Sandy & Michael's, Los Altos, California
Tasted Monday, July 19, 2010 by Richard Jennings with 500 views
Sandy, Michael and many of their friends are predominantly Cabernet lovers, but they're open to Pinot Noir and wanted to learn more about different styles of domestic Pinot and to get some pointers on what they should be looking for in shopping for Pinot. Sandy and Michael hosted us, and we tasted through our set of 10 Pinots over appetizers before settling in for salad and some delicious salmon burgers with a glass of our favorite Pinot.
Based on what we all brought, I divided our wines into two flights based on anticipated ripeness levels, figuring it was better to start with the riper, more fruit forward ones, and then to follow with the ones likely to have higher acidities. My division, putting the Santa Lucia Highlands and Russian River Pinots in the riper flight, was accurate as far as those went, but off when it came to our '01 Thomas Fogarty from the Santa Cruz Mountains, which was higher in acidity than other vintages of Fogarty I've tried. Those I picked for the higher acid flight--from producers known for picking earlier for higher acidities, and from Oregon--all properly fit that flight.
I learned that our Cab lovers were looking for fruit, and appreciated body and structure in their Pinots. A couple of them found that they liked the younger wines better, and weren't big fans of the secondary and tertiary characteristics of our older Pinots. I can get pretty jaded about Pinot, as I taste so much of it, and hang out with a lot of Burgophiles, so it was educational to get a fresh read on these wines from wine lovers who don't drink that much Pinot. I think most of them will be adding Pinot to their shopping list, and looking for more from Testarossa, Pisoni, Copain and Rhys.
For more comments about particular wines, and how well our Cabernet lovers liked them, see below.
I tend not to be a fan of the riper style of Pinot in most cases, but I make an exception for the pure and usually very structured Pisonis. The '05 Pisoni is still not quite fully open for business--I'd give it another couple of years--but was full bodied and structured, which most of our Cab lovers seemed to like. The gang was also appreciative of the '08 Paraiso as being a good value at $20. I was picking up a touch of smoke on it, but I agreed it was a heck of a buy at that price point, there being so few good Cali Pinots under $30. Those who liked fruit forward Cabs also liked the fruit forward Testarossa. The Fogarty, with a touch of brett and camphor on the nose and the palate, was much less popular with this crowd. The Sonnet was pretty typical for Russian River, exhibiting the cola notes so distinctive of the area.
This flight was more my wheelhouse, and I'd brought a couple of them. I was interested to see how they fared with our Cab fans. I think the Copain was the group's favorite, along with the '06 Calera Reed, and both were my favorites of the flight. The '07 Copain had the fruit some were looking for, but also good structure and acidity. The '07 Rhys Alpine and '97 Calera Reed had remarkably similar flavor profiles. The '06 Serene was quite fruit forward for Oregon Pinot, but also had good balance and velvety texture. All in all, a very strong flight.