Pinot Noir 12 Ways for Big Brothers Big Sisters Charity

Each year I auction off a couple of in-you-home wine tastings for charities, usually Big Brothers Big Sisters and Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. Big Brothers Big Sisters is my primary charity and a truly life-changing and worthwhile cause. This spring I auctioned off a tasting for 10 that was scooped up in a live auction for a heady sum. Typically, the bidder is either a wine fan or wants to learn a bunch about wine. This time it was neither. The buyer was disinterested in wine, but wanted to fun event for his friends and some clients. With that in mind, he let his wine pal pick the theme, which was Pinot Noir. I suggested trying all pinot noir in many of its facets and the host was on board.

FLIGHT ONE: PINOT AND CHAMPAGNE
Billecart Salmon Rose – How the addition of still pinot noir affects champagne – Lovely rose with a nice salmon color. Tangerine and nectarine, lemon and a hint of raspberry pair with a nice with a spicy ginger note. A nice, fun, delicious rose. 91

Egly Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Les Crayeres – What 100% pinot noir champagne tastes like – Big nose of apple, filo dough, almond, and baked sourdough, with a hint of peach on the back and nice minerality. Lovely, with maybe a touch of florals adding lift? Very complex, very good, and very different than the Billecart. My favorite by a mile, but the hoi polloi generally prefer the Salmon. 94

FLIGHT TWO: CALIFORNIA’S COMPETING STYLES
2016 RAEN Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert – Light style cooler climate – I love the nose on this wine. Cherry and raspberry with grilled meat, herbs, and spice. So much lift and so much going on and with such light color and while it is low abv and has nice acidity, everything is in such balance. 94.

2016 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Katherine Lindsay Estate – warmer climate bigger style – Where the RAEN is all finesse and lift this is all fruit and power. Rich cherry, strawberry and blackberry with nice spice notes. Deeply fruited, though not overtly syrupy, and with some decent structure and balance. This hints at sweet where RAEN hints at savory. This is really very good, though a very different style. 93 Hobbs was a slight favorite for the group.

FLIGHT THREE - NEW AND OLDISH IN STA RITA HILLS
2015 Bevan Cellars Sta Rita Hills Rita’s Crown Vineyard – Big and rich and young in Sta Rita Hills – Darkest color of them all. Super rich fig newton, stewed black plum, currant, and luxardo cherry with licorice, spice, and a tarry note. Is this pinot? Hard to find it in there. It’s certainly some thick, rich pinot-cab facsimile. Look, I could see big abv hedonistic cab lovers mainlining this. But I just don’t really like it. Its fruit profile doesn’t jive with a good pinot noir. I’m NR on this.

2001 Au Bon Climat Sta Rita Hills Larmes de Grappe 20th Harvest Selection – Old and a bit lighter in Sta Rita Hills – While cork looked clean, it broke with about 1/3 left in the neck despite my use of a toro. That bit crumbled and I had to strain the wine into a decanter where it sat for a couple of hours. The wine was also darker in color than the first two, but carried a better acid load. A nice mix of somewhat fading fruit blended with some savory spice and herb notes. This would have been better younger, and it’s a tad muddled now. A bit disappointing, to be honest. 88

FLIGHT FOUR - BURGUNDY V NEW BURGUNDY
2014 Georges Noellat Nuit Saint Georges 1er Cru Aux Cras – First foray into Burgundy – Acid is back. Good balance of red and black fruit here, with nice black cherry and strawberry with a hint of oak spice, some meatiness, and a little earth. Pretty well balanced and nice, though not extremely complex. 91-92.

2015 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Jessie Vineyard – USA’s “New Burgundy”: Oregon – This is big for Oregon, with a richness and purity of fruit that is to die for without some of the overt sweetness of the Hobbs. Great blackberry, cherry, and just a hint of cranberry juice cocktail, followed by lovely floral and five spice notes. Great spot. Unanimous winner of the flight. 93-94

FLIGHT FIVE - BURGUNDY V EXTREMELY NEW BURGUNDY: TASMANIA
2015 Domaine Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes – Gevrey, Burgundy Part Deux – Fun nose of cherry, bramble, venison, and maybe some tea leaves, but the palate just isn’t doing it for me. Red fruit mixed with some soy and spice and then laced with aggressive acidity, or at least that’s how I perceived it. Came across as not smooth and a bit disjointed. Maybe much better in 2030? Not worth opening for a long time would be my guess. 89-91?

2017 Dalrymple Pipers River Tasmania – Tasmania - a New Frontier? – Fun wine showing pomegranite and cranberry juice cocktail notes on the palate, with nice, lifted aromatics, orange peel, and some spice backing it. Maybe a hint of rosemary. All in, a nice balance of fruit and acid with a little complexity making things interesting. Young, and not too serious. How does one rate this against the Bachelet? It is obviously not as serious a wine, but is, right this second, more enjoyable. 89-90

FLIGHT SIX - SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: SOUTH AFRICA V SOUTH AMERICA
2014 Storm Pinot Noir Vrede Hemel-en-Aarde Valley South Africa – Pinot, in South Africa? – This is really a solid wine and smells like a half step closer to Burgundy than Oregon. Nice savory sous bois notes on the nose compliment the cherry and strawberry profile. Just a hint of potpourri or tea or something. Good effort, and a nice surprise 91-92.

2017 Chacra Barda Pinot Noir Patagonia Chile – Pinot, in South America? – Zippy acidity in a nice, refreshing raspberry and cherry driven profile. Blood orange and spice. Good minerality, just a bit simple. 90.

Fun night. I always do a Le Nez du Vin challenge where I spike 6 glasses of wine with the essences and make the guests have a contest to see who gets the most right. Winner wins a bottle of good wine. In this case, the winner had to get through a paper rock scissor battle after a series of failed tie-breaks. Then, before the night ended, one of the other guests left with the bottle. Oops…