Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

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Blake Brown
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Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#1 Post by Blake Brown » April 27th, 2019, 1:42 am

Our blind tasting group had a theme of California Pinot Noir with an added request for some from Russian River Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. The event was held in the superb ambience of one of our member`s home and he pulled out all of the stops to provide many scrumptious appetizers.

!5 of us blind tasted, scored, discussed and voted for wines in each flight, for which we had 1 of 6 and 2 of 5, before revealing the identity and ranking of each bottle.

The first flight of 6 tasted blind:

2015 GARY FARRELL HALLBERG VINEYARD RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- the brilliant red color denoted youthfulness which was born out by its fresh and delightful red fruit forwardness from the nose on; being more one dimensional, I voted it 4th as did the group.

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2014 SLANDER NAPA PINOT NOIR bottled by Orin Swift Cellars- I`ve long known about Orin Swift Cellars and especially their remarkable 5 varietal blend which was comprised of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Charbono and Petite Syrah.; it turns out David Phinney, owner/winemaker, labeled each wine by its own catchy name and positioned it in such a way to give the impression that is the main label as opposed to Orin Swift Cellars; the “Prisoner” part of the total lineup was sold in 2010; as an aside, Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name;

15.2% abv; the dark red purple color implied a more serious extract and certainly this wine was bigger and bolder than most on the night; yet to be integrated oak notes stood out over the black cherry/ berry fruit in this full bodied and extended finished wine; my and the group`s #2 in the flight.

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2014 MOUNT EDEN VINEYARDS ESTATE SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS PINOT NOIR- the color was dark red; the nose had lots of talc and fresh red fruit which translated into red raspberry and red cherry on the palate; this medium to full bodied wine was more in balance and solid throughout; I had it tops in the flight as did the group.

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2014 VENGE BACIGALUPI VINEYARD RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- 14.4% abv; everything about this wine was on the more intense level from the color through the finish; lots of oak influence also was prevalent with talc infused wild red cherry being delivered in a heavier textured medium to the back end where higher than the stated 14.4% alcohol burned through; it got mid flight status recognition.

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2011 WILLIAMS SELYEM RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- 13.6% abv; the color denoted an “older” wine with mature red purple; the nose seemed to support this with advanced dried red and dark fruit which translated into toasty, oaky black cherry/ berry on the palate; an accent of wood spice and talc was also present throughout; I had it 3rd and the group scored it 6th.

This was my bring; it was purchased from the winery and stored properly until opening; I decanted it 1/2 hour prior to the event. To explain the advanced maturity, some remarked, 2011 was not a great vintage, but I was expecting this to show much better as most of Bob Cabral`s wines in “off” vintages performed decently. It may be a bottle vacation and i have a few more to determine if that is so.

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2008 PISONI PISONI ESTATE VINEYARDS SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS PINOT NOIR- following its very intense dark purple color came more intensity, first in the aromatics and then on the palate; there was a stewed component to the mature black fruit as well as some heat; my 6th in the flgiht; the consensus had it in 5th place.

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The 2nd flight of 5 tasted blind:

2012 WRATH TONDRE GRAPEFIELD SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS PINOT NOIR- 14.5% abv; medium to dark red color followed by lots of wild dark fruit in this full bodied, concentrated wine that finishes with more fruit at the end; I got it tied for 3rd in the flight, the group had it their 2nd fav.

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2009 FREEMAN VINEYARD & WINERY RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- dark red color; talc and spice accents join wild red fruit notes on the nose which on the palate become childhood jujube candy and red cherry pie with a toasty crust; it finished with more of the same; the group loved it for #1 in the flight; I had it tied for 3rd.

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2014 CALERA de VILLIERS VINEYARD MT. HARLAN PINOT NOIR- dark red purple color; the aroma is redolent of concentrated red and dark fruit with a definite hit of talc; on the palate comes more identifiable sweet black cherry which persists through the end where a bit of heat shows up; it scored mid flight.

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2001 CAMPENEROS JULIA`S VINEYARD SANTA MARIA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this comes from the esteemed home winemaking team of good friends who have made quality wines for over 4 decades and still counting; it was a real treat to re-visit one of the legendary wines that highlighted their continuously fine Pinots among many other fine wines they made; the color was a still amazing youthful red purple with no signs of bricking/ aging; the nose had some oak, vanilla, jujube and dark fruit notes; the taste profile contained nice and evolved red and black cherry/ berry which stayed the course to the back end; I scored it 2nd in the flight; the group had it last. I offered my glass for some to use for their dump bucket.

