Top 5 Domestic Pinot Noir Wines

It's all about distinction


It takes a lot for a Pinot Noir to stand out to me. There’s just too much wine out there that is good and fine but indistinct, so that’s what I look for in my Pinot: distinction.

So what is distinction? I know it when I taste it! It can be a variety of things, like the airiness of the Williamette Valley Vineyards wines or the depth of the Methven. All of these wines may share a certain style, but as I look back on 2011, these are the Pinots that stand out to me as wines I would most like to revisit.

Photo courtesy ZagatBuzz via Flickr/CC

2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir

Nice clear cherry fruit accented by a bit of licorice and a base of baking spice, earth and 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 with excellent depth of black cherry flavor that quickly turns rather aromatic in the mouth. The tannins are a touch youthful in the mouth, adding some texture and the acid 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

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2008 Methven Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve

Tight on the nose with an apparent but not covering note of wood. There’s a lot of spice here, slowly rising 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 the clean black berry, black currant fruit that 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

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2008 Floodgate Pinot Noir West Block

This is a lightly smoky but with plenty of cola, soil and gently leafy floral almost eucalyptus character to add 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

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2008 La Follette Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard 15.1% $35


Perfumed on the nose with crisp mineral notes, wild cherry, flowers and camphor. Really lovely mineral expression on the nose with red floral tones and a touch of leather and toast, adding complexity. Angular and faceted in the mouth with excellent tension. This remains perfumed in the mouth with nice density, yet the wine remains transparent and expressive with wild raspberry fruit that extends through the long mineral, earth and spice-toned finish. 93pts

2009 Topel Pinot Noir

This is a touch light on the nose but shows some fleshy fruit, sweet earth, perhaps a touch of licorice and some vague green tea/herb notes. Gains some nice cranberry and raspberry notes with air. This is light fresh and zippy with really good tension in the mouth and fine if a touch simple, red fruit. I really like the texture here though, it's got just enough tannin to add some detail but remains rather light and transparent with a fine blend of earth and red fruit extending over the moderately long, lightly spicy finish. The wood treatment here is very discrete leaving this elegant, fresh and pure. The more air this gets the more expressive this becomes and the finish really flips a switch adding layers of aromatic fruit. This is excellent Pinot for the more is not more crowd. Elegant. 92pts

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