BEST Summer Blind Tasting: Available Pinot Noirs (mostly)

wine eunuchs fore and aft

It was just so perfect. Everything aligned like things had been planned. Summer evening temps were in the low 80s. A tasting crew of 10 was ready to guzzle, I mean sip. The lineup included pre-tasting palate warmups with a Provencal Rosé, a California Pinot Grigio and two Gascogne white wines. The blind tasting of premium Pinot Noirs immediately preceded the meal. The wines were all outstanding sending the tasters back to the table buzzing. Summer dinners like this one make LA live-able. Here is the down low.

2010 Chateau Rouet Estérelle Cotes de Provence $22 (magnum): Refreshing, acidic, very light pink with woody spine. Served in magnum so it had time to open which it did. The entry wine from a producer whose pink wines we seem to quaff every summer. A perfect starter for a summer evening. 12.5%

2011 Main & Geary Pinot Grigio $13: The label says tastes like peaches and it does. Light to medium weight, almost clear color. Sonoma product. Get this U20 at Bev Mo! 13.5%

2010 Domaine de Ménard Cuvée Marine Cotes de Gascogne $9: A blend of 60% Colombard, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 20% Gros Manseng. Paul Young Imports. Yellow color. Lime and light acidic flavors with a light touch. Nice. Super U20 value. Bravo Paul! 11.5%

2010 Domaine des Cassagnoles Reserve Selection Cote de Gascogne $1: Two Gascony wines back to back. What excellent values. This showed much stronger flavors than above. More towards grapefruit, green and dry. Still another super U20 buy. 13%

Summing up the PRE-BLIND flight of odds ends white wines…good variety, very good value wines that brightened the palate in anticipation of the blind flight. Five wines were taped up in brown bags and numbered. Steps were taken to ensure no single taster had all the information on which wine was which. All the wines had been opened in advance and were served at the same temperature after light chilling. We tasted in the kitchen to avoid BBQ aromas. The wines were shown on equal footing. Masking the bag contents to the tasters was effectively accomplished. The wines are described by NUMBER with labels revealed at the end of this post.

#1 – Sweetness but acidicas well. Light color, dry, seems unbalanced. Definitely domestic.

#2 – A more appealing wine, stronger nose, good Pinot flavors in the cherry realm.

#3 – Muted nose, short finish, to some it seems more refined than first two, showing more structure, to others a bit thin in the weight department.

#4 – Raspberries! Light color, creamy “like a smoothie,” biggest wine of the first four and first to receive unanimous approval.

#5 – Stinky nose from the “forest Floor” and “barnyard.” Easily the most Burgundian in the lineup. color shows age. Nicely integrated wine. For Old World snobs Dotoré and tBoW.

#1 was the 2005 McKenzie Mueller Pinot Noir. Being first in a bagged lineup is a disadvantage. This wine was acidic and sharp on first pour. It was not well received. 45 minutes later when I tasted it again the fruit had emerged and the middle weight was more apparent. The wine was closer to Old World style without the barnyard aromas once it came out of its shell. Available at the winery or on the website at $65.

#2 was the 2004 Paul Lato Gold Coast Pinot Noir. At 14.5% this was the first wine where Paul broke from the lighter style of his first two vintages making a higher alcohol and fruit forward wine more typical of Santa Rita Hills. He probably made 75 cases. This wine will be impossible to find.

#3 was the 2009 Navarro Deep End Pinot Noir. Several tasters were immediately impressed and proclaimed it their favorite. Others were not as taken with the Anderson Valley premium wine from Navarro which makes very good value wines. Navarro is a throwback as a family owned and operated winery that makes 30,000 cases selling much of it through their website. Available for $49 thru the winery website.

#4 was the 2008 Malibu Sanity Schetter Vineyard Pinot Noir which is Malibu’s premium Pinot Noir producer. The raspberry fruit jumped out of the glass. This is not the first time we have put this wine in a blind lineup. It has scored well both times. One of the tasters who actually owns some of this very hard to find bottle had opened up a “bad” bottle only a few weeks ago. This time with the label covered he and his Mrs. flipped when the bag was removed. No longer available in this vintage. Recommend seeking out the 2009 and 2010. Also makes a very good Chardonnay. Congratulations to Sanity proprietor Charles Schetter.

#5 was the 2003 Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Santa Maria Pinot Noir. The nose on this wine was the only one to represent the poopy end of the spectrum in Pinot Noir aromas. This wine stunk…but it tasted wonderful. Probably the most balanced until the McKenzie Mueller opened up. Showing some age with a reddish-brown tinge on the rim. At 13.2% this is a throwback to when SRH vintners made Pinot Noir in a lighter more Burgundian style. Jim Clendenen is a Pinot Noir master. His wines can be found without too much trouble on the Internet. This bottle is ~$50. For the price they represent very good value given the quality and consistency.

1 Comment

  1. Just found something that might interest you at Hi-Time cellars — vino verde blush from Portugal… saving it for ya! — LeL

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