More Sips of Pinot Noir
2008 Benovia Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 1,000 cases, $45.
Dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. Deep aromas of black plums, black cherries, tar and mocha. Moderately rich and juicy flavors of cassis,
black cherries and plum sauce with a subtle game and smoky note in the background. Nicely crafted in a fullon,
fruit-driven style. Good.
2009 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir
$35. Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 and owns over 200 acres of
vineyards in the Napa Valley. This wine is sourced from the Frank Family’s 138-
acre Lewis Vineyard, located in the heart of Napa Carneros, near the shores of
San Pablo Bay, and three other vineyards in the Carneros region. The
winemaker is Todd Graff. Aged 12 months in 35% new and 65% 1-year old and
2-year old French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Very
shy nose offering demure dark fruit aromas with a combination of brier, pine and
oak. Lovely core of black cherries and blackberries with the oak and pine
showing up again on the palate. An earthy meatiness is evident as well that
reflects the clay loam soils typical of Carneros Pinot. Light to medium in weight, the fruit flavors are flat-out
delicious and the dusty tannins and bright acidity add to the appeal. Definitely worth a look from a producer not
known for Pinot Noir. Very good.
2009 It’s A Headsnapper Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$12.79. A real surprise from Headsnapper Wines in Sonoma. Nicely
packaged and an attention grabber on the market shelf. Offered at
Vons Market that virtue of 30% off plus 10% off for a purchase of 6
bottles, this wine was selling for $8.95. An unbelievable value and a
headsnapper for sure.
Pleasing aromas of black cherries and dusty
oak. Moderately light, slightly confected flavors of cherries and cola with brown
spice, smoke and char in the background from oak. Very soft in the mouth with a
clean finish. Certainly not the sophistication of other wines reviewed in this
section, but a delightful back porch pounder. The slight confection may turn off
some Pinot connoisseurs. Good.
2009 Lutea Los Carneros Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $26. Organic
Moderately dark reddish-color in the glass. Enticing aromas of
black cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate malt.
Delicious fruit core displaying bright flavors of black cherries and black
raspberries with hints of dark chocolate. Nicely composed and
balanced with well-mannered tannins and amazing persistence on the
fruit-driven finish. Very good.
2009 Masút Vineyard & Winery Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.54,
TA 0.06, $40. A discovery this year at the World of Pinot Noir. Brothers Ben and
Jake Fetzer produce an estate-grown Pinot Noir dedicated to the legacy of their
father, Bobby Fetzer, a well-known and respected winegrower. The Masút
Vineyard is certified organic and is located in the Redwood Valley at the
headwaters of the Russian River. Clones are 777, 115 and 113. Aged in 55%
new French oak barrels.
This is a wine of character with black cherry as its
central theme. The fruit is fresh and bright, accented by a savory herb flavor,
and displaying some oak-driven spice and mocha notes. Admirable finesse, with
a long, juicy finish. Much better the next day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle. Will benefit from more time in the bottle to further integrate the oak. Very good.
Craig and Cathy Handley farm a small vineyard planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay surrounded by coastal
redwoods within Pleasant Valley in Aptos, California, at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains
appellation. The vineyard has significant maritime influence from nearby Monterey Bay. The vines are
carefully nurtured by hand. An estate Pinot Noir and two Pinot Noirs from nearby Lester Family Vineyards are
produced. These are wonderful people who aim high.
2007 Pleasant Valley Vineyards Dylan David Family Estate Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.65% alc., pH 3.50, TA .542, $120 (library wine). Dijon clones 113, 114, 115. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 19
months in 100% Sequin Moreau Grand Cru French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark berries, black plums, old book, root beer and oak vanillin and
spice. Very ripe plum and black cherry flavors with cola and oak as contributors. Juicy and silky, this wine has
a copious charge of alcohol-driven sweet fruit and some finishing heat showing up on the finish as the wine
warms in the glass. Decent.
2008 Pleasant Valley Vineyards Dylan David Family Estate Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.41, TA .586, $95. From an estate
vineyard planted in 1996 to Dijon clones 113, 114 and 115. Fermented whole
berry after de-stemming. Aged 19 months in 100% new Sequin Moreau Grand
Cru French oak barrels (medium toast and toasted heads). Unfined and
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing
aromas of crushed berries, rose petals and white pepper. Well-endowed with
blackberry and plum flavors, restrained tannins, and leaving an impression on
the generously fruited finish. The oak never intrudes. Nicely crafted, but lacks
nuance which may come with more time in the bottle. Good (+).
2008 Pleasant Valley Vineyards Dylan David Reserve Lester Family Vineyards Willa Louise’s Block Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH
3.50, $60. Aged 15 months in 50% new and 50% 1-year old Sequin Moreau
French oak barrels. Dijon 667 clone. Unfined and unfiltered.
color in the glass. An expressive nose offering scents of very ripe fruit,
spice, root beer and old oak. The black cherry and berry fruit is over ripe with a
roasted quality. Rich layers of fruit linger on the finish which is slightly hot. The
flavors and aromas dissipate with time in the glass, leaving plenty of fruit but no
2009 Poe “Nevermore” Corda Vineyards Marin County Pinot Noir
alc, 150 cases, $38. Winemaker Jonathan Keys worked in the cellar at Sine
Qua Non and is now working with Thomas Rivers Brown at Outpost. This is his
inaugural release. Back label says, “Ravens that dwell in Marin County inspired
him to use the name after the poet who wrote, “The Raven,” in 1845. Very cool
This wine is definitely in the Sine Qua Non mode. Deeply colored in the
glass. Hi-tone and intensely fruity nose displaying aromas of plum reduction
sauce, black raspberries and vanilla wafer. Dense and concentrated flavors of
fresh plums and black currants with a subtle note of oak vanillin. The silky
smooth texture and fruitiness have seductive charm. The finish is clean and
long but leaves a hint of heat in its wake. Syrah in drag. Not my favored style of Pinot Noir, but the saucy fruit
will definitely have fans. Good.
2008 Portola Vineyards Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.50, 130 cases, $38.
Sourced from the 2-acre Los Trancos Creek Vineyard located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The
vineyard was certified organic by CCOF in 2010. Aged 14 months in 80% new French oak barrels.
ruby color in the glass. Charming cherry and berry fruit on the nose with a noticeable oak contribution showing
up as aromas of brioche, toast and caramel. Demure cherry and berry flavors, silky textured, and easy to
drink, improving in appeal over time in the glass and offering some length on the warm finish. A bit heavyhanded
on the oak which overwhelms the level of fruit intensity. Some of the oak should integrate further with
more time in the bottle, but the wine will always have an oaky presence. Decent (+).