Wine Talk

Snooth User: jamessulis

Pinot Noir's

Original post by jamessulis, Aug 17, 2012.

I am a dyed in the wool fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlots, Sangiovese's and a few Chardonnays and Pinot Grigio's. I am trying to widen my spectrum to include Pinot Noir's. I live in the Pacific Northwest so the Pinot Noir's are readily available due to the large varieties from Oregon.

Before I embark on purchasing some different brands I would like to do a bit of a research from some of my Snooth members as to what they may possibly recommend and reasons why. Yesterday I purchased a bottle of 2010 Firesteed Pinot Noir made in Oregon. I have yet to pop the cork to see where my taste direction takes me. I love the flavors and or tastes of Oak, Vanilla, supple tannins, deep berry and sometimes smokey. I am open to suggestions.

Help me on this new venture,

Thanks, Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest


Reply by GregT, Aug 19, 2012.

So Lefty - in honor of you and because, well, what the hell, I opened a Pinot Noir tonight. I looked back at the last thousand wines I opened at home and this is the second PN. The other one was a Hungarian one about a year ago. Wife's not here, so I figured I could get away with it.

It's the 2001 Belvedere Russian River Valley.  I know nothing at all about this wine - it was part of a lot that I picked up and it's been sitting around for a while.

On the nose, it's actually quite inviting. There's a kind of meaty/savory quality that I like quite a bit.  Tasting it however, I find it a little bit sweet. It's medium bodied - doesn't seem heavy but it carries its weight well - kind of like a welterweight instead of a heavyweight if you're a boxing fan.

It's a little bit too cold so while I'm waiting for it to warm up, I'm eating my chicken tikka. I made a mistake with that and didn't flip the skewers in time so this one is a little bit burned, but the meat's OK. It's not all that traditional I guess, since I included coconut and poblanos in the marinade, but it has the essential yogurt/lime/garlic/spice mix.  

So now the wine's warming up and the nose is even better than before.  I really like it and if wine were all about the aromatics, this would be up there.  Palate has some tarry notes - I'm never quite sure if those are from stems or not and I don't know if this was whole-cluster fermented, but it's not a bad quality.

And it's developing what I call, for lack of a better term, a Pinot Noir flavor. It's a grapey kind of flavor, which OK seems obvious but to me specifically means it's hinting at Welch's grape juice, and it's characteristic of PN, although from time to time you find it on other grapes. I don't love it and one reason I'm not in love with PN is precisely because of that quality. I hate Concord grape jelly and anything that's remotely like that is something I avoid.

So all in all, this isn't really a bad wine. Stylistically, it's not overdone, doesn't seem super extracted or over the top in any way, and I think many people would quite like it. In terms of varietal characteristics, it's PN for sure. It has a bitter finish and gets slightly medicinal and even has a slight Pepto-Bismal note for a second in the finish, which, combined with the sweetness, is something I'm not loving. But it's not a bad wine at all and I can see some people liking it quite a bit and it seems like decent wine making, just not my thing.  It's ripe, it's approachable, it probably can age a bit more if those tannins are going to soften but there's not a lot of apparent acidity here (no clue what the actual number is) and it's probably where you want to drink it right now.

If I were scoring this wine, I'd put it in the high 80s because it's a decent version of what it is. I'd like to try some other wines from these folks, because they seem to have a clear viewpoint. But if I were scoring it only for me, well, I'm not a huge fan of PN so I'd pass.

And this post is why I almost never post tasting notes.

Anyhow, if you want a different opinion, I Googled it and found the following.  I guess that guy really loved it.  And based on your stated preferences, you may like it as much as he does. If so, that's very cool. You will have expanded your wine universe. If not, well, you and I are in the same boat.

Reply by jamessulis, Aug 20, 2012.

GregT, you should be a writer on posting your story I felt like I was there along for the meal and a sip of your PN. Very descriptive and if I can find it on the shelves, I surely will grab a bottle and of course I will try and rate it eventhough sometimes I'm short of words.

Here in the state of Washington, PN is a glut on the shelves, the PN section is almost as big as the Cabernet sections. I felt I should PN give it a try and see where it takes me.

Thanks for your story and BTW that 2001 may be hard to find, I may settle for a more current year.



Reply by JonDerry, Aug 20, 2012.

Yes, very nice read Greg...I'm typically a fan of the stream of consciousness styled writing you use here. What jumps out was that it was the 2nd bottle out of the last 1,000 that was PN?

Does that include red Burgundy?  

How do you keep track of what you've opened?

Reply by GregT, Aug 20, 2012.

Includes red Burgundy. Out of the last who knows how many, I've opened at home, the number is zero.  I just don't buy them.  I did open a few dozen at my house, but those were all in the context of tastings, not drinking.

