acidity on the long finish. Also exceptional.



2009 Testarossa Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate reddish-purple color. Very fragrant with aromas of dark red cherries and currants. Well-endowed with the essence of black cherries and good integration of oak. Nicely crafted, with mild tannins and lively acidity on the uplifting finish.

2009 Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Darkest in color of the lineup. Layers of darker red and purple fruits on the nose with a subtle note of oak. Delicious, slightly sweet, with a healthy tannic backbone. More extraction and structure than the other wines in the lineup, but not in a negative way. Exceptional.



2009 Capiaux Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate reddish-purple color. The nose offers black fruits with prominent oak and coffee notes. Luscious black plum core with balanced tannins, a velvety texture and long fruit-driven finish.

2009 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Medium reddish-purple color. Riper, deep red fruit profile with a savory herbal underpinning on the nose and palate. Pushes the ripeness envelope. Moderate tannins and soft in the mouth.

2009 Miner Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of strawberries, herb garden, sandalwood and baking spice. A lighter-styled wine with a core of red cherries and strawberries, accompanied by hints of red licorice and herbs. Very supple tannins, with appealing finesse and charm. Exceptional, and very distinct in style from other more fruit-driven wines in this flight. (Tasted separately)

2009 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose and palate is flush with very ripe plum and blackberry fruit. Moderately full-bodied with ripe, firm tannins and impressive length on the fruit-driven finish. The soft texture is appealing. Picks up interest over time in the glass. (Tasted separately)



Pisoni Vineyard

2009 Peter Michael Le Moulin Rouge Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Dark reddish-purple color. Huge nose with penetrating aromas of black berries with a hint of vanilla. Lip-smacking core of slightly sweet black and purple fruits. Almost syrupy with velvety tannins and impressive persistence on the finish which reveals a bit of heat. Very hedonistic and hard to ignore. The most approachable Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir in the lineup. Exceptional.

2009 Tantara Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Deep, dark reddish-purple color. Brooding initially, opening up nicely over time in the glass. Copious aromas of dark red and black stone fruits with a hint of green herbs. Relatively closed on the palate, but offering a glimpse of dense, perfectly ripe fruit wrapped in soft tannins and augmented by oak.

2009 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Dark reddish-purple color. The fruit takes a back seat to oak at this stage. Still earthy, raw and rugged, but showing enough gorgeous black fruit and lively acidity to indicate huge upside potential. Needs a few years in bottle to shed its tannins.

2009 Capiaux Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Deep, dark reddish-purple color. The nose is marked by strong reduction which never fully resolves during the tasting. Rugged and tannic with shy black fruit at this stage. Challenging to evaluate.

2009 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderately dark reddish-purple color. Very appealing aromas of black raspberry jam and Hoison sauce. Delicious core of well-ripened black fruits with nicely proportioned tannins and enough acidity to bring the fruit to life. Unbelievably long finish. Exceptional.



2009 Pisoni Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Very dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is wild and savory, with hi-tone dark red and black cherries and berries with notes of dried herbs and mushrooms. The massive fruit core is buried in tannins and oak at this stage. The fruit becomes more expressive very slowly over time in the glass. The wine is much more accommodating with food.



Terroir-Based Features of the Three Vineyards



Rosella’s Vineyard


Color: lighter, more red tones.
Structure: lighter weight, more elegant, more feminine.
Texture: silky to velvety.
Acidity: middle.
Tannins: mild to moderate.
Aromas: fruit, dried herbs, flowers, spice.
Flavors: redder fruits of relatively mild intensity, herbs, spice.
Comment: The wines showed more inconsistency and as a whole, were slightly less appealing and interesting than the wines from the other two vineyards. There were no exceptional Rosella's Vineyard wines in this vintage among the wines tasted.



Garys‘ Vineyard


Color: medium reddish-purple; intermediate between Rosella’s and Garys’ vineyards.
Structure: middleweight to full-bodied.
Texture: juicy, silky.
Acidity: plenty of acidity but doesn’t stand out.
Tannins: moderate but refined.
Aromas: dark red to black fruits, more fruity than floral, most expressive aromatics.
Flavors: dark red to black fruits, moderately intense and layered, complex.
Comment: The Garys‘ Vineyard wines were more interesting, and practically every wine, regardless of producer, was of high quality (consistency). The wines exhibit vibrancy and energy attributable to acidity. The challenge at this vineyard is that as sugars climb, acidity stalls, but this can usually be dealt with and probably is a “good thing.”



Pisoni Vineyard


Color: deeper, darker reddish-purple to almost black.
Structure: dense, thick, big, rugged.
Texture: dense, grainy.
Acidity: variable.
Tannins: most tannin.
Aromas: slowest to evolve aromatically; black stone fruits and berries, brambly.
Flavors: dark red and black fruit and plenty of it but not jammy; earthy, savory.
Comment: The Pisoni site is distinct from the two other vineyards which are at a lower elevation and relatively close to each other. The Pisoni Vineyard is more gravelly, with less wind exposure and therefore warmer. Tannin levels were very high in 2009. The taster must work harder to appreciate the wines. The wines are not especially expressive early and should be given time to age. Highly enjoyable with foods that mute the tannins (ie cheese or protein like steak).

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