California Pinot Noir
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California Pinot Noir

The Fifty Best California Pinot Noir Tasting 2019

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 23 recent release California Pinot Noirs with 15 members of our wine judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the wines were poured into fresh wine glasses from new sealed bottles and served at room temperature. Only ice water and white peasant bread were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each wine on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the highest. Double-Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The appelations are identified for each brand. Prices indicated do not include tax.



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Mansfield-Dunne
2016 Pinot Noir Cortada Alta Vineyard

(Santa Lucia Highlands) $58

Five separate clones of Pinot Noir grapes were used to make this wine that, following fermentation was aged in French oak (50% new) for 15 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, strawberry, fat juicy blackberries, ripe raspberry, red plum, smoky raspberry, stewed strawberries, hibiscus, herbal, green pepper, sage, spice, pepper, leather, cigar box, earthy, smoky, fresh.
Palate: Cherry, dark cherry, black cherry, tart cherry juice, strawberry, big fruit, lemon, floral, rice, grass, pepper, peppery, spicy, leather, earthy, branches, oak, rich tannins, well-balanced, fresh, complex, rich, velvety, well done.
Finish: Cherry, ripe plum, rich berries, velvety strawberry candies from Grandma’s candy dish, light spice, cinnamon, leather, balanced, complex, beautiful.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Mansfield-Dunne Pinot Noir Cortada Alta Vineyard



Argus by Dearden Wines
2016 Pinot Noir

(Napa Valley-Carneros) $32

This wine was made from a variety of Pinot Noir clones harvested from vineyards noted for warm days and cool, foggy nights. Following carefully overseen fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 15 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, dark cherry, sour cherry, ripe raspberries, boysenberry, rich blackberry, strawberry, plum, dark plum, currant, rose petals, herbal, chocolate.
Palate: Ripe raspberries, stewed strawberries, dark cherry, blackberries, currant, sweet plums, candied fruit, grapefruit, herbal, herbal minerality—fruit follows, leather, earthy, oak, ripe, complex, smooth.
Finish: Raspberry, ripe fruit, juicy, herbal, black pepper, nettle, earthy, balanced, clean, crisp, intensive, velvety, refreshingly bright.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Argus by Dearden Wines 2016 Pinot Noir



Sean Minor
2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

(Sonoma Coast) $22

This wine was made from grapes that were hand-harvested at night and early mornings and fermented in open-top stainless steel. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in 100% French oak (20% new) prior to bottling.

Aroma: Strawberry, ripe strawberries, black raspberry, red berries, red currants, char-grilled cherries, candied fruit, lemon custard, citrus, herbal, green peppers, pepper, earthy, branches, funky, leather, saddle, complex.
Palate: Ripe raspberry, boysenberry, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, red currant, pomegranate, dark plum, plum, jammy, rose petals, oregano, pepper, grows in richness minerals and fruit, leather, funky smoke, smoky, balanced, nice energy, soft, smooth.
Finish: Cherry jam, tart strawberries, jammy, herbal, barnyard smoke, good length, soft, silky, relaxing, delicious, a great glass of wine.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal




Sean Minor Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Domaine Della
2016 Pinot Noir

(Sonoma Coast) $55

Following fermentation, this wine was aged in oak barrels (47% new) for 15 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, red cherry, faint raspberry, red grapes, apple, red apple cider, dates, figs, jammy, strawberry jam, candied fruit, rose, young flowers, floral, cinnamon, cigar, leather.
Palate: Cherry, sweet cherry, sweet tart cherry, strawberry, strawberry jam, dried strawberries, strawberry fruit rollup, spicy, baking spice, complex.
Finish: White strawberry, tart strawberry, earthy plum, cherry Pop Tarts, cinnamon, great – no food required.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Domaine Della Pinot Noir



Mansfield-Dunne
2016 Pinot Noir Peterson Vineyard

(Santa Lucia Highlands) $48

Following fermentation of various clones of Pinot Noir grapes from this vineyard, the wine was aged in French oak (70% new) for 15 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Ripe strawberry, cooked raspberries, dark plum, cranberry, fruit leather, herb, tea, mushroom, funky, earthy, wood, fermented wood.
Palate: Plum, blackberry, light strawberry, cranberry, currant, herbaceous, red peppers, black pepper, peppery, cinnamon, sweet clove, funky, earthy, oak, great acidity, balanced, rich, quenching.
Finish: Rhubarb, grapefruit, mint, spice, minerality, tannic, funk, earthy, soft, good length.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Mansfield-Dunne Pinot Noir Peterson Vineyard



Darioush
2016 Pinot Noir

(Russian River Valley) $70

This wine was made from grapes grown on vines over 35 years old that have a southeastern exposure. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 15 months in new French oak barrels (from Burgundy) before bottling.

