Friday, August 8, we were thrilled to attend a very special tasting of pinot noir and chardonnay at Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View.
[pullquote]This tasting was just for you two.[/pullquote]
As co-owner James Tran said to us, →
We nodded happily in agreement.
There were five chardonnays and eight pinot noirs from twelve different wineries. We obviously won’t be able to discuss all the wineries. This review will instead focus entirely on the tasting. All prices are at Artisan not including any case discount.
The first chardonnay was a 2013 Etre “Sonoma” ($24). This was unusual in that it was 90% chardonnay and 10% marsanne, roussanne and vermentino. Oak and citrus aromas followed by dense fruit palate including mango and fig. This was too heavy for us. This wine was not available for sale at the time of the tasting. Check the Artisan website for availability.
Next up was Luli’s 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay ($20). We’ve reviewed Luli’s pinot noir very positively in the past and were looking forward to the chardonnay. This is a major bargain. The wine was aged half in stainless steel and half in neutral barrels. No oak, no malolactic, just pure fruit the way we like our chardonnays. This chardonnay exhibits lots of minerality with citrus and yellow peach aromas and flavors.
The 2013 Liquid Farm “Golden Slope” from Santa Rita ($45) seemed overpriced to our palates. Subtle aromas lead to, frankly, nothing. The winery tasting notes say, “Smoky minerals, iodine, lemon curd, heady orchard fruit, ginger tea, liquid sunshine.” Iodine? Really?
Poseidon’s 2013 Carneros chardonnay ($23) was another bargain. Very light lemon aromas with a hint of ginger, more citrus on the palate with a touch of pineapple. Nice stuff.
The final chardonnay was a 2012 Saxon Brown Carneros “Hyde Vineyard” ($44). Oaky-dokie both aromas and palate. Any respectable beaver will like this. Not as buttery as some of the others. And not one of our favorites.
Eight Pinot Noirs
First up was a 2013 from Banshee ($20). With 82% of the grapes coming from the Sonoma Coast AVA, this wine was quite enjoyable and another major bargain. Aromas of black cherries and rose petals lead to chocolate, cassis and a bit of forest floor on the palate. Nice, long finish, completely integrated tannins, what’s that price again?
Another bargain was from Alexana in Oregon. Their 2013 “Terroir Selection” Willamette Valley ($27) features aromas and flavors of red raspberries and bing cherries and a touch of butterscotch on the finish.
But the real bargain was a 2013 San Luis Obispo County “Edna Valley” by Fossil Point ($15). There are hints of smoke aromas, with tannins on the palate and a nice finish. Not complicated, but what do you want for fifteen bucks? Fossil Point is the affordable label from Center of Effort. We’ve linked to the Center of Effort website but as far as we can tell you won’t find anything about Fossil Point there. We did taste both labels in Pomona last February, but found the Fossil Point offered there was flawed.
Ken Wright offered his 2013 “Bonnie Jean Vineyard” Yamhill-Carlton District ($50). Over the years Ken has been about as consistent a winemaker as you can find. But his wines aren’t really to our taste. Aromas of red raspberries and rose petals lead to a disappointing palate that’s too big with dark fruit and an excessively acid finish.
Instead of Ken’s pinot, we recommend spending a few more bucks for Freeman’s 2012 “Keefer Ranch” Russian River Valley ($52). This is a fruit bomb from beginning to end. Aromas of shiitake mushrooms followed by an explosion of black cherries and raspberries on the palate. The Wine Enthusiast says it has “compelling character.” We agree.
We first ran into August West at a seminar sponsored by Greg Walter, known for his monthly PinotReport. August’s 2012 “Graham Family Vineyard” Russian River Valley ($40) is up to his usual standards. Like Ken Wright, his wines are consistent. And, like Ken, his wines are not really to our taste. Aromas of earth and leather are followed by tannins and more forest floor. The Wine Spectator says, “Ripe and chewy, with a candied edge that folds into the red berry fruit. Shows some tannic flex on the finish, moving toward blueberry flavors. Drink now through 2021.” We’re willing to believe them.
Saxon Brown made a repeat appearance with their 2011 “Glass House Vineyard” Sonoma Coast ($36). Nice aromas, nice palate, finish moves into swamp moss. We thought this wine was flawed by that finish.
Closing the tasting was Loring’s 2013 “Cargasacchi” Santa Rita Hills ($45). We’ve written about Brian and Kimberly Loring before. The Cargasacchi vineyard has never been one of our favorites no matter who makes the wine. But Brian has done the best work possible with these grapes. Aromas of forest floor followed by a palate of red raspberries.
Artisan remains our favorite wine shop with an unbeatable combination of variety, quality, and price.