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Wine Spectator Smackdown

The September 30, 2009, issue of the Wine Spectator had a lead article titled, “Best Ever California Pinot Noir.” I have often wondered when I read the reviews in these features, how my ratings would compare. I often feel that my numerical ratings would be lower for many of the wines. I decided to do a “smackdown” of several of the highly rated Pinot Noirs in this issue of the Wine Spectator. All the wines were tasted blind. I have included my usual worded review as well as the comparative scores.

2007 Papapietro Perry Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 935 cases, $44. · Subdued dark fruit, exotic spice, and marzipan on the pleasant nose. Soft and smooth in the mouth with black cherry pie, red currant, cola, and roasted nut flavors. Not quite the charm of a bottle I sampled in May, 2009. POP 89, WS 91.

2007 Foursight Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 406 cases, $46. · Slightly confected aromas of red cherries and raspberries with a lovely accent of baking spices. Tasty redder fruit core with oak and brown spice in the background. Medium-weighted with soft ripe tannins and a tangy finish. A solid wine. POP 90, WS 88.

2007 Roessler Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 273 cases, $46. Seven clones from different parts of the vineyard. · Penetrating scents of dark fruits with a hint of oak acquiring intensity over time in the glass. The plum and blackberry fruit flavors have a woodsy, mushroom bent. Still a bit tight with some tannins to shed, but the fruit from this vineyard really sparkles and saturates the palate. POP 91, WS 94

2007 Chasseur Rayhill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 100 cases, $50. Unfined, unfiltered. · Sticking your nose in this beauty reveals layers of constantly changing aromas including black fruits, spice box, forest floor, earth, oak char, and floral accents. Big-boned but smooth and velvety in the mouth featuring a mouth filling and lingering rush of dark stone fruits and blackberries complimented by an earthy undertone. The finish is long and lush. A hedonistic wine nicely composed and balanced that aims to please. POP 94, WS 96.

2007 Landmark Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., $50. · Cherries and strawberries are featured on the nose with an echo of oak and a nice hit of funkiness. The wine has pretty flavors of dark fruits with an appealing elegant presentation. The tannins are supple and the balance is spot on, resulting in a drinking experience that is easy going. POP 91, WS 94.

2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Bohéme Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $60. · On the nose there is initially plenty of earth and smoke with scents of ripe strawberries and cherries and a slight green note emerging over time in the glass. A seductive wine on the palate that doesn’t attack as much as it seduces with discreetly concentrated plum fruit. An accent of cola and tea adds interest. Nicely composed and balanced with a sensual satiny texture. Lacks the aromatic appeal for a higher score. POP 92, WS 97.

2007 Foxen Sea Smoke Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 475 cases, $63. · Unfined, unfiltered. Darkly colored. Enticing perfume of crushed sweet berries with an oak accent. A voluptuous wine of copious dark berry fruit framed by firm tannins that demands your attention. Veers toward Syrah and over time in the glass becomes jammy and bit tiring. This wine makes a statement and will have fans of its Parkeresque style but its over the top for me. POP 91, WS 94.

2007 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 753 cases, $72. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Penetrating and intoxicating aromas of dark stone fruits with a hint of strawberries and spice. The lush mouthful of black cherry and blackberry fruit is mouth coating but not jammy. Smoothly textured with fine-grain tannins and well-integrated alcohol. A fruitdriven wine from a special vineyard that is ready to drink now. POP 92, WS 95.

2007 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 867 cases, $72. · Evolves beautifully in the glass revealing a complex nose of dark berry jam, rose petal, mocha, earth and toasted oak. Fruit-powered with a hint of cola. Firm tannic backbone with a satiny texture. Improves in the glass over time. Drink now. POP 91, WS 96

2006 Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $65. · Deep perfume of cherries and berries with aggressive oak toast. Tasty cherry and raspberry flavors with a woody edge leading to an echo of grapefruit peel on the bright finish. Smoothly textured with mild dry tannins. A little more oak than I like keeping it from a higher score. The oak may integrate with further cellaring. POP 90, WS 95.

2006 Talley Vineyards Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 556 cases, $70. · Terrific aromatics picking up intensity in the glass and bursting with bright cherries and berries with a hint of oak toast. Darker stone fruits and currants on the palate veer but stop short of the ripe side. Polished and caressing in the mouth with pleasing mineral and oak notes in the background. A very stylish wine that will improve further with cellaring. POP 92, WS 94.

2006 Kistler Silver Bolt Vineyard Cuvée Natalie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 1,000 cases, $90. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Smoky, earthy and grassy on the nose. Discreetly rich dark berry fruits with a citric note on the finish. The most striking feature of this wine is the velvety mouth feel. The flavors trump the nose at this stage. POP 90, WS 88.

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