Pinot Noir Cage Match ... Ack!! The Ringer Won!

Arterra, Del Mar Marriott

Tasted September 18, 2008 by rstark with 525 views


Eight of us got together at Arterra in Del Mar to drink high-end Pinot, all priced $80-$150. The tasting was single-blind, except for the ringer which I threw in at the last minute. Plans were that whoever brought WOTN would get their dinner paid for by the others, but to everyone's surprise, the ringer won by a landslide!

Flight 1 (7 notes)

2006 Martinelli Pinot Noir Bella Vigna USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
93 points
I put this wine in as the ringer at a single-blind pinot tasting against Sea Smoke, WS, Rochioli .... and it won! Martinelli has a rep for making high alcohol fruit bombs, but this was nicely balanced. Great acidity and a long earth/fruit blend finish.
2004 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Southing USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
91 points
Lots of oak on nose. Lack of balance. Yummy dark plummy fruit, but too big and round, not indicative of Pinot. Lived up to the negative rap on this wine. Not my style at all.
2005 Kistler Pinot Noir Cuvée Catherine USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
92 points
Nice nose, color, definite hints of high-pedigree fruit, but too shut-down to really show its stuff. Against 7 comparable pinots, the group voted it #2.
2004 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
91 points
Some oak on nose. Decent bing cherry fruit but really lacking structure. Does not portend well for this young wine. No 1st or 2nd place votes for this wine out of 7 comparable pinots
2004 Littorai Pinot Noir One Acre USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
90 points
Almost nonexistent nose. Not enough acidity. Pleasant dark cherry fruit, but light, somewhat flat finish.
2005 Etude Pinot Noir Heirloom USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
87 points
Nose was lacking, fruit was lacking, no finish. Came in dead last out of 7 Pinots with no votes for first or second place.
1999 J. Rochioli Pinot Noir West Block USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
93 points
Wonderful nose of truffles and dark fruit. Great balance of fruit, acid, earth. Great long finish. Personal #2 finisher of tasting against 7 comparable pinots.


It's embarrassing that the ringer won, however, it is nice to know that there is a $40 Pinot that can hold it’s own against this stellar lineup. Several of us attributed it to the fact that 2006 is an austere year, causing the Martinelli, a high-alcohol (15.6%) (!!), fruit-forward wine to actually have a better blend of acidity and balance than in most years. At least that’s our rationalization for spending so much on these trophies when it turns out we like the cheaper stuff better.

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