I keep track of what I open at home in a simple Excel spreadsheet. Only what I open at home though - not anything I try elsewhere or in tastings. We've been averaging about 275+ wines a year at home, and that's all I have accessible for searching. All the other notes, including tasting groups, are pen and ink and there are just way too many to transcribe. Not to mention that I don't think it's really fair to the wine - many are sip and spit trade tastings or winery visits.

At the end, the only reason I keep notes is to remind me if I want to buy the wine again or not. For business, it's a little easier actually - a yes or no with some caveats. Like this wine - I probably won't get it for my own consumption, but I can understand it and can sell it because it's not an unappealing wine.  It's just not something that blows my hair back.



Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 22, 2012.

GregT: Wow, 275 wines a year just at home. That's heroic, or it's time for an intervention.  This from a guy who never invites anyone over and says he needs more folks to share wine with. ;-)

Okay, I am waaaaay behind posting to "whatcha drinking tonight," but since Friday last I have had 4 different pinots.  I like it and probably drink a bottle a week.  At that rate, I ain't drinking Echezeaux (although I have two in my basement that it turns out I got for about 90% off and, yes, Lefty, I will open one if you ever come down and visit me).  In fact, I have two sitting under my desk right now that cost under $10. I'm a repeat buyer of them (Orentano, made by the Buoncristiani guys.) Last night I ordered three from Burgundy (Mongeard Mugneret Pernand Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 1er Cru) from  via Invino at just $25 a bottle after a little research.  I like Pinot, but all that aside, I think the anti-Pinot faction is because people poo-poo CA pinots and say they aren't "correct."  Which is, IMO, ridiculous, since Burgundy PN in my experience range from watery, sour "village" wines (basic appellation or one level up) to watery, sour cru wines to cru wines that are manipulated beyond belief, mostly through the use of oak.  This idea that it only works if it's expensive and from a high level cru and great producer is the emperor's new clothes, IMO.  It's an excuse for why Burgundy is so often disappointing and so all over the map.  I've tasted famous burgs that tasted like overoaked crap--Pinot just is a lighter grape and can't handle bad oaking.  On this, I think Parker is right--they still practice dirty technique and wax mystical when the wines just lack quality control.  Don't fall for the Only-Burgundy-can-make-Pinot stuff, or you will chase Pinot until you are convinced like GregT that PN is a cruel joke.  Start with a different reference point.

To be fair, my reference point for PN is not Burgundy, and my experience with the variability of Burgundy tells me that it's not possible to have Burgundy as a single reference point.  I agree that many of the Cali pinots are cherry-coke flavored and that's not what I want--too much extraction, too much wood, too warm a climate or the wrong soils. But there are many really good ones.  I seem to share a palate with OT and would absolutely re-iterate the choice of Scherrer.

I also want to add in a very reasonable alternative, which is Karah Estate Windy Hill Vineyard, a wine I have had for sub-$20.  Londer, from the Anderson Valley is also nice, in the lighter vein.  It retails for $30, but you can find it on sale; I got it for $16 recently.  Also, Calera (yay, Josh Jensen, may he live forever!) makes a basic bottling that's good enough for the Emirates Business Class service (FWIW) and that I really like.  Calera's estate wines are more expensive, but really delicious.

From up your way, I was not that impressed by the Stoller, contrary to NG--I think she likes them tarter than I do, perhaps.  But I do like Amity's basic WV bottling for the price (about $19) and for $35 their SVDs are interesting.  Domaine Serene --which beat DRC in a blind tasting--makes good wines at not crazy prices, albeit not in the daily drinker range, a little richer than the basic Amity.  Domaine Drouhin is owned by a big Burgundy maker, although the one glass I've had didn't blow me away. But hey, that's one glass.  Or maybe it was truly Burgundian.  And maybe I just don't "get" PN because I think "Burgundian" is a silly description and because I like wine that tastes like fruit, spices, leather, tobacco, and mushrooms, not whatever Burgundy is supposed to taste like.

Adam Lee does make wines with higher alcohol than some think appropriate for PN. I think that's silly--the main reason alcohol has been low in Burgundy is because many of the grapes are unripe.  Argue with me if you like, but they would make it riper if they could.  Also, it's just a numbers game. In any case, he consults for Roar, which is my personal favorite (and which trounced a Burg last week in blind tasting at my friend's house); it's just over 14%, it's bigger but not cherry cola flavored, and it's expensive ($50 or so, which is nothing compared to that Echezeaux) so you might want to wait on it.  Oh, it's also impossible to get.  We'll have one at my house alongside that Echezaux.

