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Pinot Noir

92 Patz & Hall 2003 Burnside Vineyard Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir:
14.3% alc. Like an athelete in his prime, the Burnside presents youthful vitality and impressive physical prowess. It's big and powerful, yet displays remarkable subtlety and complexity from the nose through the long, satisfying finish. Sweet oak, cherries, cinnamon, bouyed by crisp acidity. The only knock is the unfortunate heat in the finish. $60

91 Castalia 2003 Rochioli Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir:
14.1% alc. . Fresh cherry, nutmeg, graham cracker, beautifully balanced, complex and extraordinarily long. This is Castalia's last Rochioli Pinot and well worth seeking out. It's glorious now, and will reward further aging through 2013. $46

90 Archery Summit 2002, Oregon Arcus Estate, Pinot Noir:
14.2% alc. A nice balance here between sweet cherry licquer, smokey oak, a hint of truffles, and a layer of soil/mineral character that carries the finish. $25

89 Patz & Hall 2003 Hyde Vineyard Carneros, Pinot Noir:
14.3% alc. The Patz & Hall Pinots are so fundamentally different that it's like throwing Syrahs into the Pinot tasting. Across the board they're bigger wines, with more body and a lot more spice (cinnamon & nutmeg). The spice, in fact, tends to dominate the cherry-berry fruit flavors, and depending on your personal preferences this can be a positive or a negative. The first impression is of a bolder expression of Pinot Noir, while the finish brings on more subtlety, as well as a bit of heat. The Hyde Vineyard is the biggest and baddest of the bunch. Should improve over the next 5 to 7 years. $50

88 Adelaida 2002, San Luis Obispo County, Pinot Noir:
Adelaida has two 2002 Pinots, both from their estate vineyard. This one mentions the vineyard only on the back label. It's $10 cheaper than the one that states the vineyard on the front label, yet this is the one I far prefer. It has the silky texture I look for in Pinot, as well as good aromatics and a black cherry and spice character backed by a hint of smoke and some pleasant minerality. $15

88 Willamette Valley Vineyards 2003, Oregon Whole Cluster, Pinot Noir:
13.5% alc. Cherry candy nose, light body and tannin, lush fruit on the palate (residual sugar?) with a hint of spice, silky texture, lingering finish. Lovely, well-balanced wine. It may not be the most complex of wines, but it is certainly one of the most appealing, and it was the first bottle to be consumed after the tasting. $17

88 Archery Summit 2002, Oregon Red Hills Estate, Pinot Noir:
14.2% alc. Cola and spice and everything nice, smokey oak, medium tannin and a drying finish that won't quit. $35

88 Patz & Hall 2003, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir:
14.3% alc. A more subdued version of the Patz & Hall style, the Sonoma Coast is a toned-down version of the Hyde Vineyard, and is the better value. It shows off a touch of cola, dark cherry and mushrooms, with firm structure and a slightly hot, chalky finish. Fine to drink now, it should be better with another 4 to 5 years of age. $33

87 Williams Selyem 2002 Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Mendocino, Pinot Noir:
Thick black cherry aroma, full bodied, soft tannins. It's very nice from the nose through the mid-palate, but takes a short turn at the finish. I suspect this is because of the 14.2% alcohol, which smothers the fruit in the finish, but it also contributes to the aromatics, so you win some and you lose some. Overall, its an appealing wine for current drinking. $59

87 Davis Bynum 2002, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir:
13.8% alc. Light, balanced, silky texture, appealing cherry and raspberry fruit with a subtle smoke and mocha background, and a lingering finish. There are more complex Pinots, but none better balanced. It's a real pleasure to sip. $28

86 Williams Selyem 2003, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir:
14.2% alc. A bit of a mystery, not very forthcoming, but there is an elusive Russian River character to this wine. As it airs the flavors become better defined --- cherry mocha, and light smoke in the finish. $42

86 Williams Selyem 2003, Central Coast, Pinot Noir:
14% alc. . Abundant cherry aromas and bright flavors with a hint of ginger in the finish. Light body and tannin. A bright, perfectly balanced, appealing wine. $29

85 Willamette Valley Vineyards 2002, Oregon, Pinot Noir:
14.5% alc. Cola and cherry, very dry, mild tannins, a bit alcoholic and tart in the finish, which lingers for minutes. $??

