Wine Talk

Snooth User: RachelNYC

Tasting Party: Pinot Noirs from around the World

Posted by RachelNYC, Aug 23, 2008.

Last night I hosted a tasting party at my tiny pad in Manhattan for Pinot Noirs from around the world. Doing the research I found that Pinot Noirs are grown in at least 17 different countries, from well known regions such as those found in France and the United States to lesser known like Macedonia and South Africa. For this tasting party I narrowed the focus a bit (and honestly I have no idea where to find a Macedonian Pinot Noir).

I decided to narrow it down to Argentina, Australia, France (Burgundy and Sancerre), New Zealand, Spain, and the United States (Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, and Texas Hill Country (Yes! Texas Pinot!)). To make the tasting a bit more fun I did it as a blind tasting. Everyone received the tasting notes of the wines with corresponding numbers and a series of National (and State) flag stickers. The point was to taste the unknown wine and guess where it was from. Out of 10 people that were playing, plenty got a perfect 0 right and the top score was 4. :) Hurray for terroir.

I started the party with a PowerPoint slide show (I sell software for a living, I couldn't resist) about the different Pinot Noir growing regions around the world. At this point we also started tasting the first wine. Since I was busy talking I didn’t have a chance to track my notes on the first one.

Segura Viudas Sparkling Pinot Noir - NV
Barcelona Spain

As I mentioned I didn't have a chance to make notes about this one because I was speaking. What I do remember is that it had a bit of raspberry on the nose and it didn't have the common over powering yeasty component that most sparkling wines have for me, and had a distinct watermelon flavor. It would be wonderfully refreshing on a hot afternoon.

Peregrine Hill Pinot Noir - 2006
Fort Stockton, Texas, USA

I must say that this was the absolute surprise of the night! I am originally from Texas and my Texan pride required there to be a wine from Texas present at the tasting. I really had little hope for Pinot Noir from Texas being good.

Peregrine Hill is the premium label for Ste. Genevieve Wines. Ste. Genevieve Wines partners with the University of Texas and does experimental plantings in the Texas Hill Country. That is how I am going to explain finding a Pinot Noir from Texas.

For those of you who are not from Texas... The Texas Hill country borders on the desert and has warm days and cold evenings just how the Pinot Noir grape likes it. They also tend to harvest grapes in Texas in early July which is just before the soul sucking heat of a Texan summer comes along.
It has a strong forest floor aroma and taste, which is surrounded by cherry and a bit of spice along with a hint of smoke on the finish.

It is definitely not as elegant as something you would find out of Burgundy but a very strong showing and a great price point. This is a wine that a more novice palate and an experienced one can enjoy together.

Argyle Pinot Noir Willamette Valley - 2006
Willamette Valley Oregon, USA

This wine gets my award for the most pretentious wine tasting notes ever!

It had a very high alcohol level; almost to the point of asphyxiating you if you inhaled a little too deep. It had a distinctive plum flavor, but then had a rather acrid aftertaste along with a strong alcohol burn. I was rather disappointed with this one.

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley - 2006
Russian River Valley, California, USA

This was one of my disappointments of the evening. I had very high hopes for this one.
It started off with a quintessential Zin like aroma. It tasted like one too. :( It was very heavy and jammy, with cherry, and a slight molasses flavor on the finish. This type of fruit bomb is not why I drink Pinot Noir, it is why I drink Zinfandels. It did have a wonderful mouthfeel and was rather supple.

Amisfield Pinot Noir - 2006
New Zealand - Central Otago

Coming off of the Paul Hobbs I was disappointed that this wine also exhibited a jammy smell. But it did not have the overwhelming fruit on the palate so I was happy again. There is a dark fruit component to the taste, but what really showed through was cedar and a pleasant finish that still showed some of the cedar. It really blossomed when paired with some of the cheeses, I can see this going very well with a variety of dishes. There will be a couple of bottles of this appearing in my cellar sometime soon.

Domaine du Comte Armand Volnay - 2005
Burgundy - Côte de Beaune, France

For me this was the stunner of the night! It got better and better with every taste and showed some new characteristic. Very layered and had an amazing earthy quality on first smell, which then leads to a more floral note. The first taste had the same earthy qualities, but then showed a bit of red fruit. The finish is what was spectacular; it was rather long but completely pleasant and started off floral then a bit of vanilla then back to floral.

Tamar Ridge “Devil’s Corner” Pinot Noir - 2005
Tasmania, Australia

I was not expecting something nice from such a warm climate. It began with a bit of a barnyard smell, not so much manure but more of wet hay that has been trampled by the horses a bit, plus a bit of a cherry smell towards the end. Very complex smell, too bad it didn’t follow through with the taste. It was very flat and had just the cherry flavor and a bit of over powered by the alcohol.

Sancerre Rouge Croix du Roy Crochet - 2005
Loire - Sancerre , France

By this point my notes get a little less legible and a lot less thorough. The seven previous tastings and nights of not sleeping to get ready for this party are catching up at this point.

This wine had a superb smell of smoke and olive oil. A bit of fruit on first taste, but not overly sweet. It had a bit of an astringent finish that was quite mouth drying. All around very smooth and enjoyable, it is not as elegant as those from Burgundy but a very enjoyable performance.