You like Cab, you like tannin, you like bold.  Okay, see if you like Pinot.  Buy some wines recommended here at the lower end, and if those are okay, see if the more expensive ones move you.  Maybe your palate is changing, and you will find another wine to spend your hard-earned money on.  Then, who knows, Teroldego or some other weird thing.  Don't listen to that curmudgeon GregT. (don't be fooled by the bushbaby picture, he's cranky as a possum.)

Reply by Bordoo, Aug 22, 2012.

Alright, let's drop Escheaux from the conversation, the OP will not be buying any. Let's assume that Romanee-Conti and La Tache are off the table too.

How about a Volnay from Domaine Ampeau?  Or try another Beune producer Rion.  There is in fact drinkable VDP level Pinot available from Guillame.

But indeed reasonably priced Burgundy is not only hard to find, indeed it can be hit or miss.  And if you are drinking CalCabs, they will be a real surprise anyway.

So look to CA or the Northwest.  IMO, generally speaking you will do much better with your $20 in California.  Unfortunately, Burgundy is my reference point.  I just don't know CA wines.

So I have no more advice or suggestions for the OP, but I do have a question for a responder.

Foxall, you say: "Burgundy PN in my experience range from watery, sour "village" wines (basic appellation or one level up) to watery, sour cru wines to cru wines that are manipulated beyond belief, mostly through the use of oak. " but you preface this statement by saying "Last night I ordered three from Burgundy (Mongeard Mugneret Pernand Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 1er Cru)"

Why buy?  (Mugneret is a very well thought of house)

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 22, 2012.

When I first suggested A to Z pinot, it was with OP in mind.  He likes flavors different, IMO, than pinot.  I, personally, am not a big fan of A to Z, but it is from oregon, and Lefty is from the northcoast (he can get it), and it is a bit "heavy" and dark fruit for me, all the better for Lefty.   But it does still retain some elements of the pinot grape, although not done in the particular style that I prefer.  I stick by the recommendation for Lefty.

I opened a Pinot Noir tonight.... On the nose, it's actually quite inviting.

Oh GregT, really?  No wonder your eyes are popping out of your head.

Reply by jamessulis, Aug 22, 2012.

Napagirl, yea, I'm sure that I've seen it on the shelves and I have had their Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and both were quite lovely. Most of the stores here that carry wine do have quite an array of varietals from many countries, some obscure, some local, It seems though that once you've been in a supermarket or liquor store the repeatability is much the same and there were always present the continuous same-o same-o wines from Oregon and Washington

. Since Washington recently went public (kicked the Government out of hard liquor) and supermarkets are now stocking hard liquor they have also expanded their wine vocabulary (possibly due to a different trucking system that spans more availability to different wines). I am now trying to take advantage of this new stock and have noticed things present that were not availaible previously. Shopping for wine has been a new awakening for me, I am more thorough now looking for new things on the shelf. Thanks for the tip on the A to Z I am certainly going to ankle express it to my local supermarket for a try.


PS Thanks to all the incredible info from all who responded to my post, you are all truly amazing wine people and the education, information and opinions you display are a genuine treat. Keep it coming, loving it !!

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 22, 2012.

This might be a pinot you would like, 2009 vine hill winery, Santa Cruz mtns (california):     for only $13.99.  I bought 6 based on the "deal" and KL reviews.  I was a bit disappointed.  It is a bigger pinot, and more purple fruit than red, as suggested.  Nothing I'd throw away, just not my style.

Reply by GregT, Aug 22, 2012.

Fox - I almost choked when I read your post. 

I'm drinking a Teroldego right now. Not much like a PN to my thinking, but why the hell did you pick that particular grape??  It's not like I drink a lot of these but I happened to have it. 

Moser 2009.  Or who really knows because the weird thing is, the vintage is nowhere on the bottle or on the cork. May have been on top of the capsule, but if so, it was stamped in and I can't read it now.  Hmmm.

Nice suggestions for Lefty.  I couldn't have done it because I never could have put myself through the hell you went through to taste all of those! My hat is off to you.

BTW, 275 isn't really that many. It's a bottle a night on average, figuring you're out of town or out for dinner a few times a week. And we have people stay over every so often and figure a bottle a person for those events. You're welcome any time and well, just don't bitch if I don't pour Escheaux.

Or the A-Z that NG will probably have gulped down!

Lefty - I haven't followed the details but can you get wine shipped in? If so, there are a few decent sales around the country right now.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 23, 2012.

I've had a pretty good A to Z, but that was a couple of vintages ago...haven't heard good things about the current release, but it's hard to think of any reliable Pinot's at that price point.