85 Archery Summit 2002, Oregon Premier Cuvee, Pinot Noir:
13.9% alc. This one has earthy overtones that dominate the fruit and may put some people off. It has light tannin, mushroom finish. $37

84 Williams Selyem 2003, Sonoma County, Pinot Noir:
14% alc. The Sonoma County version is perfectly pleasant, but lacks the aromatics of its bretheren. It's also broader on the palate. $32

89 Williams Selyem 2003, Sonoma Coast, Piinot Noir:
14.1% alc. A complex yet light-handed wine with cherry and truffle flavors, silky texture, and tart finish. It has more body than the Central Coast version, and more spice as well. While best for near term drinking, it will certainly hold for another 8 years or more. $38
Older Pinot Noir Wine Tastings Entries:
Feb-Mar 2001

91 Chalone Vineyard 1999, Estate Bottled
Stylistically distinct, the Chalone Pinot is a rugged wine, showing ripe, concentrated red plums and smoke character, a velvety texture despite firm tannins, and excellent length. With a bit of air the nose develops nuances of fresh cherry and vanilla, while the flavors take on some milk chocolate notes. Big, mouthfilling and ready to drink now, it will also reward a few years of aging. Pair with lamb or barbecue.

89 Beringer Vineyards 1997 Stanley Ranch Los Carneros Napa Valley
Our tasting panel was conflicted about this wine. It’s a Pinot with some punch – extracted black cherry with earth and toast overtones, and moderate, slightly bitter tannin.

88 Chateau St. Jean 1999, Sonoma County
This Pinot Noir has fine varietal definition, but in a very muscular style. Aromatic cherry and rose petal aromas lead to flavors of cherry and nutmeg, moderate tannin, and a finish of cherry with slightly bitter licorice notes. Good now, it well develop over the next 10 to 15 years. Great with Stilton Cheese.

88 Acacia 1999, Carneros District Napa Valley
Plums, bittersweet chocolate, soft tannins, roasted coffee and potting soil combine for a rich, complex wine that will continue to evolve in the bottle. Our consumer tasting panel was split – some praised the wine’s complexity; others thought it was "dirty." If you know Pinot Noir, you know what we’re talking about. I, for one, appreciate this style.

88 Meridian Vineyards 1998, Santa Barbara County
Sleek and fruity – well-defined black cherry, vanilla and toast, and just a whisper of flowers, medium-bodied with velvety texture. This is a well-balanced, versatile food wine; it’ll go with just about everything.

87 Sokol Blosser 1998, Willamette Valley
Earthy cherries, smooth texture, slightly bitter on the palate, with subtle oak and soil notes.

84 Sokol Blosser 1997, Yamhill County Oregon Redland Winemaker’s Reserve
Deep cherry nose leads to a medium-bodied, slightly astringent and bitter palate.

Dec-Jan 2001

95 Robert Mondavi 1998, Napa Valley Reserve
As good as Mondavi’s Carneros Pinot is, the Reserve is that much better. Silky smooth on the palate, it displays lush cherry fruit laced with nutmeg, cardamom, and a hint of both smoke and cocoa. Perfectly balanced, complex yet subtle, this is the finest Napa Valley Pinot Noir I’ve ever had.

95 Lynmar 1997 Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley
Gorgeous black cherry nose with a touch of damp forest floor. Silky smooth on the palate, it has a light, toasty quality under a great gob of juicy black cherry fruit, light tannin, spice, vanilla and mineral notes. Complex and long, this is a fabulous Russian River Valley Pinot.

94 Meridian Vineyards 1998, Santa Barbara County, Coastal Reserve
An exquisite nose of deep, lush cherry pie fruit with a subtle, complex background of forest floor and vanilla, medium body and a sensuous texture, soft tannin and a long spicy finish. Great now, it will also age gracefully for a few years.

93 Byron Vineyard and Winery 1997 Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
A great vineyard in a great year. Sierra Madre Vineyard is among a handful of vineyards in California that produce consistently fine Pinot Noir. This 1997 yields a dry wine of bright cherry fruit, cloaked in damp earth and smoke, with a silky texture and a long complex finish. Even at $32 this is a bargain, as they don’t come much better.
Dec-Jan 2001

93 Seven Peaks 1998, San Luis Obispo County/Santa Barbara County
A mouthful of this Pinot will send your head spinning–it’s one of those big, earthy wines, with fresh cherry fruit, a silky texture, and so much depth that it’s difficult to describe. A very controversial wine with our consumer tasting panel: some felt it was too earthy, others thought the earthiness made it that much more complex.

93 Amity Vineyards 1998, Willamette Valley
An elegant wine displaying dried cherry, faint mushroom and forest floor notes, with the velvety texture Pinot Noir is famous for. Deep, broad and long. As Bob Cratchit said, "A triumph, my dear!"

92 Amity Vineyards 1999 Cattrall Brothers Vineyards, Oregon Eco Wine, Organic Grapes, Sulfite Free
A scent of smoke, mushroom, fresh cherry and flowers. Nicely balanced with light tannin and smooth texture, and a long fruit and mineral finish. More angular and stylistically different from its more expensive stablemate, but no less impressive.

92 Martin Ray 1997, Russian River Valley
Martin Ray was a winemaker in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 30’s, 40’s and ‘50’s. After he died the illustrious reputation he had built began to slide. Today the owners of the Martin Ray brand source their fruit from Sonoma County, and they’ve succeeded in bringing the Martin Ray name back to the forefront of Pinot Noir in California. Fuller bodied than the La Montana, the Russian River Valley offers intense cherry fruit laced with cinnamon and vanilla, and subtle forest floor notes. The fruit is full and ripe, but has a pleasant acid edge.

