Wine Talk

Snooth User: edwilley3

Pinot Noir for Skeptics?

Posted by edwilley3, Apr 14, 2013.


Ok, ok...there's no crisis here in Dallas. However, I do have quandary. I just haven't developed an affinity for varietal New World pinot noir and I'm wondering what I'm missing. I'm looking for suggestions from you Snoothers.

Keep in mind that I live in the Great (or Not So Great) State of Texas, where it's considerably more difficult to acquire the smaller production wines than for all y'all California folks with your cement ponds and 40-lane Farm to Market roads and "grape farms" (why waste the land on grapes when you can raise cattle???) and fancy Beverlee Hillz.

I do enjoy Burgundies on the odd occasion when I get the chance, and not only the red variety. Yet I gravitate to more complex (not overly fruit forward) cabernet sauvignon with good barrel aging and French oak. I am currently drinking as much 1996 California cab as I can find. (Would you believe that my friends and I went through nearly a case of 1996 Altamura around the holidays? Next up: Cellar aged 1996 Stonestreet "Legacy" from a magnum!) I could have something like the 2009 Stag's Leap petite sirah just about any day. (In Texas some local folk pronounce it "Sarah".) Man, oh man, do I like me some syrah. (Jaboulet Aine 1994 La Chapelle Hermitage was my best wine of Q1.)

That said, I do like the relatively cheap and eminently cheerful Laetitia pinot noir. (I also like their bubbly, as some of you already know.) I've had some that I thought were ok, but not really anything exciting. For the same money, petite sirah seems like a better deal. For the price of a mid-range (up to $50???) PN, I might even prefer an excellent chardonnay. (The Ridge "Estate" is plenty fine for me! Actually, the 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains bottle was terrific!)

The last PN I had was 2008 Au Bon Climat "Talley-Rincon Vineyard" Arroyo Grande Valley. It left me very uninspired. I preserved half the bottle for the next day and was only a little more satisfied then (may 1 to 1.5 pts higher). So much for 91 pts from Wine Advocate! you have the problem. I'm obviously drinking some good - and even great - wine. Can y'all recommend a reasonably affordable ($20-50 ish) PN of a not too rare nature that I should try as a means to gain an appreciation of Left Coast pinot noir? It's not a crisis, as I said, but I do feel that I am missing something. A friend and I go back and forth on PN - he believes that California PN is awesome and I tease him with the cellar selections I drink. He replies with, "The French still make wine?"  And so it goes.

Ok, Snoothers...what do you think?


Reply by outthere, Apr 14, 2013.


Since you area. Syrah fan and like red Burgs I guess you enjoy earthy qualities in your wines. Good forest floor nose, spicy palate, some tannin on the finish...
In California look cool climate, Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Central Coast, even Oregon. Not  bottling designation but SVD's within the AVA's. 
Mid-range price point look at some Siduri which should be available in Tejas. Clos Pepe in Sta Rita Hills. Pisoni.
Mid to upper reaches Copain, Littorai, Ceritas, Hirsch, Flowers, Rivers-Marie, Sojourn are mainly mailing list wines but the lists are open short of RM.
It's a start
Reply by JonDerry, Apr 14, 2013.

Didn't know you dug Cos Pepe OT, that's a good suggestion. Look for some Clos Pepe and/or Sandhi Pinot Noir, especially 2011 which was a good cool year for Sta. Rita Hills.

Flowers in Sonoma has been talked about a lot lately, but the prices are higher for their recently released 2010's.

Mostly though, I'd say it's best to get your butt out to CA and see for yourself!

Reply by EMark, Apr 14, 2013.

Ed, I am not really a PN fan.  I lean more towards Cab, Zin and PS.  However, I am very impressed with Merry Edwards PN--much more full-bodied than the other California PNs I am used to.  I have seen Merry Edwards wine in retail stores here in Southern California, but I really don't know if it is distributed in Texas.  If it is, it will probably be priced around $40 for a Russian River Valley bottling and the mid-to-high $50s for the single vineyard designations.

With luck perhaps Snooth Mentor Julia Crowley will see this and give you some ideas from Oregon.

