27 February 2009

27Feb - Southern Wine & Spirits Pinot tasting
Southern Wine and Spirits put on a Pinot Noir tasting on Tuesday, which Jennifer and I attended. I must admit that having 75 different wines to look forward to in town is a pretty attractive notion after having to schlep down to Charleston for tastings.
Anyway, we went over and were greeted by Pinots from 8 different countries: US (CA & Oregon) , Australia, South Africa, France, Argentina, Italy, Chile, and New Zealand.

This is a very daunting situation for me, as the palate can only take so much. I very much wanted to approach wines in the following order: wines I might reasonably carry by-the-glass, wines I'd carry by the bottle, wines I just can't afford.
Ultimately, I approached wines as the whim demanded.

It's always nice to see familiar faces, so we talked to Tony of SWS and Marc of Clos du Bois (with whom I'd tasted a number of wines earlier in the day). One thing that bothers me a bit about going down to Charleston is that there are so many established cliques down there and I always feel like I've been picked last at a team sport when I show up to a tasting. The Carolina Wine Source principals are always very nice to me, but still...

Anyway, there were some disappointments, as life demands there always will be, but I was very pleased at the list of wines we walked away having really enjoyed.

There is, admittedly, something of a haze that muddies the waters of memory, but a list does exist and it goes roughly like this, in no particular order:

The Erath Dundee Hills estate. I've had this before, and even ordered it for the restaurant before. I remember being mostly black fruit on the nose and just an overall feeling of elegance.

The Veramonte from Chile. This, it is said, is made under the eye of mr paul hobbs, a winemaker who's made cabs that have made me shudder with pleasure. unexpectedly, this also made Jennifer's radar, who's tastes, it seems, usually require a price tag of at least 30 bucks, wholesale. This is quite reasonable in comparison. This is another mostly black fruit on the nose wine with a bit of a tannic structure.

The Etude Carneros. This was the only Carneros there that still tasted like Carneros to me. It was red fruits more than black, which is generally what I like. Most of the other ones from Carneros were getting a bit plump and high-ish in alcohol. But this was nice and lean and tasted especially great the following day.

The J line. Russian River, Nicole’s Vineyard. Sonoma Coast. I’d had a J pinot a little while ago and kind of liked it but this time we really enjoyed the line. And Kelly, she who grabbed our attention to taste them, was spot on with describing them as just getting better and better as we went on. As we traveled up the tiers the wines become more complex and more elegant,. Even the lowest tier, the Russian River, was very much to our tastes. Good aromatics and a consistent follow through for the flavors and finish.

And, though I hate to lump together, I’m just going to name the rest that we really enjoyed, in no particular order. The Davis Bynum Russian River Valley. The Chandon Russian River Valley. The Goldeneye, Anderson Valley, and the Migration Anderson Valley. The Erath lower tier out of Oregon and the Panther Creek, also out of Oregon. I preferred the Freedom Hill and Jennifer preferred the Shea Vineyard from the Panther Creek line.

We also enjoyed, to varying degrees, the following. The Wild Horse Unbridled. Jennifer liked that one more than I did. I really enjoyed the nose but I felt the mouthfeel wasn’t as bold as the nose. This was, admittedly, towards the end of the tasting so it wasn’t the most ideal circumstances to make a final decision. Clos du Bois’ North Coast and Sonoma Coast wines were very good for the money. Jennifer liked the North Coast (a little brighter and smoother) while I preferred the Sonoma (a bit darker with a tannic structure.) The Coppola Directors Cut was pretty enjoyable, though we weren’t terribly impressed with his Diamond series. Bouchaine was solid, as always. The Cloudy Bay out of New Zealand was more to my taste than I expected. My memory of New Zealand wines is that they were terribly acidic and unbalanced until you hit at least $30, when things started getting good. This was a good, solid pinot but, I think, somewhat overpriced.

Oddly, the Burgundies were not the stars I thought they’d be. There was a Gevrey Chambertin I was looking forward to but that I found to be less layered than I’d expected. I feel like I owe Jennifer a life-changing Burgundy to get her hooked so she can start throwing her money down the Burgundy pit.

Most of the wines we tasted were 06 and 07 with only a few 05s and 04s tossed in. There was no correlation of age to enjoyment, though one of the Js was an 05 and the Chandon was an 05. And it seems like the Russian River region was responsible for a lot of the wines we enjoyed. Its cool climate was producing some nice, well-balanced, and lean pinots.

We generally behaved ourselves. Jennifer and Gil traded jokes. I made a vaguely dirty remark involving a structural feature on one of the particularly well-made bottles, but I got the laugh. And, as seems to be our habit, we closed the bar down in an effort to take advantage of the partially filled bottles left over.

So. Good times were had by all.

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