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2010 BREWER-CLIFTON MACHADO VINEYARD SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- 14.3% abv; dark purple color; lots of oak notes in the nose and more on the palate along with black raspberry, black cherry, blackberry; it had a medium plus body and texture and held a steady course throughout; it scored mid flight.

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The third flight of 5 tasted blind:

2015 PALI WINE CO. PALI VINEYARD ESTATE SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- this was the first year wine was made from their estate vineyard planted in 2012; dark red color; upfront ripe fruit dominates the nose with a bit of heat; the taste profile had pretty concentrated dark fruit with a coffee accent; it finished hot and I scored it 4th in the flight; the group had it #1.

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2014 DRAGONETTE CELLARS DUVARITA VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY PINOT NOIR- 13.4% abv; this vineyard was formerly the Presidio Vineyard and is located west of the already coastal Sta. Rita Hills appellation so it is definitely cool climate Pinot; red color; fresh, ripe red fruit with red raspberry was most evident on the nose; on the palate, some cranberry and cherry comes in along with some sweetness; a streak of talc runs throughout; there’s a bit more complexity here than just fruit as well as having a nice smooth mouthfeel; I scored it 3rd in the flight as well as the group.

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2015 PEAKE RANCH SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- medium red color; the nose suggests something big, rich and fruity is forthcoming and it holds true with loads of sweet red cherry accented with loads of oaky notes throughout; the oak is close to being integrated which allows for the nice fruit profile to better enjoyed; its very tasty; most got this was #2 in the flight.
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2014 LA VOIX REBEL REBEL QUINTA DEL MAR VINEYARD CENTRAL COAST PINOT NOIR- 14% abv; 10% whole cluster, 12 months in barrel, mostly neutral oak, native yeast, 50% 115 and 777 Dijon clones; this is made by Steve Clifton of Palmina and formerly of Brewer-Clifton fame who created this label for French varietals; bright red color; the nose has a nice invitation of fresh spicy fruit which on the palate translates into very sweet red cherry, raspberry and plum; it has decent feel and length; take away the overly sweet component and this is a winner; it got mid flight scoring.

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2008 WHITCRAFT AUBAINE VINEYARD SANTA MARIA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- 14.9% abv; unfixed, unfiltered as was the rule for now deceased dear friend and winemaker, Chris Whitcraft, who was notorious for picking super ripe fruit which translated into very high alcohol wines that often did not reflect such; this bottle showed anything but age with a dark red color and aromas of talc laden black cherry/ berry fruit; sweet and spicy black cherry is most prevalent in the taste; its medium bodied and finishes on a high note; scored mid range by most.

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One of our members brought his own to taste separately:

2013 ENTICER DUVARITA VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY PINOT NOIR- 13.8% abv; only 110 cases made; produced from clones 115 and 667 in this cool climate vineyard located West of Sta. Rita Hills AVA near Lompoc; this label belongs to Dave Yates, formerly Jaffurs Winery GM; Duvarita is the former Presidio Vineyard; dark red color; loads of fresh red fruit in the nose and taste profile with a nice streak of a spicy/ herbal accent; it had good feel and balance; one remarked it may have been the WOTN although not included in the blind tasting.

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Blind tastings are always so informative for me and this one in particular was interesting in that there were a couple of producers wines that I collected vigorously over many years that I ended up selling due to a palate change and preference for different styles and that was again strongly confirmed.

As it is said, “drink what you like and like what you drink”.

Cheers,
Blake

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"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
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“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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CJ Beazley
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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#2 Post by CJ Beazley » April 28th, 2019, 5:52 am

BB, is the ‘talc’ thing you mentioned coming from new oak?
It's C(raig)

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#3 Post by Chris V. » April 28th, 2019, 6:44 am

Great notes. Thanks! Timely and helpful on the 2014 Mount Eden.
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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#4 Post by Blake Brown » April 28th, 2019, 8:16 am