Jelu Pinot Noir - 2006
Patagonia Argentina

Once more I wasn’t sure what a climate like Argentina was going to produce for Pinot Noir. I found it sweet but still entirely drinkable. It really had no distinctive flavors or tastes, it was comparable to the random red blends that you can find across the globe.

To go with this plethora of Pinots I served the following:

Cave Aged Gruyère
Simply the best Swiss Gruyère on the market. Made of the raw milk of the Swiss brown cow, a breed
prized for its butterfat-rich milk. Aged 14 months in natural caves in the Alps above Lucerne. Cave-aged
Gruyère has a deep and lingering nutty flavor and firm yet creamy texture.

Monte Enebro
This soft-ripening Spanish goat's milk cheese develops a ring of runny, liquid goodness by the ashcovered
rind, while the interior stays a little firmer. The flavor is big, piquant and almost like a blue.

A soft, milky slab of Italian cow's-milk cheese from the Valsassina Alps, in the far north of Lombardy.
Gently pungent.

Baked Brie with Truffled Crabmeat Filling
Double-cream Brie, sweet and ripe. Mild, sweet, and perfectly ripe. Baked with lump crabmeat, goat
cheese, and truffle oil.

Fresh Figs

Dried Apricots

Green Seedless Grapes

Over all it was quite a wonderful experience, and I hope that this inspires more people to have wine tasting parties in their homes. Now I have to stop procrastinating and get to those wine glasses lined up for washing.

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Reply by John Andrews, Aug 24, 2008.

Hey Rachel, I don't see your snooth rankings for these wines yet!

Sounds like a great get together and you were tasting my favourite red ... wish I could have been there.

Reply by RachelNYC, Aug 24, 2008.

I procrastinated too much just writing this up. I thought I would come back and do the ratings today or tomorrow. I still have more stemware that needs to be washed!

I will have to arrange one for the next time (not this coming one) you are in NYC.

Reply by RachelNYC, Aug 24, 2008.

Which is one of your favorites? (PS You are almost an American now drop that U)

Reply by John Andrews, Aug 24, 2008.

Well ... Amisfiled would be a favoUrite but the rest I have not tried. I do like my Burgundies but don't have them enough to have a favourite. And of course, I like my Paul Hobbs but ... find it strange for it to have a Zin quality. Bad bottle perhaps or they trying to copy the Kosta Browne formula.

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Aug 25, 2008.

@Rachel -- Very nice writeup and list. Sounds like a resounding success!

@Honda -- That's not how you drop a u.

Reply by Philip James, Aug 25, 2008.

Rachel - great report. You should copy the notes into your reviews for each wine - then people can refer to them when they stumble across them at a later date...


Reply by neubs, Dec 20, 2008.

Sounds like a great party. Love blind taste tests! Wish you had a better Oregon Pinot, but I'm glad you had a nice party.

Reply by Eric Guido, Dec 21, 2008.

Very nice, really like how you got everyone involved with guessing the origins or at least trying. Sounds like a wonderful evening and a great learning experience. Nice selection of cheeses too.

Reply by RachelNYC, Dec 22, 2008.

Thank you everyone. Look what restructuring the forums does. :)

I must say this is the tasting party that I have hosted that I am most proud of to date. I have to admit that the flag stickers may not have been my best idea. People got a bit mischievous with them after the tasting stopped and the drinking began. I was cleaning them up for weeks.

Reply by RachelNYC, Dec 22, 2008.

@neubs I have tried many Oregon Pinots since then and have them in a firm second after Bourgogne now.

Reply by John Andrews, Dec 22, 2008.

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel ... I gotta get you try one of my bottles of Sea Smoke. I think you'll change your mind about California Pinots. :-)

Reply by RachelNYC, Dec 23, 2008.

Fine.... next time I come to the left coast you will have to take me on an Earthy California Pinot tour to try and convince me.

Reply by radavis3, Oct 2, 2009.

You should definitely take John up on the Sea Smoke Rachel. They make incredible Pinot and it is nearly impossible to get unless you "know" someone. There are many other fantastic Pinot producers in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barabra county (Alma Rosa, Melville, Etc.) you should give them a try.

Reply by chadrich, Oct 2, 2009.

Nice line-up of countries that you chose! I've also had some really nice surprises lately with Pinots from Chile. Most notably Azul Profundo, if you can find it. You're inspiring me to get a tasting set-up!

Reply by Miss Vicky Wine, Oct 4, 2009.

Waw very good idea. If you ever get a chance, try the Hillside Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 from TerraVin (NZ) - Juicy, Meaty and very promising!

Reply by Eric Guido, Oct 4, 2009.

I'd actually be interested in seeing the powerpoint presentation. I have to assume you made it very entertaining.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 5, 2009.

Actually it would be something pretty interesting to add to Snooth!

And about those Sea Smoke, Should anyone be interested in trying some I have them lined up for tasting in the office sometime soon.

Reply by John Andrews, Oct 5, 2009.

Sea Smoke tasting????

When ... let me plan a trip east around that!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 5, 2009.

I think I only have the Botella and Ten, current releases. They will be tasted in time for the Thanksgiving recommendation email

Reply by John Andrews, Oct 5, 2009.

I have a few older releases of both Botella and Ten ... I drank my Southing already. I just got offered the two bottle magnum of Chardonnay and Ten but it's too pricey for me.

I'll see if I can get a trip out that way for beginning of November.

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