Here's another idea.  I have not checked out any PNs from New Zealand, but they have been getting attention, lately.

Reply by edwilley3, Apr 14, 2013.

My friend's store where I get all the good vintage bottles does carry some Merry Edwards. I can try that. 

I have tried Flowers a few times and wasn't overwhelmed either. I am wondering if the Yarden from Israel is worth a go. Anyone ever tried the Yarden?

Reply by jtryka, Apr 14, 2013.

Having lived in Portland for a few years, I've become familiar with the Willamette Valley Pinots, and for your tastes as decribed, I would recommend a nice Elk Cove Pinot Noir, as they tend to be a little more robust, and people like me who are more Cabernet fans tend to appreciate that.

Reply by GregT, Apr 14, 2013.

Ed - I haven't developed an affinity for it either and I'm quite happy with that situation. There is absolutely NO reason you MUST like Pinot Noir. Americans seem to think only in terms of Cab, Merlot, PN, Zin, Syrah, and maybe Nebbiolo and Sangiovese for reds. For whites it's only Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Riesling, and that's about it.

Why? Take a look at the link. There's much more.

I'm perfectly happy not being in love with PN. Last night friends came over so I opened a 99 CdP which is mostly Grenache, a 97 Cornas which is all Syrah, a 91 Dunn Cab, an 06 dry Tokaji Furmint, and a sweet Tokaji-aszu which was also Furmint. Didn't miss PN at all. Day before we had a Monastrell, day before that a series of Tempranillos, and tonight I'm having an Aglianico. You don't need to have PN in your life. it's not superior to any other grape and I'm pretty immune to whatever charms it has. But then, I'm immune to the "charms" of the Khardashians too and it seems like a lot of people find them interesting!


Reply by EMark, Apr 15, 2013.

Greg, speaking only for myself, I hear you, but I still can't control myself.  I keep asking myself, "What am I missing, here?"  So, I keep going back and trying different PNs--not very often, but just to monitor.  Usually, I get an insipid, uninspired wine.  The big exception was noted above.  Now, I know there are more out there, and, eventually I'll stumble onto another one.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

PN doesn't work for everyone.  Given Ed's tastes, I'd recommend Carneros rather than Sonoma coastal wines.  More earthy and funky and friendly to the cab lover, IMO, less ethereal and floral.  But I'm guessing.  Don't spend a ton of money--try some less expensive (although PN is rarely cheap) because if you don't like the basic character of the grape, you'll know from the mid-level before you invest a lot.  Gary Farrell Carneros Selection is available for about $25 if you wait for a good offer.  Very easily found, because GF sold to some big company a while ago. 

I just bought Hirsch San Andreas at K&L for $30, but it's probably sold out. 

Another reasonable way to taste the grape is the basic Amity bottling from the Willamette Valley--around $20. 

Again, PN isn't for everyone and heaven knows there are tons of varieties that might suit you.  It's definitely more hit and miss than many and really at the opposite end of the spectrum from Petite Sirah.  I happen to like both, but I like an awful lot of varieties.  You can name the grapes I haven't  liked on one hand.  But good pinot, for those with the proclivity, is an ethereal pleasure hard to find in any other grape. 

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

While I was searching for Andre Tschelistcheff quotes for another thread, I came across this one:

"God made cabernet, the devil created pinot noir."  Winemakers everywhere would agree.

Reply by outthere, Apr 16, 2013.

"Given Ed's tastes, I'd recommend Carneros rather than Sonoma coastal wines.  More earthy and funky and friendly to the cab lover, IMO, less ethereal and floral.  But I'm guessing.  Don't spend a ton of money--try some less expensive (although PN is rarely cheap) because if you don't like the basic character of the grape, you'll know from the mid-level before you invest a lot."

Here we have a difference in opinion but I tried to spell it out correctly. Sonoma Coast bottlings tend to be overripe conflagrations of excess fruit that wasn't farmed correctly and then blended for maximum consumer appeal. I stress specific SVD bottlings to get the good earthy tones that the Sonoma Coast "True Sonoma Coast" is known for.