For cheap red burgundy I'd go Louis Latour Marsannay, or for another step up Domaine Faiveley Mercurey "La Framboisiere" Of course, this one can be tough to find. I grabbed three 08' from K&L for just under $25 and was happy.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Aug 24, 2012.

There really aren't too many Pinots from Washington.  Several wineries in the Lake Chelan AVA are making Pinot Noir and I think Tunnel Hill is one of the better examples and at somewhere in the $25 range.

The prices for Pinot make it hard to explore and learn.  I really had the hit and (mostly) miss experience when trying to buy at less than $20 a bottle.  The 20-35 range for Oregon opens up tons of opportunity for good Pinot Noir.

Lefty - you should to go Portland and check out the Portland Urban Wineries.  Vincent, Helioterra and Grochau are all making excellent wines.  Anam Cara and Amalie Robert are also nice.  I think you would like Rex Hill too, but that is getting a bit more pricey.

Also, check out Pinot from Carneros in California.  I think that Carneros (and possibly Anderson Valley) will match up with the style of wines you enjoy.  Costco has a Pinot Noir from Carneros from time to time for 10 bucks that is worth checking out.

Just get ready to break the bank.  Pinot is fickle (and pricey!).


Reply by jamessulis, Aug 24, 2012.

Lucha Vino,

Thanks for the tip on the wine places in Portland, I'm 15 minutes away from Portland. I'm familiar with Rex Hill, they're not to far from Duck Pond Cellars. Oregon is big with their Pinot Noir's and also with their many Pinot Gris along with some fine Chards. Sometimes you don't know what's in your own neighborhood and it takes a Snoother to point it out, thanks.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 28, 2012.

Bordoo, to answer your question, Why buy?

1) I'm an eternal optimist and a masochist. The perfect Burgundy consumer, really, except that I'm also honest enough to say that I've bought Burgundy that I didn't like and don't think it's an anomaly.

2) "Mugneret is a very well thought of house." You answered your own question.  I have had the occasional good Burgundy, I did my homework, and $25 a bottle was totally worth the risk.

GregT: I just picked Teroldego because it's pretty obscure, but something I have had somewhat recently--like within the year.  I could have picked Tannat or Lagrein, but I think I used Lagrein somewhere already.  Funny coincidence. 

So this weekend (August 25) I went to a party in Bolinas, a town that doesn't want you to find it and home to Sean Thackrey, a winemaker of some repute/infamy.  (Along with Scholium, he probably makes the most outre wines in Cal.)  I met a guy who makes wine for Furthermore, a pinot specialist here that operates out of a borrowed facility with purchased grapes.  Definitely more than a hobby, less than a living.  I asked about reference points and, except for two things--his inspiration is Oregon and he likes Stoller more than I do--he said almost exactly what I did above.  He also told me that a spike in heat caused one of his vineyard sources in 2010 to zoom up in sugar ripeness, creating wines that were almost Zin-like and needed "intervention," in the form of de-alcoholizing via reverse osmosis and blending in something from another vineyard that took the intensity down.  That might be a place for Lefty to start, but it won't tell him if he likes Zin. 

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 28, 2012.

I love Sean, and I love Stoller... maybe that's all anyone needs to know about me :-)

Reply by outthere, Aug 28, 2012.

Sean is a interesting character for sure.

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 29, 2012.

Sean is a interesting character for sure

Yes, and knows how to make wine, thank you very much!!  :-) :-)


Reply by napagirl68, Aug 29, 2012.

Stoller is one of my top 5 fav oregon pinot makers...

Reply by redpoz, Oct 8, 2012.

Personally, I love Pinot Noir.

Unluckily, my knowledge is limited to the North Italian producers... to me, the best still are:

- Franz Haas (Trentino Alto-Adige)

- Alois Laeger (Trentino Alto-Adige)

- Agathe Bursin (Alsace)


Reply by zufrieden, Oct 8, 2012.

I have not been following this thread carefully, but I would just like to make a final note or two - especially on the cost of Burgundian wine.  Even if the expression of PN in that magical region is to be preferred (and that is a matter of taste), I agree that the cost is, in general, not worth the hedonic returns.  I am optimistic that cooler climates (Southern Canada, Northern USA, South Island, NZ, Tasmania) will produce unique but burgundian-inspired PN products that might meet the requirements of both budget and palate. 

Some Oregon examples already meet the demand for elegance and style (Drouhin, Panther Creek) but not for price; the attraction to lucre in that region is pretty robust in my experience.  In other words, I do not find these examples of PN cheap or particularly attractive from the standpoint of quality to price ratios. That causes me a problem when discussing and recommending wines to friends who either have no desire to spend the necessary (extra) dollars or lack the resources altogether for such purchases.

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