Aroma: Strawberries on the vine, basket of fresh-picked berries, blackberry, blueberry, briar fruit, cherry, sour cherry, red plum, cranberry, pomegranate, very light floral, herbal, vanilla, spice, earthy.
Palate: Black cherry, Bing cherry, dark cherry, ripe strawberry, raspberry, black raspberry, blackberry, cherry pie, sweet cotton candy, baking spices, soft, bright.
Finish: Cherry, black cherry, sour cherry, tart cherry pie, ripe raspberries, wild boysenberries, delicious fruit, herbal, clove, tannins, balanced, soft, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Darioush Pinot Noir



Furthermore Wines
2014 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

(Santa Lucia Highlands) $55

Grapes used to fashion this wine were grown on a vineyard east of Monterey Bay that experiences foggy mornings, cool afternoons and a long growing season. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels (50% new) for 15 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Red cherry, strawberry, plum, cranberry, cooked fruit, cherry pie, cherry tomatoes, floral, herbal, menthol, grassy, flint.
Palate: Ripe cherry, black cherry, bright red berry, blackberry, plum, red plum, citrus, juicy, sweet vanilla, violet, eucalyptus, spicy, pepper, balanced, easy drinking.
Finish: Cherry, plum, cranberry, ripe strawberry rhubarb pie, cocoa, oak, soft tannins, fresh, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Furthermore Wines Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir



Lafond Vineyard
2016 Pinot Noir SRH

(Santa Rita Hills) $20

Pinot Noir grapes for this wine were sourced from Lafond Vineyard (80%) and Burning Creek Vineyard that both experience cool evening and early morning fog. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in oak barrels and large (130 gallon) oak puncheons (22% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Bing cherry, black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, black raspberry, cassis, plum, peach, candied cherries, chocolate, violet, eucalyptus, menthol, oregano, smoke.
Palate: Cherry, dark cherry, unripe cherries, strawberry, black raspberry, raspberry, briar fruit, tart cranberry, plum, watermelon, herbal, rosemary, earthy, mossy, really rich, lush, velvety.
Finish: Cherry, raspberry, briar fruit, menthol, fruit emerges, nice tannins, soft.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lafond Vineyard Pinot Noir SRH



J. Bucher
2015 Pinot Noir Bucher Vineyard

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma) $40

To make this wine a number of clones of Pinot Noir grapes grown on sustainably-farmed vineyards were fermented and then aged for 10 months in French oak (20% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, sour cherry, dark berry, grilled strawberries, ripe currant, high altitude fruit, rose petals, spice, clove, pepper, mint, mineral, light earth, forest floor, woody, barnyard smoke.
Palate: Ripe cherry, soft pleasant cherry, sweet black plum, cranberry, charred strawberries, balanced honey, violet, vegetal, tarragon, spice, white pepper, black pepper, smoky, leather.
Finish: Black plum, stewed strawberries, cherry jam, herbs, rosemary, pepper, tobacco, smoke, big fruit at the end, tasty, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



J. Bucher Pinot Noir Bucher Vineyard



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Reeve
2017 Rhoda Pinot Noir

(Anderson Valley) $48

This wine was made from grapes harvested from three late-flowering, climactically cool vineyards.

Aroma: Raspberry, lingonberry, blackberry, wild berries, strawberry jam, ripe plums, cherry cola, green tomatoes, fresh herbs, rosemary.
Palate: Cherry, black cherry, dark cherry, rich full-bodied blackberry, berries, wild berries, currant, black currant, plum, plummy, tart apples, roses, herbal, licorice, spice, tobacco, earthy, tannin, smoke, oak, great acidity, soft, lush, velvet.
Finish: Tart cherries, blackberries, white strawberries, orange peel, bright, persistent fruit.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




Reeve Rhoda Pinot Noir



Martellotto
2017 Le Bon Temps Roule Pinot Noir

(Santa Rita Hills) $35

Organically grown grapes for this wine were sourced from Spear Vineyard. Following fermentation, this wine was aged for 11 months in French oak (10%) new before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, cherry, dark raspberry, pomegranate, dark plum, plum, peach, rhubarb, prune, floral, herbal, mineral, slate, stones, leather, light charred wood.
Palate: Cherry, tart cherry, plum, red plum, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, currant, pomegranate, gardenia, red peppers, vanilla, clove, graphite, good acidity, balanced, velvety, smooth, easy-drinking, elegant.
Finish: Plummy, kiwi, soft subtle fruit, black pepper, earthy, tannins, soft subtle wood, balanced, silky, tasty.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Martellotto Le Bon Temps Roule Pinot Noir



