Year 3; Tasting 3 of 5 – Chris Does Blind, Aged Pinot Noir

Posted on February 13th, 2016 by Chris
Tasting Dinner
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Moving on to my Super Tasting for Year 3, I was really excited about the idea of doing a blind tasting of Pinot Noir. Lately I’ve really been enjoying California Pinot Noir from producers who are making wine in a classic, old world inspired method. I’ve had a few exceptional Burgundies in my life but very few have matched the excitement of what I’ve been enjoying from the new world.

I’ve also been blown away with how gracefully many of these have aged, thanks in no small part to moderate ripeness, high acidity, and partial inclusion of stems during fermentation which adds structure and aromatics. This first became clear to me on my last trip to Califorina in 2014 when I visited Joe Davis at Arcadian in Lompoc, CA. The 2001 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir I tasted there had aged so gracefully that I knew it would be a great cornerstone to build this tasting on.

I spent the next year acquiring examples of aged Pinot Noir in the $50 – $200 range to blind taste with the group. For food pairings I cooked a few courses I thought would match nicely with restrained, aged, high acid Pinot Noir.

I began with a quick flight of three blind Chardonnays, paired with my wife’s Butternut Squash Soup.

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  • 2011 Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard – Canada, Ontario, Niagara Peninsula, Vinemount Ridge VQA
    I’ve really loved this wine the two times I’ve had it and this was another great showing. It was also nice to see others reaffirming my impression in a blind setting, though I don’t think anyone was quite 93. The nose is moderate intensity, but a really nice profile. Aromatics waft from the glass; mint, white flowers, lemon, lime, mineral, dusty sawdust, peppermint, low toast oak, and cold cream. The palate has great acid, white florals and mineral on the mid-palate and a medium plus finish built on mint, citrus fruit and cold cream. I have always loved this wine. It’s a profile I find immensely enjoyable. (93 points)
  • 2010 Louis Jadot Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    This pours markedly dark in colour considering it’s age. The nose reveals a lightly oxidative impression of caramel sauce, yogurt, bruised apple, salt, and brown butter. The palate reveals a fair bit of alcohol and a slightly oxidative finish. While not hugely oxidized, considering it’s age we’re calling this one premoxed. (NR/flawed)
  • 2013 Calera Chardonnay Mount Harlan – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan
    The oak is certainly noted on this young chard, but it’s high quality and should integrate. The nose is of lemon zest, low toast oak, hazelnut, candy cane, under ripe pineapple, butter, mint, and canteloupe. There is excellent acidic cut on the palate with a candied lemon drop and under ripe acidic pineapple finish. I quite like this wine, but I gather others didn’t quite have the same level of enthusiasm. (92 points)

Next we dove into the tasting Pinot Noir in flights of two or three.

Flight 1: Salmon Tartare, Japanese Marinade, Microgreens, Crisp Fried Onions

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  • 1996 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan
    Wow! This was gorgeous in that, light, red fruited, spicy/stemmy style. Pours very light red with light bricking. The nose is of leather, light brown spices, dusty spice box, old furniture, dry soil, cranberry, strawberry/rubarb, and a distinct nori (seaweed) note. In other words wonderfully complex and pleasing. The palate has low dusty tannin, good acid, and a long cranberry driven finish. Really great and only in the early to middle stage of maturity. I don’t see decline happening any time soon. Need to seek out more old Calera. Too bad, IMO, that the new Pinots from them taste nothing like this. (93 points)
  • 1996 Dominique Laurent Morey St. Denis 1er Cru – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru
    This clearly seemed heat damaged. The group was in agreement. The nose is of VA, prunes, and figs. Purchased last year from Benchmark. (NR/flawed)

Flight 2: Barley Risotto, Old English Cheddar, Sauteéd Enoki Mushrooms

  • 1993 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    I’m told that other bottles of this are sublime, but this just didn’t bring the fireworks. This pours far darker than it’s flight-mate. The nose is dark and sweet of marshmallow, brown sugar, touches of wet soil, dark cherry, and icing sugar dusted strawberry tart. It almost seemed closed on this occasion. The palate is tight and medium plus in tannin with a medium finish. Too bad. Certainly the disappointment of the evening. (88 points)
  • 1990 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Wow! And here we have the clear wine of the night. It pours a fully translucent light red with orange tinges toward the rim. The nose is haunting. The wildly complex aromas waft from the glass of smoke, grapefruit zest, blood orange, raspberry, ginger, spice drawer, gravel, incense, thyme, and mixed florals. This wine has a resemblance to Rayas in its purity and spiciness. The palate has no discernible tannin, great acid, and a long finish. An amazing, timeless wine. Apparently these have aged very slowly and I wouldn’t doubt they’ll live a little while longer yet. There are loads of secondary aromas, but only a hint of tertiary notes. Just a gorgeous wine. The group had been tipped off that the Comte Armand was in this tasting and they thought this might be it. (97 points)

