Mirassou 2009 Pinot Noir (California) – In the battle between reputation and reality, this takes the very small hill without firing a shot: clean pinot-ish fruit with just as hint of mushroom. In other words, it greatly exceeds my expectations for inexpensive mass-market pinot noir. One could drink a lot worse. Though: better, too. (8/12)
Cowan Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) – Light fruit, low-impact. Gentle, simple, not very expressive. Closing? It’s the most likely explanation. (8/12)
Firesteed 2008 Pinot Noir (Oregon) – Charred berries, a quality that seems to afflict the vast majority of cheap pinot noir from this country. There’s really not much else worth saying. (8/12)
Felton Road 2001 Pinot Noir (Central Otago) – This was a somewhat mistaken ager, in that I thought I was hanging on to one of the Block bottlings. Time has done nothing but weakened it, and while the fruit’s matured a bit, mostly the wine’s just softer and more muted. A bit plummy, some of the old blood orange rind that I used to think marked the region (I now believe it to be a clonal issue, since I’ve tasted it from the Waipara and Martinborough as well), some muscular earthiness, all at about volume 5 rather than the former 8 ½. Drink up, if you’ve got any. (7/12)
Longoria 2000 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido (Santa Maria Valley) – This has held very well, but it has neither complexified nor maintained steady-state, but has instead regressed into very simple old-pinot aromas of bark, soil, dust, and autumnal berry. I’ve another bottle, and maybe it will show differently, but as hard as it would have been to convince myself at the time, I think I should have consumed this at release. (6/12)
Calatroni 2010 Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero (Lombardy) – Dirt and blackish fruit with a fair bit of space between its components. Slightly gritty but non-aggressive, structurally, yet with the balance to age for a bit. There’s even a bit of swagger. I’m intrigued. (6/12)
Domaine Serene 2006 Pinot Noir “Evenstad Reserve” (Willamette Valley) – This is a winery that receives an enormous amount of attention, and while an unfortunate percentage of it is self-generated, an equally unfortunate amount is decidedly uncomplimentary…both in reaction to the aforementioned and other stuff not particularly germane to this note. In any case, let’s dispense with the trappings and get to the heart of the matter, which is an entirely nice wine. A touch overpriced, yes, but that’s true of most pinot noir…domestic or foreign…so there’s no special damage done here. The fruit tends darker but without excess heaviness, the palate hovers somewhere between lush and silken, and everything’s solid and lengthy enough, and in fair equilibrium, for an enjoyable trip through its quantity. It is not, I should note, free of the trappings of a “made” wine, especially in its overt smoothness, but there’s certainly a place for it. (6/12)
Masùt da Rive 2007 Isonzo del Friuli Pinot Nero (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Faded, earthy fruit. Seems prematurely…mature, though I don’t know whether to credit grape quality or aggression/timidity in the cellar. Either way, it’s a pleasant quaff, but not much more. (6/12)
Domaine Drouhin 2001 Pinot Noir “Laurène” (Oregon) – Past peak, for sure. Its gritty, almost sandy structure whelms, yet aromatically so much of a well-developed, leathery fruit mythology is promised that the palate is more of a disappointment than it probably should be. Get in yourr time machine, tense up, and have already drunk up. (The grammarian scold in my head just committed suicide.) (6/12)
Clos Saron 2008 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Very earthy, sweaty, even a little swarthy, its soils seething in unrest. Pillowy tannin hardens towards the finish, while the wine dabbles in aromatic exoticism. Long and exceedingly interesting.
Clos Saron 2000 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Forest floor and maturing (though far from absent) tannin, lingering antique pie aromas. Gorgeous. Wow!
Clos Saron 1999 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard (Sierra Foothills) – Rough, bold, and chewier than the 2000, still with a heft wallop of tannin and a gritty texture. This may just be in an awkward stage.