Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Sean and Nicole Minor Pinot Shootout at the ARtisan Corral

OK, we apologize to John Sturges.

James and Christine were kind enough to invite us to this event. They know us too well. We could not resist a semi-blind tasting of ten pinots. While we did badly on the winery identification, the lineup was impressive. And we were surprised at our top three. Our favorite was Sean Minor’s 2013 Carneros ($15, MAJOR BARGAIN). We have consumed many bottles of Mr. Minor’s wines over the years.  Second and third places are actually a tie between Talbott’s 2012 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($35) and Sojourn’s 2013 Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($50).  (All prices are single bottle as quoted by Artisan on July 22, 2016.)

But you will not go wrong with any of these wines. Take a look at our tasting notes.   If you visit the Artisan website you can find other reviews.

The Top Three

Our top three were wines from Sean Minor, Talbott, and Sojourn Cellars. We were not surprised by Sean Minor. Talbott and Sojourn were somewhat less plausible. While we have enjoyed wines from both, we did not expect them to show up in our top three.

Sean Minor

Sean Minor, Nicole Minor and Family Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Sean Minor, Nicole Minor and Family

make delicious, quality wines that continually exceed your expectations.

Sean and Nicole Minor started their winery in 2005. Their explicit goal is to →

Over the years we have neglected this fine winery. The Fess Parker winery’s description of their Parker Station pinot noir said it best:

The best pinot noir you can afford to drink every day.

Sean’s 2013 Carneros ($15) is medium-bodied with rich aromas of dark berry, plum, leather, and tobacco . The palate features plum and blackberry flavors with earthy and sweet oak notes throughout the mid-palate. The spicy finish lingers on the palate with silky round tannins.


Robb Talbott at Work Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Robb Talbott at Work

We’ve enjoyed Talbott wines over the years. We like their wines (especially their Kali Hart chardonnay), but have found them to vary quite a bit from vintage to vintage. But their 2012 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($35) knocked our socks off.

Aromas of black cherry and blackberry with a hint of smoke, followed by sweet blackberry flavors with nuances of spice orange zest. Smooth tannins and spice lead to a wonderful long finish.

Notably, Talbott’s operations are located in the town of Carmel Valley. We’ve stayed there on several occasions and enjoy the semi-rural, unhurried pace.

Sojourn Cellars

Sojourn's Chief Dog Ziggy Pinot Shootout at the Artisn Corral

Sojourn’s Chief Dog Ziggy

We’ve tasted Sojourn’s pinots many times and found them too big for our palates. But we were surprised by their 2013 Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($50). Scents of cranberries and cherries lead to a serious fruit bomb. Save this one for a special steak.

But we have written about Sojourn before.  Ziggy, chief winery dog, is famous for her training to detect TCA in oak barrel staves.  For the whole story, click here.

For those a bit rusty on their wine chemistry, here’s part of the Wikipedia entry on TCA:

2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) is a chemical compound that is a chlorinated derivative of anisole. TCA is a fungal metabolite of 2,4,6-trichlorophenol, which is used as a fungicide. It can be found in minute traces on packaging materials stored in the presence of fiberboard treated with trichlorophenol.

TCA is the chemical primarily responsible for cork taint in wines. TCA has also been implicated as a major component of the “Rio defect” in coffees from Central and South America, which refers to a taste described as medicinal, phenolic, or iodine-like.

The Complete Lineup

In the order we tasted them, here they are.

Domaine Serene ‘‘Yamhill Cuvee” 2011 Willamette Valley ($40). Fruit, fruit, fruit, a real fruit bomb.

Domaine Serene Vineyard Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Domaine Serene Vineyard

New Zealand was well represented by Escarpment ”Te Rehua” 2013 Martinborough, New Zealand $60). Dark, brooding, mineral nose, herbs, nuts, chocolate on the palate. A note of honeysuckle adds to a complex palate.

Milo McKenna, Top Dog at Escarpment Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Milo McKenna, Top Dog at Escarpment

From the Escarpment website:

Escarpment Vineyard was established in 1998 as a joint business venture between Robert & Mem Kirby (of Australia’s Village Roadshow) and Larry & Sue McKenna. Collectively, these four directors bring to Escarpment a world of experience, skill and understanding to the nurturing and making of fine, deliciously sublime wine.

Talbott 2012 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($35). See above.

Ric Forman and Cheryl Emmolo of Rossi Wallace Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Ric Forman and Cheryl Emmolo of Rossi Wallace

Rossi Wallace 2014 Napa Valley ($26). Real substance, hints of Arroyo Grande AVA, surprised to learn the fruit is from Atlas Peak, Napa Valley.

Sojourn Cellars 2013 Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($50). See above.

Miura's Emmanuel Kemiji Interviewed by Fred Dame Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Miura’s Emmanuel Kemiji Interviewed by Fred Dame. Photo from The Tasting Panel Magazine October 2012 “A Conversation With Emmanuel Kemiji”

 Miura ”Talley Vineyard” 2010 Arroyo Grande ($57). Surprisingly rich and full-bodied for an Arroyo Grande pinot. Very nice.

Hahn Harvest Pinot Shootout at the Artisan Corral

Hahn Harvest

Hahn 2014 Santa Lucia Highlands ($20). Anise, licorice and dust aromas, more dust, nutmeg, and licorice on the palate.

Sean Minor 2013 Carneros ($15). See above.

Cherry Pie Pinot Shootout at the ARtisan Corral

Cherry Pie


Cherry Pie “Cherry Tart” 2013 ($17). Forest floor, cloves, and dried strawberries. Unusual, but interesting. If you think you’d like it, go for it.


Belle Glos “Dairyman Vineyard” 2014 Russian River Valley ($55). Notable for its sweetness, you could drink this as an aperitif or dessert.


About the author

Tony Lima has been a California wine fan since arriving in California from the east coast in 1974. He's lived the growth and expansion of the industry first hand. He's seen the fickle California Wine consumer fads pop up and burst... the craze for Zinfandel, then oaky Chardonnay, then Merlot, now Pinot Noir. His day job was Professor of Economics at California State University located in Hayward. (He retired in 2016.) His undergrad degree in chemical engineering (MIT) and his MBA ( Harvard) and Ph.D. Economics (Stanford) are the root of his interest in the Business of Wine. He is a card-carrying member of the AAWE - American Association of Wine Economists.

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