Pinot Noir - November 2010

Top 12 wines great for Thanksgiving


Pinot Noir is an easy go-to wine for Thanksgiving, but with so many styles on the market can every one really be an ideal match? That, of course, is a very personal decision, and while I’ve tasted three dozen or so Pinot for this review -- and yes, they are almost all West Coast versions -- I can’t say that I think Pinot is the universal solution.

What I can happily say is that I found many wines that I really enjoyed. I’m going to be listing my favorites from this tasting and I want you to know that I enjoyed all of these wines. In fact, allow me to go so far as to say I enjoyed these wines the most out of the entire line-up, even though this is not simply the highest-rated wines. Simply put, they are the wines I enjoyed the most.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple: these are all wines made in a style that works for me. I’m sure others will disagree. At least I hope so, since this is not the be all and end all in wine recommendations, but each and every one of these wines delivers pleasure. And, if you ask me, that’s what wine appreciation is all about.

2007 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Laurene

Slightly nutty on the nose with a hint of roasted herbs, sweet thyme, lavender, dirt and even a seductively soft insinuation of cinnamon all embedded in crushed red fruits. On entry this is light and notably dry, yet the immediate aromatic intensity in the mouth is just the first hint of the fine richness of flavor exhibited on the mid-palate. All the structural elements are finely balanced and integrated, giving this an early impression of softness. The wine offers up wonderful, pure, lightly brambly red berry fruits with such a silky texture that it almost floats through the mouth. The finish sees this grow in size and intensity as the true depth and breadth of this wine are revealed. 93pts

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2007 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Akiko’s Cuvée 14.2%

Seared cherry fruit, beetroot, parsnip and lightly toasted wood greets the nose, to be joined by a touch of persimmon and some dried floral tones. This is smooth as silk and elegant on entry, though by no means meek. It delivers vivid, bright, expressive flavors of wild cherry framed with soft, well-judged notes of spice, herbs, and a gentle mineral backdrop. The balance is excellent: supple yet with a firm spine that offers nice cut on the backend and onto the long, succulently fruity finish. With time the mid-palate gains a nice aromatic quality, adding a touch of violet pastille to the array of floral notes, and the flavors gain the quality of sweet fruit without an impression of sweetness. There’s a touch of oak that emerges on the finish but it only adds to the complexity. This is singing today. 93pts

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2007 Soter Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir Mineral Springs Ranch Estate

Meaty at first on the nose, with a touch of cherry followed by note of wild flowers, mineral water and a hint of honeycomb. On entry this reveals stunningly pure hard candy blackberry fruit with real power and assertive yet integrated acids. The tannins are nicely ripe and help fill out the mid-palate, though the wood does become a bit obvious with time. The fruit here is very ripe but offers superb purity and brilliant transparency. The finish is long and ends with another pop of wood spice and tannin. 93pts

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2008 Twomey Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 13.4%

Subdued on the nose, with a soft blackberry note topped by a light, dried citrus zest tone and gentle, smoky oak notes.  Rather tense on entry and with fairly assertive acids, though the fruit fairly quickly conceals most of the acidity. The tannins are small and fairly finely textured but not so polished as to render this with textural contrast. The mouthfeel is honest and fresh, and the mid-palate shows nice cherry fruit with a hint of red plum, before turning slightly spicy with herbal top notes and a creamy, oak-inflected element that drives the subtle yet long finish. This is a somewhat understated wine, but for those who favor subtlety over power and enjoy   an elegant Pinot this is a solid choice. 93pts

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2008 Lange Winery Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Lange Estate Vineyard

Wow, this is aromatically intense and complex with huge spice notes joined by briary pipe notes, deep floral sweetness, blueberry tobacco leaf, black tea, earth and spice -- it just keeps growing in the glass. Big on entry with huge fruit, but still remaining very fresh with lots of soft tannins contributing some weight yet this remains crisp and transparent. There’s a slight pomegranate seed edge to the mid-palate, which adds nice contrast to the gorgeous red fruits that are firm and focused from start to finish here. This tightens up nicely on the long finish and ends with layered notes of spice, earth and pure, sweet fruit. 93pts

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2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills 14.5%

Nicely spicy and complex on the nose, with some wood spice, hints of roasted peach, intense floral tones, some fine nuanced herbal edges and fresh, spicy red berry scents.  This is light, fresh and bright in the mouth with wonderful balance and while it’s a bit fruity for some palates it’s really pure and poised. The tannins creep in towards the back but remain well integrated, if tactile, and the oak adds some chocolate tones to the pure, vivid red cherry fruit, which gains an orange rind note on the moderately long, lightly smoky finish. This is just fantastic Pinot, not the most complex but with a brilliant combination of fruit, structure and purity. 92pts

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  • Snooth User: ewine19
    502923 13

    REALLY wish there was a list at the beginning or end of these articles so I could just copy, paste, print and bring it to my wine shop!

