Pinot Noir $50 and Up!

Serious Pinot at the top of the ladder


I've been drinking my way up the Pinot ladder, and have finally come to the top. The few bottles at $50 plus that people are willing to submit as samples. There are several arguments as to why so few samples get submitted at this price point.

One goes that there is just too little wine and too much demand, so producers shouldn't even bother. I can see that, if it's true. Another argument goes that producers have already convinced people to pony up big time for these wines, so they shouldn't risk getting low scores and damaging their brand.

I'll let you decide which you prefer, but I'll go on record as saying that we aren't in Burgundy folks! Yes, stating the obvious is a great way to redirect the dialog here, but the truth of the matter is that while you have some reasonable expectation of an increase in the satisfaction a bottle of Burgundy gives you as you jump from say $40 to $60, the same does not really hold true for domestic Pinot Noir. That may be because $40 Burgundy is crappy, or it may just be a bit of limit as to how good domestic Pinot can be. Again, I'll leave it up to you, but here are some of the more impressive of these most expensive Pinots.

Photo courtesy Mac V. via Flickr/CC

2008 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard, Rock Hill Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 14.1% $60


This is lightly smoky, but with plenty of cola and soil. A gently leafy floral, almost eucalyptus character adds nice detail to the soft black currant fruit. Fairly rich in the mouth but not weighty, with great intensity supported by succulent acidity. The tannins here are round and ripe adding volume to the mouth. This is gorgeous, just packed with berry flavor, spiced nuance, cola that’s not sweet, and lovely citrussy acid that lends this some cranberry notes. There’s some oak spice and a hint of heat on the finish, which is long and redolent of ripe red fruits, dusted with coca and a hint of allspice. Has the power of the best with real finesse and freshness. 94pts


2008 Domaine Serene Jerusalem Hill 13.8% $80


Almost sweet on the nose with subdued forest floor and raspberry notes, topped with some assertive, spicy oak. The spice is intense, but the wood aromas of vanilla and toast are rather modest. This is so well balanced on entry and then rounds out very nicely without gaining much weight on the palate. Nice, firm acid and sweet tannins underpin the core of smoky, soil touched red cherry and black raspberry fruit on the mid-palate. The oak begins to frame the fruit on the back end before taking a more assertive and equal footing on the long finish, which ends with notes of incense and black cherry. 93pts


2009 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros $14.2% $65


Quite fruity on the nose, with plenty of black cherry/blackberry fruit wrapped up with tar, star anise, espresso bean and a touch of alcohol. Rich and smooth on entry, with real tactile weight on the palate but no sweetness. This is still a bit tight, but shows wonderful balance already. There’s deep, almost boysenberry spicy and black cherry fruit on the palate, which is really quite seamless. Cut with just a hint of mineral on the back end and hints of tea and Asian spices, this releases a big burst of plum and boysenberry fruit on the moderately long finish. Sees a nice, cedary and sweet spice finale, with just a touch of heat showing. 93pts


2006 J Wilkes Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 14.2% $55


Rather earthy and spicy on the nose with some alcohol showing. There’s some caramel oak here over black cherry fruit, with some cola notes and a hint of dried meat. Really smooth on entry, this is polished and refined with a fairly complex attack of sassafras, mint, cola and earth accenting the small black fruited core. A bit spicy on the back end, but nicely balanced with a really light, delicate touch. This is a lovely wine for lovers of tender textured and perfumed wines. Don’t look for power here. The finish is delicate but long, with spice, cola and black currant fruit. 91pts


2009 Hop Kiln HK Bridge Selection Pinot Noir 13.9% $70


Musky and floral on the nose with lots of earth and mineral base notes. This is a bit tight, but shows off flashes of huckleberry and wild strawberry fruit with over soft but obvious sweet and toasty oak notes. Rather light and elegant on entry, this almost floats across the palate with superb balance that is just thrown off by the slight raspy edge of youthful yet ripe tannins. The mid-palate has excellent clarity to the cherry and raspberry fruit, with the oak spice adding some detail on the back end. This finishes bright and dusty, with cranberry, wild cherry fruit and those youthful tannins. This has freshness and elegance with lovely edge of ripeness, eminently drinkable and pure. 91pts


2009 Patz & Hall Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 14.9% $85


Intense on the nose and slightly exotic, with obvious oak undertones covered by slightly jammy, fig-accented aromas of Asian spices, espresso foam, black currant and black cherry fruit. This is soft and slightly dry, ink and blueberry/ blackberry fruited. Not very Pinot-like if rather attractive. There’s some sweet tea accenting the mid-palate, along with some red currant fruit and a fairly heavy load of ripe tannins filling out the mouth. These lead to a mocha, cocoa back end which is followed by cinnamon toast with black cherry jam finish. This is rich and really fairly well polished, with dense, chewy fruit. It lacks what I want from Pinot Noir. Finishes with heat. 91pts


2009 Robert Mondavi Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros, Napa Valley 15% $60

A touch musky on the nose, but there's a lot of well used but obvious mocha, roasted nut, and toast notes here, topping the creamy cherry fruit at the moment. Rich and a little sweet on entry with intense, slightly herbal cactus pad, vegetal black cherry and black currant fruit. The oak is present on the palate, adding a base and lots of spice, but this is really about the fruit. Rich yet fairly taut in the mouth, this has a nice texture which is marred for the moment by the rather heavy load of wood tannin. Finishes with bold black cherry fruit and moderating oak notes. 90pts

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  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,511

    Wow it looks like you had fun tasting the >$50 Pinots. The lowest score was 90. I even think I can find some of these. If I do, your opinion will encourage me to invest the coin.

    Nov 29, 2011 at 7:30 PM

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