It was another great party at Pinotfest 2011 upstairs from the Farallon restaurant in San Francisco this past Saturday. A couple hundred guests partook of over 300 different pinot noirs on offer. For once a wine event used properly shaped glassware for tasting. None of those horrible supersize-me balloon or cognac glass shapes. Thank you, thank you. I hope this is a trend.
A Sexy Wine?
Although pinot noir may be a sexy wine, even as the crowd got buzzed, no one seemed to shed any clothes. Schucks, no deshabille . Although I definitely saw some tipsy old men flirting with my wife.
My Pinot Noir Finds
This California Wine Fan got to try pinot noir from several wineries that are new to me. But alas, I only had the stamina to slurp my way through half of the wineries present. I’m sure I missed a lot of other fine wine. Some stand-outs:
- Hendry, 2008 Napa Valley
- Londer Vineyards, 2009 Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley
- J Vineyards and Winery, 2008 Nicole’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
- Brittan, 2008 Gestalt Block, Willamette Valley
- Tendril, 2009 Tendril, Willamette Valley
- Drake, 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard, Entropy
- Soliste 2008 Sonatera Vineyard T Block, Sonoma Coast AND the 2008 L’Esperance, Sonoma Coast
- Siduri, 2010 Hirsch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
- Bonaccorsi, 2008 Melvill Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills
- Byron, 2009 Neilson Vineyard
- Etude, 2008 Heirloom Estate Grown, Carneros
- Calera, 2009 deVilliers, Mt. Harlan (Central Coast)
Chat with the Wine-makers
As a long time customer of Siduri, I was delighted to be able to meet owner-winemaker Adam LeeAs usual it was entertaining to chat with winery marketing directors, owners, and winemakers.
As a long time customer (and fan) of Siduri, I was delighted to be able to meet owner-winemaker Adam Lee (see photos.)
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The the two French “pirates” running Solstice were tres amusant indeed (see photos.)
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On my July trip to the Willamette Vally, I didn’t manage to visit reknown Beaux Freres, but I got to taste them here at Pinotfest 2011 at last! (see photos)
The slide show is a mix of crowd, winery folk , ambience, and sexy wine label shots. The wine photos included were all to my taste. Some wine photos didn’t turn out. I didn’t have the stamina to taste all the wines ; I know I missed out on a lot of other good ones.
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A Few Notables
Several wines stood out from even the best offered. Byron’s Nielson Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) 2009 ($34) was easily the value of the show. I rated it 4 corks, 92 points. Cassis and truffle aromas, followed by a dusty honey flavor and a long, long, complex finish. Highly recommended.
Drake Wines was new to me, but their 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard – H Block ($55) was lovely. Aromas of cassis with just a hint of earth, followed by black currant flavors. Expensive, but perhaps worth it. 4 corks, 90 points. (The Drake website lists their 2008, so my notes may have been wrong about the vintage.)
J Vineyards has been around for many years. We enjoy the occasional bottle of their sparkling wine. But they’ve gotten their act together in the pinot market with the release of their 2008 Nicole’s Vineyard Russian River Valley ($50). Cherries, peaches, and rose petals on the nose, followed by ripe cherries and a long finish with just a hint of butterscotch. 4 corks, 90 points.
Also new to me was Londer Vineyards up in the Anderson Valley. Don’t be fooled by their website’s rustic look. These folks know how to handle pinot. Their 2009 Ferrington Vineyard ($50) has strawberry and cocoa aromas with black currant flavors. There wasn’t much of a finish, but the wine is delicious. 4 corks, 90 points.
Siduri has long been one of our favorites. Hirsch Vineyard 2010 ($55 more or less, see note at the end of this paragraph) is back for a second straight year after missing the 2008 vintage because of smoke problems in the Anderson Valley. Characteristic blackberry aromas followed by even more blackberry flavors and a long finish. Notes of forest floor creep in adding to the complexity. 4 corks, 92 points. (The 2010 release is not yet on their website, but you can read about the 2009 version if you like.) Siduri apparently no longer sells wine directly through their website. But you can join their mailing list there which means you’ll get one or two e-mails a month with the latest offering. If there’s something you want, don’t hesitate because they sell out fast.
On our Oregon road trip last summer we missed Tendril Wine Cellars. Big mistake. Their 2009 TightRope Willamette Valley ($64) was quite nice. Cassis and mineral aromas followed by black currant flavors and mocha notes. Needs a few years to develop, but has real potential. Currently rated 3 corks, 86 points, but in a couple of years it will most likely acquire that valuable fourth cork.
The French are finally learning from Tablas Creek whose co-owners Jean Pierre and François Perrin partnered with Robert Haas to partly escape the stultifying French regulatory system. The latest arrival is Soliste, owned and operated by Claude Koeberle and Donald Plumley (who call themselves pirate 1 and pirate 2, even though I know I am the true pirate 1). Their 2009 Soliste Pinot Noir L’Espérance Vineyard, Sonoma Coast ($75) is already sold out. Too bad — it rates 4 corks, 90 points. Fig and truffle aromas with notes of oak, a bit of earthiness, and a hint of acid. If you can find this, give it a few years before you pop the cork.
Bottom Line: Worth the Benjamins
Pinotfest 2011 was a smashing success. The 300 wines were superb. The food at Pinotfest 2011 was, as usual, upscale — wait staff passed through the rooms with trays of hot and cold appetizers — sizzling seafood croquettes, sliders, blue cheese on endive leaves. The cheese, bread and fruit boards were well-laden. I am one happy customer. Highly recommended and well worth the Benjamin entry fee.