CJ Beazley wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 5:52 am
BB, is the ‘talc’ thing you mentioned coming from new oak?
CJ, whether its new oak or not, I get it often and upon checking with winemakers, its sometimes with partial new as well and more so with American oak than other. Having used talc power for years to keep sweaty feet drier, I know the smell and its talc so I use that for my descriptor.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Blake Brown
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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#5 Post by Blake Brown » April 28th, 2019, 8:17 am

Chris V. wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 6:44 am
Great notes. Thanks! Timely and helpful on the 2014 Mount Eden.
Mount Eden has put out some good stuff over the years. I'm a fan and this blind revelation confirmed such.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#6 Post by GregP » April 28th, 2019, 1:08 pm

Blake Brown wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 8:16 am
CJ Beazley wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 5:52 am
BB, is the ‘talc’ thing you mentioned coming from new oak?
CJ, whether its new oak or not, I get it often and upon checking with winemakers, its sometimes with partial new as well and more so with American oak than other. Having used talc power for years to keep sweaty feet drier, I know the smell and its talc so I use that for my descriptor.
Blake, great notes, and a great lineup as well. This being blind format, did anyone keep track of AVAs they thought wines are from?
G r e g P i a t i g o r s k i
I T B - i s k a r a n u w i n e

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#7 Post by Blake Brown » April 28th, 2019, 10:35 pm

GregP wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 1:08 pm
Blake Brown wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 8:16 am
CJ Beazley wrote:
April 28th, 2019, 5:52 am
BB, is the ‘talc’ thing you mentioned coming from new oak?
CJ, whether its new oak or not, I get it often and upon checking with winemakers, its sometimes with partial new as well and more so with American oak than other. Having used talc power for years to keep sweaty feet drier, I know the smell and its talc so I use that for my descriptor.
Blake, great notes, and a great lineup as well. This being blind format, did anyone keep track of AVAs they thought wines are from?
Greg, its a great question and no, it did not come up in discussions as to the AVA sources, but that would have been worthy of inclusion. Thinking on that and the lineup of wines, I would be hard put to ID most of them, but there were a few that I could get from the high alcohol, fruit bomb profile, but that would be more from the producer style than the AVA.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
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“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#8 Post by Mike Grammer » April 29th, 2019, 9:39 am

That's a very neat cross-section, and great notes as always, Blake. Love that you led with your heart on the Campaneros in particular. Haven't had some of these producers in some years, so really appreciate a look-in on their recent vintage wines. I also do agree that 2011 was a somewhat challenging vintage, I think. Had a 2011 Marcassin Marcassin over the weekend at Berto's and it took a day to think about coming around and even then the palate never caught up to the nose in terms of quality. I have the last of it to let my friend Heather taste today.

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#9 Post by Bryan Price » April 29th, 2019, 9:44 pm

A local purveyor, Hi-Time, had the 2014 Mt. Eden available by the glass when I stopped by a year (maybe two) ago. My first thought was it was outrageously good, before I even considered the price (which is such a good value).
Life's too short to drink bad wine.

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#10 Post by Brandon J. » April 29th, 2019, 10:03 pm

15.2% ABV on a pinot noir...Good lord.
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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#11 Post by Blake Brown » May 1st, 2019, 12:43 am

Mike Grammer wrote:
April 29th, 2019, 9:39 am
That's a very neat cross-section, and great notes as always, Blake. Love that you led with your heart on the Campaneros in particular. Haven't had some of these producers in some years, so really appreciate a look-in on their recent vintage wines. I also do agree that 2011 was a somewhat challenging vintage, I think. Had a 2011 Marcassin Marcassin over the weekend at Berto's and it took a day to think about coming around and even then the palate never caught up to the nose in terms of quality. I have the last of it to let my friend Heather taste today.

Mike
I agree Mike re the cross-section of wines. That's a crap shoot as this group has a broad diversity of palates and wine collections. Sone nights, it works out like it did for this one.

Hi to Heather.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Blind Tasting 16 CA Pinot Noir incl. Williams Selyem, Brewer-Clifton, Pisoni, Mount Eden, Calera

#12 Post by Blake Brown » May 1st, 2019, 12:45 am

Bryan Price wrote:
April 29th, 2019, 9:44 pm
A local purveyor, Hi-Time, had the 2014 Mt. Eden available by the glass when I stopped by a year (maybe two) ago. My first thought was it was outrageously good, before I even considered the price (which is such a good value).
I agree Bryan. These wines are very reasonably priced for the quality they give on a consistent basis.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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