ROAR
2017 Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyards

(Santa Lucia Highlands) $46

Following fermentation, this wine was aged in barrels (71% new French oak) for 10 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, dark cherry, strawberry, freeze-dried strawberries, raspberry, cranberry, plum, dried fruit, chocolate covered cherries, smoky fruit, rich.
Palate: Cherry, black cherry, dark cherry, raspberry, plum, cranberry, black currant, cooked strawberries, vanilla, herbal, green pepper, silky black pepper, oak, good balance, rich, smooth, elegant.
Finish: Tart cherry, raspberry, cranberry, tannins, woody, slightly chewy, fruit develops, velvety.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



ROAR Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyards



Larson Family Winery
2016 Pinot Noir

(Carneros) $38

This 100% Pinot Noir wine was made from hand-picked grapes grown on an estate vineyard noted for the effect of coastal cooling. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in 100% French oak (50% new) for 14 months with bottling completed without fining or filtering.

Aroma: Cherry, sour cherry, ripe strawberry, strawberry Twizzler, creamy vanilla, spicy herbs, cocoa dust, tobacco, earthy.
Palate: Rainier cherry, black cherry, plums, white plums, vanilla, peach pit, herbal, tea, spice, black pepper, leather, earthy, smoky, tannin, good acid and energy, bright.
Finish: Tart cherry, turmeric, soil, tannic bite, bright, velvety.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Larson Family Winery Pinot Noir



J. Bucher
2015 Pinot Noir Three Sixty

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma) $65

This wine was made from four separate blocks of vines in the Bucher Vineyard, planted between 1997 and 2009. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels (25% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Dark plum, sour cherry, boysenberry, tea, herbaceous, tobacco, leather, musty, funky earth, minerality.
Palate: Cherry, plum, dark plum, cranberry, blueberry, fruit pop, green pepper, green vines, earthy, smoky, dried oak, oak, wood, crisp, clean.
Finish: Cherry, dark cherry, plum, musty, funky earth, soft, easy to drink.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



J. Bucher Pinot Noir Three Sixty



Willowbrook
2015 Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

(Sonoma County) $24

Grapes for this wine (100% Pinot Noir) were sourced from a vineyard that experiences daytime heat and cooling nighttime fog from the Pacific. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, bright cherry, cherry jam, black plum, red plum, strawberry, rhubarb pie, summer flowers, eucalyptus, rosemary, tannin.
Palate: Cherry, dark cherry, cherry skins, blueberry, dark berry, briar fruit, cranberry, cranberry juice, pomegranate, lemon, herbs, herbaceous, minty, tea, mossy, forest, cedar, good acid, very silky.
Finish: Ripe strawberry, cranberry, plum skin, delicate, soft, silky, smooth.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Willowbrook Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir



Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
2016 Reserve Pinot Noir

(Sonoma County) $25

This wine was made from a blend of Pinot Noir (94%), Zinfandel (3%) and Merlot (3%) harvested from two separate vineyards – one, known for early ripening and the other, a foggy vineyard known for slow ripening. Following hand harvesting, the grapes were fermented using indigenous yeast and aged for 12 months in barrels (45% new French oak) before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, black currant, purple berries, cranberry, raisins, pear, eucalyptus, herbal, vegetal, cinnamon, black pepper, leather, toasted wood.
Palate: Cherry, plum, dark plum, raspberry, currant, rose, eucalyptus, mint, herbal, spice, black pepper, peppery, earth, tannic, cedar.
Finish: Cherry, dark ripe cherry, plum, green pepper, tea, tannic, chewy, energetic, good length.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir



Sleeping Giant by Dearden Wines
2016 Pinot Noir

(Napa Valley-Carneros) $52

Only 172 cases were made of this wine, produced from 5 separate clones of Pinot Noir harvested from a vineyard planted in 2006. Following fermentation using indigenous yeast, the wine was aged for 14 months in predominantly Francois Frere French oak barrels before bottling.

