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Three Amigos Matched Up

The other night I was at a meeting of my wine group, Le Grand Crew, which has been going strong since 1989. The dinner featured three courses accompanied by wines from the 2002 vintage. The second course featured a showdown between three very prominent Pinot Noirs which have much in common. The wines were: 2002 DuMol Finn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2002 Kistler Kistler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and 2002 J. Rochioli East Block Russian River Pinot Noir. These three producers are alike in that there is no public tasting offered for these wines, all are sold almost exclusively through a mailing list, and they rarely appear on restaurant wine lists. This was a unique opportunity to taste them side by side.

2002 DuMOL Finn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

326 cases, $75. Occidental Road Vineyard and Widdoes Vineyard. Pommard, Swan, Calera, and old Beringer selections. Aged 16 months in 75% new oak. The winemaker is Andy Smith. · A terrific wine and my favorite of the trio. Very attractive Bing cherry, spice box, and sandalwood aromas draw you in with similar flavors repeated on the palate. Exquisite balance. This wine will age well for several years.

2002 Kistler Kistler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

$75, 1790 cases. Aged 14 months in 100% new oak. Winemakers are Mark Bixler and Steve Kistler. · Beautiful aromatics featuring raspberries and floral notes. The flavors never deliver much punch and the finish is shallow and oaky. Among our group of 20, I could not find one person who really liked this wine. As much as I like Kistler Chardonnay, I have never been a fan of the Kistler style of Pinot Noir.

2002 J. Rochioli East Block Russian River Pinot Noir

$90, 150 cases. Joe Rochioli’s original East Block plantings of four acres date to 1968 and were propagated from a selection that Rochioli obtained from the old Karl Wente Vineyard in Livermore. The winemaker is Tom Rochioli. · Many tasters really fawned over this wine. The nose and flavors tend toward the earthy, mushroom, wet leaf profile with plenty of dark black cherries. A very concentrated and rich style. No website!

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