Thursday Night Tasting — Pinot Noir

Thursday night we were treated to a Pinot Noir tasting. Coincidentally, these tastings often happen when George is away… could it be that he is not particularly fond of Pinots? Well, lucky for us, Alan is fond of Pinots and presented the tasting on Thursday night.

We tasted 5 Pinots. Among the wines was a 1997 Shug Sonoma Pinot Noir, one Willamette Valley Pinot, one French Burgundy and two other California Pinots. Alan provided us with information on each wine and assigned us the task of identifying each wine. We tasted them blinded as usual. Alan bagged all of the wines, then Craig randomly mixed the order and labeled them A-E so that none of us knew what we were tasting. We described the wines in an informal manner and with everyone giving their descriptions and guesses as to which wine was which.

1997 Shug Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir – Just by luck this was the first wine poured. The light iodine color similar, to a Tawny Port, gave away the age of this wine immediately. It had a slightly stinky nose with underlying cedar and dried fruit. The flavors tasted of dried fruit, raisins, cedar and earth. The tannins were smooth and there was adequate acid. The finish was fairly long and finished with cedar and smoke. We had a bottle of this wine on a previous Monday night. That bottle had less life left in it than this bottle did. Dave, who joins us on Monday nights and shared that bottle with us, had another bottle with a group of friends recently and he said that bottle had even more flavor and was very interesting. So, it was interesting to hear reports on three bottles of the same wine, all of which were unique. Another of our friends will be tasting this wine again in a few weeks. It will be interesting to hear what that group thinks of it. I personally like the flavor of an older wine. This bottle doesn’t compare to aging a Bordeaux, but the flavors definitely change and become interesting. This wine though is nearing the end of it’s life.

2005 Domaine Gilles, Red Burgundy, Cotes de Nuit-Village – The color was light ruby. Initially I got cherries on the nose then the nose turned slightly stinky (but in a good way). The flavors tasted of tart cherries, smoke and earthiness. The tannins were moderate with good acid. The body of the wine was very light. The finish was moderate in length. Many in the group thought this was the Cotes de Nuit, as did I. The combination of cherries on the nose and flavor with smoke and earthiness was very pleasant. Though we did not vote on our favorite wine, this was my personal favorite. We had this a while back for a Thursday Food and Wine tasting.

2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “La Bauge Au-dessus” – The color was a moderate ruby. The nose was typically Pinot, with an earthy bramble and dark cherry nose. The flavors were more intense than the Cote de Nuits, with riper cherries, smoke and earthiness. The tannins were moderate with good acid. The finish was moderately long with flavor. This wine tasted very good to me and to most other tasters in the group. We all thought it was a food friendly wine. Most in the group identified this wine as the Au Bon Climat — darn we’re good! I, on the other hand, thought this was the Willamette Valley wine — oh well! And we have tasted this before fairly recently, more than once.

2007 Saintsbury Stanly Ranch (Carneros) Pinot Noir – The color was dark ruby. The nose was closed in general with just a little bramble and stinkiness. The flavors were riper with sweeter fruit, plums and vanilla. The tannins were significant with good acid. Though this wine tasted riper than the previous ones, it did not taste as complex to me. The group (and I) correctly identified this wine as the Saintsbury. I thought the ripeness of this wine was characteristic of many California Pinots.

2009 Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – The color was light ruby. The nose had a minimal fruity nose. The flavors were light with minimal fruit and earthy flavors. The tannins were moderate with good acid. The finish was short to moderate. This wine tasted the lightest of the group to me. It is pleasant, and would be a good food wine, or good to drink without food. It would be a good warm weather red wine. As the weather becomes warmer, I prefer white wines or lighter reds. This would do the trick. Most in the group identified this as the Willamette Valley wine, not me however, I thought it was the Au Bon Climat!

Overall, this was a very popular and flavorful tasting. Most in the group liked the wines very much. The 1997 Shug was interesting to taste, but not a favorite of most in the group. This kind of wine is great to taste, however. It exposes your palette to new flavors and allows you to develop your own tasting experience. It enables the taster to build that flavor memory that allows you to fully describe what you are tasting and not just repeat what others say. I had that experience the first time I tasted a “corked” wine. That wet cardboard smell and flavor was forever imprinted on my flavor memory. Even though the smell and taste of a corked wine is not necessarily pleasant, it is instructive. It is best experienced when tasting a wine you have not paid for! I love those wine moments!

Next Thursday we will be doing a 2007 Bordeaux “clean-up” tasting. George will be selecting a group of 2007 Bordeaux we have not yet tasted…I think. The week following that Pete will be doing the Cahors-Argentine Malbec tasting. Stay tuned!

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