    Nov 17, 2010 at 12:55 PM

  • Snooth User: jeffpd
    55803 2

    Boy, I agree, that would be nice!

    Nov 17, 2010 at 3:19 PM

  • Snooth User: jeffpd
    55803 2

    2007 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Laurene
    2007 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Akiko’s Cuvée
    2007 Soter Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir Mineral Springs Ranch Estate
    2008 Twomey Santa Barbara Pinot Noir
    2008 Lange Winery Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Lange Estate Vineyard
    2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
    2007 Belle Pente Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir Estate Reserve
    2006 Vergari Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard
    2009 Valley of the Moon Carneros Pinot Noir
    2007 Gainey Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
    2008 Ponzi Tavola Willamette Pinot Noir Tavola
    2007 Harvest Moon Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

    Nov 17, 2010 at 3:25 PM

  • Snooth User: ewine19
    502923 13

    What an angel!

    Nov 17, 2010 at 3:29 PM

  • Yup, I'm one of these "list" guys too. Thanks for the list, and for your tireless dedication to bringing us wonderful information about the world of wine. Now if you could only get away from having to taste these wines yourself - such drudgery, sacrifice, and unrelenting assault on the nose and tongue cannot be helped, I suppose, but as the saying goes, somebody' got to do it. I'm available to help.

    Nov 17, 2010 at 4:32 PM

  • Snooth User: swinnea
    483269 16

    Thanks Jeff!

    Nov 17, 2010 at 4:36 PM

  • yes! finally - a list! can it be a standard for future articles??

    Nov 17, 2010 at 4:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Catherine Gin
    Hand of Snooth
    592568 297

    Hi everyone, we're hearing you... and we're here to help! We've put together a one-page article of this slideshow, which includes all the tasting notes for the Pinots that Greg tasted (an impressive 44). You can find it at Or go to the Articles menu and you'll see the link to Pinot Noir Review.

    @ewine19 No need to copy and paste - the one-page review is printer- and wine shop-friendly. Enjoy.

    @jeffpd Thanks for putting together your list and the help!

    @letomasetti Yep, we're trying to put together a full-page article for many of our slideshows, and just started doing this a few days ago. You can usually click through to the last slide of the slideshow to find the link to the article. (A fast way to do this is to click the far right slide until you reach the end.)

    Nov 17, 2010 at 7:31 PM

  • Hmmm - purely as a European, you understand, but over this side of the pond we do rather rate Burgundies when it comes to Pinot Noir...

    Nov 18, 2010 at 4:06 AM

  • Agree with the last comment. And what about New Zealand, some of the finest New World Pinots in the world?

    Nov 18, 2010 at 4:31 AM

  • I agree totally with the spirit of the article that PN is the wine for a traditional turkey meal. Growing up in England that would be Christmas, and it was always a Burgundy. No other wine does better despite what is written. While nothing will ever top the best of the Burgundians, I think that the usually slightly riper American style may work better with the sweeter elements of the meal; and certainly for the price.

    Nov 18, 2010 at 9:03 AM

  • Snooth User: mcarbin
    508074 7

    for a list to print -- go to the Pinot Noir Review slide and click on the link to view it as one page. You can print it in that format. A little verbose but serves your purpose...

    Nov 18, 2010 at 10:25 AM

  • Snooth User: lanbar
    285790 5

    How about an afordable PN, say $10

    Nov 20, 2010 at 10:50 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 236,762

    Hi Lan, here is a recent tasting of affordable Pinots

    Nov 20, 2010 at 2:09 PM

  • Want to try a VERY SPECIAL Pinot? Try Talisman out of Sonoma. They're making wine from a variety of select acres from around the coastel regions in California that is "cult like". I was sold at first taste! Red Dog, Hawk Hill, Thorn Ridge are some of our favorites. Not the least expensive juice out there however at $49.00 a bottle, but certainly worth it.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all fellow wine lovers.

    Ross Baxter - Soldotna Alaska

    Nov 22, 2010 at 3:34 PM

  • Snooth User: ecowper
    152156 191

    The Alma Rosa Sta Rita Pinot Noir is really pretty fantastic. My wife and I first discovered Alma Rosa on our honeymoon, fell in love with the wine and the location and joined the club. I can't recommend it enough if you like Santa Barbara Pinots.

    Nov 22, 2010 at 4:05 PM

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