Aroma: Ripe blackberries, black raspberry, dark cherry, currant, floral, herbal, mushroom, leather, cigar box, earthy, funky, interesting, elegant.
Palate: Raspberry, strawberry, briar fruit, cranberry, cherry, dried cherries, citrus, black pepper, faint oak, cedar, rich, delicate, accessible,
Finish: Plum, cranberry, complex fruit, spicy, silky, soft, pleasant.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Sleeping Giant by Dearden Wines Pinot Noir



Lloyd by Robert Lloyd
2016 Pinot Noir

(Santa Rita Hills) $50

Grapes for this 100% Pinot Noir were sourced from the La Vina and Rio Vista Vineyards, and fermented in 100% stainless steel, then barrel aged for 10 months in French oak and finally bottle aged for 12 months prior to release.

Aroma: Ripe cherries, cherry juice, berries, strawberry, currant, beets, barn, musty, earthy, funky smoke.
Palate: Cherry, dark cherry, fruit-forward, oak, earthy, tart, blade metal, spice, earthy, tannin, big, rich, smooth.
Finish: Cherry, cranberry, mineral, smoky, good balance, velvety, nice finish, very nice, unusual, amazing.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Lloyd by Robert Lloyd Pinot Noir



Reeve
2016 Pinot Noir Tanbark Mill Vineyard

(Anderson Valley) $65

Grapes for this wine were sourced from a vineyard that is at the “cooler” end of the Anderson Valley region. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 16 months in barrels (25% new French oak) and another 8 months in the bottle prior to release.

Aroma: Cherry, dark cherry, blackberry, cran-raspberry, currant, plum, pomegranate, summer red roses, lavender, mint, slight oak, hints of misty woods.
Palate: Cherry, rich big cherry, bright tart cherry, plum tart, red plum, plummy, cran-raspberry, candied fruit, lemon, violet, white pepper, oak, nice balance, super velvety, New World style.
Finish: Cherry, cran-raspberry, green apple, honey, earthy, oak, silky, soft.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




Reeve Pinot Noir Tanbark Mill Vineyard



Mansfield-Dunne
2016 Pinot Noir

(Santa Lucia Highlands) $36

Grapes for this wine were sourced from Cortada Alta and Peterson Vineyards. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak (25% new) for 15 months before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, tart cherry, cherry, dried cherry, strawberry, overripe boysenberry, blackberry, cranberry, tea, rosemary, cinnamon, pencil, bright acidity, musty, rich.
Palate: Cherry, black cherry, tart cherry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, currant, plum, herbal, lavender, licorice, clove, black pepper, tobacco leaf, clean, fresh.
Finish: Tart cherry, raspberry, green pepper, pepper, lightly spicy, wood, great acidity, silky, smooth, bright.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Mansfield-Dunne Pinot Noir



BRONZE MEDAL WINNERS

Santa Barbara Winery
2014 Reserve Pinot Noir

(Santa Rita Hills) $25

This wine was fashioned from a blend of 7 different clones of Pinot Noir grapes that following fermentation was aged in either 50 gallon barrels or 130 gallon puncheons (18% new).

Nose: Black cherry, juicy blackberries, strawberry, lively fruit, Fruity Pebbles, chocolate-covered strawberries, cocoa, herbaceous, pepper, leather.
Palate: Cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, black currant, orange, mint, green pepper, spice, big tannins.
Finish: Tart cherry pie, blackberry jam, grapefruit, green stems, peppery, tobacco.


Bronze Medal
Bronze medal



Santa Barbara Winery Reserve Pinot Noir



Woodenhead
2015 Pinot Noir Buena Terra Vineyard E Block

(Russian River Valley) $75

Following fermentation, this wine was aged in French oak for 9 months after which the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Nose: Cherry, dark plum, raspberries, blueberries, light currant, prunes, cocoa, pepper, menthol, bark.
Palate: Cherry, stewed cherry, cherry cola, juicy plum, vanilla, mushroom, black olives, caraway, pepper, peppery, leaves, oaky, cedar, easy, rich, fun.
Finish: Cherry, ripe strawberry, strawberry gum, velvety.


Bronze Medal
Bronze medal



Woodenhead Pinot Noir Buena Terra Vineyard E Block



Sean Minor
2017 California Pinot Noir

(Sonoma) $18

Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, this wine was fermented in open-top stainless steel and then aged in oak before bottling.

Nose: Plum, strawberry, cooked raspberries, currants, black licorice, minty, pink peppercorn, peppery, mild smoke, chianti.
Palate: Cherry, plum, raspberry, pomegranate, Red Delicious apple, minerality, earthy, smoke, tannic, rich, faint grenache, very interesting.
Finish: Red fruit, candy, red apple skin, tea, big mouthfeel, chewy, rich.


Bronze Medal
Bronze medal



Sean Minor California Pinot Noir

 

 

 

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