Pinot Noir Fans

A special article for you!


We're at it again with our Global Tasting Initiative. This time around, and just in time for Thanksgiving, we're trying Pinot Noir. We want to know which wine you recommend! We've been tasting Pinots here for a week in preparation of Thursday's holiday, and have found winning wines at many price points. While you generally get a better wine by spending more, that isn't always the case, and my tasting notes prove it, to a point.

Yes, the best wines do often cost more, but you can get a lot of value at lower price points. Often, those wines  give the big guns a run for their money. So take a look at my favorite wines and come share yours in the Snooth forum.

I've compiled my top ten list of Thanksgiving Day Pinot Noir wines for you. These may not be the best or most complex wines that I've tasted, but for Thanksgiving you probably don't really want that. Instead, you need some power and depth to cut through all the rich and flavorful foods, and these wines do just that. My top two wines are also great values!

Top 10 Pinot for Thanksgiving Day

2009 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mtns $25

A little dark and musky. Great liquory black cherry fruit, a hint of cola and some well-integrated wood spice are presented with surprising freshness on the nose. This is taut and sinewy, almost muscular in the mouth. The tension here is very attractive. While this is a big wine, its bright and clear black raspberry and cherry fruit is well restrained by the fine tannins and supporting acids. There’s some wood spice on the back end that adds a really nice sweetening top note to the fruit, which takes a medicinal turn. That might be off putting to some, but the fruit comes back with excellent clarity and length on the long, slightly chewy yet fresh finish. This can stand some age. There is a little heat here, but there’s so much going on, including some lovely developing inner mouth perfumes, that I can handle the heat. 92pts

2009 Francis Coppola Director’s Cut Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast $20

This is fresh and clean on the nose with a slight balsamic edge to the coffee toned black raspberry fruit. Sweet top notes of licorice and dried orange peel. This is round yet focused on entry, with a wonderfully raspberry fruit tone framed with soft tannins and lightly toasted oak notes. The balance here is really quite fine, and while this is a touch simple, it delivers really nice, pure and intense raspberry fruit. This turns a bit more cherry on the back end and gains some light herbal/floral notes on the moderately long, slightly oaky finish. This is not fancy, but is quite attractive and will appeal to a very broad spectrum of palates. 90pts

2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 14.5% $38

Intense and clean on the nose with wonderful, fresh mixed berry notes dusted with some middle eastern spices and topped with fine sage notes.  Really deceptive in the mouth. This enters with almost no mass but is actually quite rich. The fruit is subdued but deep, with layers of dark berry fruit, a hint of plum skin and integrated oak notes driving toward the finish. This strikes me as just a bit young, but it has an inner intensity that makes this already appealing. Great persistence to the black berry and black cherry fruit on the long finish. The tannins threaten to become obvious, yet never rise above their fruit driven cover.  93pts

2008 Methven Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley OR 14.5% $40

Tight on the nose with an apparent but not covering note of wood. There’s a lot of spice here which slowly rises in the glass, but it is accompanied by plenty of minty, slightly medicinal black cherry fruit. This is seamless in the mouth, with tannins that remain youthful, bright acids and a fresh, supple framework supporting clean black berry, black currant fruit which shows a phenomenal level of freshness and intensity. This is sleek and tense, and that presence in the mouth extends over the long, layered finish. There’s a fair amount of oak here sexing this up, but the underlying wine is very strong. 93pts

2009 Freeman Pinot Noir Russian River Valley CA 14.2% $41

This just smells gorgeous, all classically Pinot-y fruit. A little musk, some lovely damp forest floor notes, fresh cherries and raspberries, some smoke, a hint of cola and a gentle lashing of softly ashy, charry wood. Rich and soft on entry, this has gentle tannins with excellent acidity that add wonderful vibrance to the pure, elegant dark cherry fruit. There’s a touch of vanilla on the back end here, but it just adds another nuance to the lovely finish. Really has some strong cherry fruit on the finish with a touch of espresso foam. 92pts

2009 Dobbes Family Skipper’s Cuvee Pinot Noir Rogue Valley Oregon 14.5% $42

Very fruity and ripe on the nose, with sweet candy notes that join sweet tea, wild berry fruit, sage, a hint of vanilla, some cola and spice cake notes. Rich and almost dense on entry with great intensity of flavor. There’s that spice cake and dried fruit early on the entry, then the acids kick in and freshen the fruit on the palate. The acid actually brings out the sweetness of the fruit, which is a touch exotic. A hint of pomegranate accents the cherry fruit, leading to a really intense, richly flavored fruit and spice coated finish. Pretty big wine, lots of extract here, but it’s not over-wrought, just intense. 92pts

2009 Willamette Valley Vnyds Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley OR 14.5% $45

Nice clear cherry fruit accented by a bit of licorice, a base of baking spice and earth, a little hint of salumi cellar and a big floral top note. There’s really nice richness up front here, not sweet or heavy, just rich. Excellent depth of black cherry flavor quickly turns rather aromatic in the mouth. The tannins are a touch youthful, adding some texture. The acid is well integrated, lending this further density that drives a succulent, sour berry fruit finish, which pushes a nice edge of wood spice ahead of it. 92pts

2009 Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir Napa Valley 14.5% $33

This is dark and earthy on the nose with noticeable chocolate oak spice and vanilla. These are not overwhelming and allow the grapefruit, blueberry and blackberry fruit to emerge. Really very fine on entry, with good weight giving this a superbly supple mouthfeel but very little baby fat. On the palate, there are mineral and gentle oak inflected accents to the bright and stemmily aromatic black cherry and beetroot fruit flavors. The finish shows nice richness and there is a sweetness that emerges to balance the mineral and acid notes. Really nicely done, a complete and very well balanced California Pinot Noir. A bit chunky but not thick, I really like this. 92pts

2010 Meiomi Pinot Noir Monterey County 57% Santa Barbara County 23% Sonoma County 20% 13.8%ABV $20

Lots of dark fruit on the nose with chocolaty oak and herbal notes adding some detail. With air, the oak really pops here adding sweet, toasted spice notes and a cedary edge. This is very intense stuff, with slightly thick, rich dark berry fruit drenched in chocolate and spicy oak. The texture is actually rather restrained in some ways, but this is simply explosively fruity. The finish is a bit short and more about oak than fruit, but is rather clean and fresh, perhaps showing a touch of heat. Totally not my style of wine, but I can see people absolutely loving this. 89pts

2009 Cline Cool Climate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 14.5% $14

This is pretty frankly oaky on the nose, with smoke and asphalt tones covering sweet graham cracker and herb. A bit fat on entry with a round and lush, soft leading edge and extracted tannins. This is rather large scaled with indistinct yet sweet dark berry and plum fruit topped with vanilla. The finish shows better clarity, though is still oaky. The texture lightens considerably and the fruit reddens, lingering in the mouth with a fine cherry note.  A bit sweet and simple, but this offers a lot for the price and competes well with wines costing more.  87pts

Recommended Pinot Noirs

Oregon $35-$45 

California $35-$45

Pinot Noir $25-$35

Pinot Noir $25

Pinot Noir $20

Pinot Noir $15

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