Your Hirsch should be a good example. Those vineyards are on the extreme for Pinot up above Cazadero overlooking the Coast from high up on the mountain. 

Escarpa Vineyard from Ceritas is up on the ridge above Occidental down the road from the famed Summa Vineyard owned by TRB and vinified for Rivers-Marie. These sites are much more indicative of Sonoma Coast than low prioed Sonoma Coast blends.

These rugged sites help produce wines with more unique earthy qualities than your average SC Pinot.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

I don't really disagree with OT on this.  But those SVDs are pretty costly and it's not certain that Ed even likes the grape, so I was suggesting some Carneros AVA bottlings that might be a good place to start for a cab lover.  I like many styles of PN--I generally tend to like it to show lots of transparency and not a lot of winemaking, i.e., oak, but otherwise am pretty democratic. I would also say that Pisoni might be a cab-lovers pinot because it can be just huge--Pisoni might disagree with me, but of all the SLH bottles I drink, to me it's less of what I am looking for in PN, just not as silky, red-fruited leaning toward currant, less than a kiss of oak... to me, it kind of beats me over the head with extraction, winemaking and dark woody notes, which I guess could be funky and earthy in some people's view. 

I did buy that Hirsch because it was on the edge of viable growing--some of those bottles just astound me when the grapes actually manage to ripen.  I will give props to one vintner who occasionally gets it right with Sonoma Coast AVA bottlings and that's Fort Ross--they can be uneven but sometimes the QPR on those really works for me.

Reply by outthere, Apr 16, 2013.

Ed set the price range. I'm just applying it to some wines I think he would enjoy.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

And I should add for all concerned that OT has never steered me wrong on a wine. If I had to be trapped in one person's wine cellar for all eternity, I'm pretty sure I would pick his. (But I wouldn't open any Exhibit B for ten or more years.)

Reply by outthere, Apr 16, 2013.



Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

You sticking your tongue out at me or the Exhibit B?  ;-)

Reply by outthere, Apr 16, 2013.

​"You sticking your tongue out at me over the Exhibit B?"

FIFY!  ;)

Reply by duncan 906, Apr 16, 2013.

I have yet to try any US pinot noirs but I feel that the best pinot noir I have had are Burgundies

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 16, 2013.

Duncan, it's time for a blind tasting!  Just get yourself down to Oakland, CA, or maybe up OT's way and we'll do the rest!

BTW, OT, unless calamity strikes, there will be a Duck Taco Night this year. Mark your calendar for Nov. 27th.  (Always the night before Thanksgiving.)  We can have dueling Pinots.

Reply by penguinoid, Apr 17, 2013.

I love a good Pinot Noir, but broadly agree with GregT --- there's no reason why you should feel you *have* to like a particular wine style or variety. I can't see the link between Pinot and the Khardashians though ... I like Pinot, but not the Khardashians.

I'd also have to agree with foxall in that I can't think of many grape varieties which I don't like at all. As in, I've tried a couple of wines made with the variety, and disliked all of them. Madeliene Angevine is the only one that comes to mind so far ... and it wouldn't stop me trying others in the future. I might actually find one I like!

I've not tried many US Pinots but did try -- and enjoy -- Brick House Pinots from the Oregon. I'd happily recommend those. There are good Pinots being made in Australia and NZ, if you can find them in the US. Look for small producer wines.

Reply by Tom Wandeloski, Apr 19, 2013.

Ed, I do like a good Pinot Noir now and then.  With your price point in mind, I would suggest two PN's I have had recently from the Left Coast as you put it.   During my last trip in Dec 2012 to Santa Barbara, I got to hang out with my friend, Steve Fennell from the Sanford Winery and try their 2010 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir - price point $35-45.  Deep red fruits of raspberry and cherry with a hint of white pepper and vanilla.  Also, another PN would be the 2011 Charles Krug Carneros Pinot Noir - price point $25-30.  Ruby red packed with cherry and pomegranate with a hint of vanilla and brown sugar.  I can find both wines at my local Total Wine stores, which hopefully you have nearby you in TX.  Good luck with your search for a good PN in the Lone Star state, Cheers!  :-)

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