91 Beringer Vineyards 1999, California Founders’ Estate
Needs some air to open up, but then it displays dried cherry fruit, forest floor and mushrooms, with a silky smooth texture and a long, complex, vibrant fruity finish. Absolutely remarkable for the price. Amazing.

91 Martin Ray 1998 La Montana, Sonoma County
Today’s Martin Ray Pinot Noirs are truly Burgundian – a lighter style than most California Pinots – silky smooth, cherry-violet aromas and flavors with nuances of vanilla and green tea, as well as some spice in the finish, good balance and finesse.

90 Wyndham Estate 1999, BIN 333
Wonderful varietal definition – a violet aroma, a bit of forest floor complexity in the nose that follows through to the palate with fresh cherry fruit and light tannin. Remarkable value.

90 Robert Mondavi 1998, Carneros District
A zesty Pinot with cherry-strawberry fruit and sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla) on the palate. Medium-bodied, light in tannin, it’s an immediately appealing wine that will pair naturally with lamb or other spicy dishes.

90 Archery Summit 1998, Red Hills Estate Oregon
Seductive, aromatic, perfumy nose of maraschino cherries, cola and cinnamon that follows through to the tart palate. Firm tannin shortens the fruit and spice finish. When the tannin resolves, given about 7 more years in the bottle, this will be a formidable Pinot Noir.

89 Gloria Ferrer 1998, Carneros
Gorgeous violet nose, medium body, silky texture, with moderate tannin, violets, cherries and wet earth on the palate, and a hint of spice in the finish. Complete and satisfying. After the tasting it was a hit with smoked salmon.

88 Kenwood 1998 Olivet Vineyard, Russian River Valley
A medium-bodied Russian River Pinot Noir with intense strawberry and violet aromas, light tannin, crisp acidity and ripe berry flavors with subtle oak tones and a touch of spice. Good length and balance. It’s good now, and likely to become even smoother with a couple more years in the bottle.
Oct-Nov 2000

87 Rodney Strong 1999, Russian River Valley, Estate Bottled
Cinnamon, toast and cherry, with light tannin and a warm spicy finish. Very pretty.

86 Thomas Fogarty 1996, Santa Cruz Mountains, Estate Reserve
Predominantly smokey, with medium tannin and spice to give it length. A sturdy wine with some staying power.

Aug-Sept 2000

88 Villa Mt. Eden 1998 Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley, Grand Reserve
Bien Nacido is hallowed ground for Pinot Noir. This is typical–aromatic cherry and violets with an earthy component that gains intensity on the perceptibly sweet palate. Amazingly concentrated fruit, cinnamon spice, silky texture and an earthy-spicy finish of fine length. This wine has great complexity and intensity, but it could be drier

87 Peju 1998, Provence, a California Table Wine: I
If you can imagine the structure and texture of a fine Pinot Noir, with full-flavored plummy fruit, that’s what you get here. Full of fruit, dry, and enjoyable from the get-go. It will pair with most anything from salmon to beef, but I’d particularly like it with the cheese plate.

June-July 2000

96 Archery Summit 1998 Arcus Estate, Oregon Estate
Heavenly. An elegant, self-assured wine that makes you sit up and take notice. Superbly balanced and maintaining a high level of intensity from the nose through the finish, it displays classic violet and sweet cherry character, with layers of black pepper, cinnamon and minerals, perfectly integrated oak and a velvety texture. Why drink Burgundy when you can drink the best?

89 Acacia 1998, Napa Valley, Carneros District
It took awhile, but Acacia’s finally getting the hang of Pinot. Actually, the only thing they lacked in the past was the complex earthiness of great Pinot. The 1998 is a silky wine with bright, lean cherry fruit, a touch of forest floor and some wonderful mineral-earth notes that sing through the long finish. First rate. N/A

88 Archery Summit 1997, Oregon Archery Summit Estate
Cola and cherry character with a hint of violets, on the palate it starts as silky and finishes with a bit of astringency. Though well-balanced it’s not as impressive as previous vintages. Nonetheless, it has excellent varietal definition and has the ability to age gracefully another 5 to 7 years.

87 Navarro Vineyards 1997, Anderson Valley Mendocino Methode a l’Ancienne
Cherries with a smoky edge, a touch of earth, silky texture, light tannin, and a spicy finish of great length. Good now, I’d like to lay it down for five years.

84 Beaulieu Vineyard 1998, Carneros
A light weight, mild mannered Pinot, full of tart cherry fruit, a hint of smoke, and moderate tannin.

86 Lawrence J. Bargetto 1998 Regan Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains
Black cherry, licorice, medium tannin, firm structure. Begs for extended aging.
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