Recently, I was surprised with a lovely gift, seven bottles of excellently-rated, American Pinot Noir and a challenge to identify my favorites. Always up for a challenge, I dove in head first and found that price wasn’t always correlated with my enjoyment. In fact, I adamantly disliked the highest priced bottle and would endorse the lowest priced bottle of the group any day of the week. Check out my tasting notes below.
After being handed the seven bottles of Pinot Noir, I was determined to perform a blind tasting from the following producers: Argyle, Meiomi, Phelps Freestone, Domaine Serene, Siduri, and Wright Carter. My benefactor informed me that all had received scores of 90 or higher points by experts (I believe Wine Spectator), but I didn’t research those reviews, nor did I know how much any of the bottles cost. Of course, I was familiar with some of the producers. In fact, I had visited one of the wineries a couple years back – Domaine Serene, which I highlighted in this post. Since I did know where some of these producers sourced their juice, I figured it was OK to research where the grapes in each bottle was from, and since their styles can be so different, I decided to determine a Cali (Meiomi, Phelps Freestone, Siduri) winner and an Oregon (Argyle, two Domaine Serenes, Wright Carter) winner.
So after doing that modest research, it was time to taste. Each bottle got at least three sips and a full description of the wine’s qualities. Then I asked myself the crucial question – would I purchase this bottle? Here’s how the wine stacked up:
No – 1.) Phelps Freestone 2009 ($40/bottle) – I couldn’t get over a bitter after taste that was the opposite of smooth, 2.) Domaine Serene’s Yamhill 2007 ($45/bottle) – there was too much smoke and dirt, not enough fruit for me, 3.) Wright Carter 2008 ($66/bottle) – smoky fruit flavors, earth, and bitterness. Apparently, I’m looking for fruit forwardness and less tertiary flavors (like smoke and earth) from my Pinot Noir.
Yes – From Oregon (elegant style), Argyle and Domaine Serene’s Evenstad Reserve. From California (fruity), Meiomi and Siduri.
Still I didn’t research the price of these wines. I just put them head to head, trying to determine which one I liked better. From Oregon, the competition was stiff! I really liked both of these wines. Argyle’s Williamette Valley 2010 showed why Argyle remains a preeminent producer in Oregon. It was elegant but expressed bright red fruit (raspberries), some dirt, and what I call green tobacco, which may represent fresh herbs to others. Domaine Serene’s Evenstad Reserve 2008 expressed similar characteristics with a bit darker fruit but still with earthy tobacco flavors. It was highly elegant, and that smoothness gave it a modest nod over Argyle, in my opinion. However, after researching the price of each bottle, I have to give the win to Argyle since at $26 per bottle, it is about $40 less per bottle than Domaine Serene’s offering. Now, I’ll drink the Evenstad Reserve any day, but for my pocketbook, Argyle is the winner!
From the California producers, I noticed a much bigger fruit flavor than from the Oregon producers. And while I don’t like to stereotype big areas, like Oregon and California, in general, due to higher heat, California Pinot Noir producers may be able to get bigger fruit flavors because the fruit can get riper than in their neighbor to the North, which can influence wine styles from each area. In my two winners from California, I noted ‘fruit!’ in one tasting note and ‘sugar on the nose’ in another. So if you like fruit forwardness, you may want to concentrate on California Pinot Noir. The Siduri ($28) was a solid wine from the Russian River Valley with lots of red raspberries, tobacco, and smooth finish, but Meiomi was my winner here. It was filled with luscious dark fruits and possessed enough acid to balance its booze. And surprisingly, it was the cheapest of all seven bottles at $23. You know I like a good bargain, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up this bottle any day. In fact, Meomi may become one of my ‘everyday’ Pinot Noir at home soon.
The Wandering Wine Girl