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Pinot Briefs —Newsletter 6.51

Pricey Wines Preferred Researchers led by Antonio Rangel and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) had 20 volunteers (inexperienced wine drinkers) rank their enjoyment of five Cabernet Sauvignon wines tasted while an MRI machine monitored their brain response. They were told they were tasting different wines sold at varying prices. In fact, two sets of wine samples were identical - the $5 and $45 wines (both the same $5 wine) and the $10 and $90 wines (both actually were the $90 wine). The brain scans showed that the greatest pleasure activity occurred when the volunteers drank the wine marked $90 and the least activity when they drank the wine priced at $5. The volunteers said they liked the $90 wine best and the $5 wine the least. Two weeks later, the volunteers rated the wines without price data and they liked the wines originally marked $5 and $45 best and the ones labeled $10 and $90 second best. Haven’t we all been influenced by price?

2005 Burgs are Lolitas Allen Meadows, aka Burghound, reiterated in the latest issue of his report on Burgundy (Issue 29), that the 2005 vintage is one for the ages. He said, “My in-bottle tastings of the 2005s have served to reinforce my original belief that the vintage is one of the greatest vintages in the history of modern Burgundy.” He goes on to explain that the wines are built for the long haul, many have now shut down in bottle, and tasters may be disappointed if they are not experienced in sampling young Burgundy. I have been stocking up on 2005 Burgundy as much as my pocketbook will allow, but have actually tasted few, relying on wines made by Burgundian vintners I respect and whose style I prefer, to direct my purchases. But sometimes you just can’t wait, and last week a few of us got together to sample 10 Premier Cru 2005 Burgs. Prices ranged from $38 (Domaine Pierre Gelin Clos Napoleon Monopole from Fixin) to $150 (Domaine Marquis D’Angerville Volnay Champans) with most in the $70 to $100 range. Every single wine was stellar, albeit foreboding and in some cases closed and tannic. Partly emptied bottles were corked and sampled two days later and were spectacular indicating that these wines are resistant to oxidation and will have a long life ahead of them. My favorites? 2005 Domaine d’Angerville Volnay Champans, 2005 Bouchard Pèrre et Fils Vigne De L’Infant Jesus, 2005 Domaine Michel Magnien Morey-Saint-Denis Millandes and the 2005 Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny Les Charmes (see p 23 for tasting notes).

Impromptu Wine Glass Testing Over lunch recently, one of my pinotphiles-in-training, Art Fries, brought a couple of Pinots and we sampled them in four different glasses: Riedel Vinum Burgundy Glass, Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir Glass, Riedel Vitis Pinot Noir Glass, and a standard restaurant service glass. The wines were a 2005 Wedell Cellars Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 14.5% alc., $60 (an excellent wine with earthy, dark fruits and superb intensity in the mouth; more body and backbone than the Oregon wine) and a 2005 et Fille Maresh Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.6% alc., $45 (fragrant and elegant with lovely spiced cherry flavors; more demure than the California wine). We tried to be very objective. With the California Pinot Noir, we felt the drinking experience (aromatics and flavors) were the same with all three Riedel glasses but clearly inferior with the restaurant glass. With the Oregon Pinot Noir, the Oregon Pinot Noir Glass and the Vitis Pinot Noir Glass clearly showed off the wine the best. The Vitus (the Latin word for ’vine’) glass is quite majestic, the tallest machine blown lead crystal Riedel glass to date. The glass was designed by Georg Riedel. The sides of the Vitus bowls flare outward before narrowing toward the rim, maximizing the surface to air space the wine experiences and allowing the wine to aerate within the glass. The glass retails for $45. Check it out at

Breathable Wine Glass A German company, Eisch Glaskultur is producing a “breathable” wine glass that is touted as “revolutionizing the industry.” The Eisch glasses are made from a special leadfree crystal that undergoes a proprietary oxygenization treatment. Oxygen can travel through the glass to aerate the wine quickly. The company claims the resulting aeration over four minutes is equivalent two hours of aeration in a decanter. The glasses are $49.95 for a set of two and are available at Weaver Wines in Ventura (805-653-9463).

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Held in Cloverdale in January, this event is the largest competition of American wines in the world. There were 4,235 wines entered into the 2008 competition, evaluated by a panel of more than 60 professional wine judges. The Best of Class winners in the Pinot Noir competition include the following: Pinot Noir up to $14.99 - 2005 Concannon Central Coast Limited Release ($13.99); Pinot Noir between $15 and $24.99 - 2006 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast ($24.99); Pinot Noir between $25 and $34.99 - 2005 Stephens Moore Vineyard Paso Robles ($28); Pinot Noir $35 and over - 2005 Savannah Chanelle Vineyards Armagh Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($40) and 2005 Rodney Strong Reserve Jane’s Vineyard Russian River Valley ($45). The Rodney Strong Pinot Noir was the Sweepstakes Winner among red wines. The public tasting of all of the class winners will take place on February 16, 2008 at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion in San Francisco from 2-5 PM. Cost is $50 (advance purchase). For tickets and a full list of the results of the competition go to or call 888-695- 0886. I must warn you that the pubic tasting is a rather raucous and crowded affair.

Cyrus Restaurant Wine Dinners The much heralded Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg (Michelin Two Stars, SF Chronicle Four Stars. Gourmet #15 of Top 50) has announced its Winter 2008 Winemaker Dinner Series. What an incredible lineup! Chef Douglas Keane crafts seven course tasting menus to complement the wines of the evening’s vintner. January 7th was Screaming Eagle and Jonata with winemakers Andy Erickson and Matt Dees, January 15 was Williams Selyem with Bob Cabral, February 5 will feature Littorai Wines with Ted Lemon, March 5th Margi “Brogan” Wierenga will pour her Brogan Cellars wines, and March 3rd will feature Peay Vineyards with owner Andy Peay and winemaker Vanessa Wong. For further information or to make a reservation, contact the restaurant at 707- 433-3311 or

Pinot Noir in the Presidio Foggy Bridge, a new winery backed by former Geyser Peak winemaker Daryl Groom and a Silicon Valley investment group plans to build a boutique winery in the San Francisco Presidio National Park, a former United States Army Post. This will be the first winery in a national park and only the second in San Francisco. The plans are for an 8,000 case, 18,000-squarefoot winery-restaurant building to be built within a previous airplane hangar on the former air base. The wines produced will include Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, Zinfandel from Dry Creek and Pinot Noir from Santa Maria. For the full scoop go to

Scott Paul Selections Burgundy Wine Club A wine club, named The Burgundy Express, will hand pick and ship regularly Scott Paul Selections Burgundies to those eager to explore the wines of Burgundy. Each shipment will consist of an educational and informative tasting flight with a specific topic covered in each shipment. Each twice yearly shipment will contain four to six bottles of Burgundy ranging from $175-$250 which will reflect a 20% discount on the wines. Members will also receive a 20% discount for ongoing purchases of Scott Paul Burgundies and a copy of Scott’s Insiders Guide to Burgundy. I believe this is the first such wine club in the United States and provides a terrific introduction to learning about this fascinating and complicated wine region. For information and to join The Burgundy Express Wine Club, contact Kelly Karr, or 503-852-7300.

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