Flight 3: Shawarma Spiced Pan Seared Duck Breast, Skin Crumble, 8-hour Beet Carpaccio, Horseradish Creme

  • 1999 Chehalem Pinot Noir Rion Reserve – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    I’ve really liked some Chehalem wines in the past, so I thought this might compete, but it was really dark and simple. The nose has a somewhat unpleasant peanut shell aroma and is notably ripe with dark cherry pie filling and and dark plummy notes. It’s actually almost coming across a tad merlot like. The palate has moderate tannin, low acid, and a short finish. Sadly this is one of those wines that could be any varietal from anywhere. (86 points)
  • 1999 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Fourneaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru
    Clearly corked. A shame because it seems like it had great underlying parts. I’m sure we would have loved it. Probably the sole burg that I think could have competed. (NR/flawed)

Flight 4: Duck Confit, Braised Red Cabbage

  • 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    First bottle was corked. Pulled a back-up from cellar temp and from the initial pour the nose was just singing: light roast coffee, grapefruit, blood orange, smoke, gravel, baking spice, herbs, forest undergrowth, varnish, tart strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. I find the fruit profile to be squarely in the red spectrum, which is where I like my Arcadians. the palate is equally great: awesome acidity, low tannins, and a long finish, replaying the wonderfully tart red fruit, smoke, and light roast coffee. (94 points)
  • 2001 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Le Corton – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton Grand Cru
    This wine pours somewhat darker in colour with a lightly cloudy appearance. It comes across a bit grumpy and almost aromatically challenged. Bass notes on the nose show wet soil, dark cherry, herbs, sweat, saline and smouldering embers. The palate has light but notable tannin, moderate acid, and a finish that sadly fizzles out a bit short. I’m sure this could be placed as burgundy and on it’s own might be enjoyable, but not Grand Cru quality and was certainly overshadowed on this night. (90 points)

Flight 5: Assorted Cheeses

  • 2002 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Grèves – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    This pours middle of the road in colour with a ruby, translucent core. The low intensity nose is of brown spice, dry soil, herbs, old bread crust, candied raspberry, blueberry and plum. The palate is fairly high in tannin for pinot and comes across as low in acid. Not terribly enjoyable on this evening and not really a style I care to seek out. (87 points)
  • 2002 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    This wine certainly bears some similarity to others in the ‘new wave’ California movement. The nose has a very prominent new leather component, combined with some oak that isn’t yet totally integrated via resin and coffee. Also on the nose predominantly red fruit via fresh strawberry, pomegranate and dried cranberries. The palate has excellent high acid, medium minus tannin, and a medium plus finish. I think I liked this a tad more than others in the group, though the new leather component was a bit distracting from the purity of the wine. I have one more bottle and I’m not sure where it’s headed. I’m nervous the leathery notes will just become more prominent, but will wait a few more years and find out. (92 points)
  • 2002 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Chorey-les-Beaune – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chorey-les-Beaune
    This pours a fairly dark shade of ruby with flecks of purple at the rim. The bottle had a slight bit of seepage, and while I don’t think it was damaged that’s always a consideration. The nose is of powdered grape candy, violets, licorice, prune and undergrowth. The palate is broad and rich, somewhat lacking in acid, and kind of fizzles out on the short finish repeating the dark fruit. (88 points)

Flight 5:

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  • 1998 Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
    Oxidized. A recent acquisition direct from the Faiveley cellars via the local agent. (NR/flawed)
  • 2004 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir Chileno Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Off the bat I detect a definite stem signature on this wine. The nose is of gravel, grapefruit, smoke, light brown spice, light hints of cured meat, but also some darker tinged fruit via plums and dark cherries. The palate comes across as relatively low in acid and medium minus tannin. While ripe, dark and obviously Cali in style, I was still able to enjoy this due to some complexity on the nose. The group easily called this as California. (90 points)

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