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PINOT NOIR

June 11, 2001 • The Ripe Tomato

Our first tasting since January, we tried several versions of the varietal we just can't seem to get enough of - Pinot Noir. Starting with a vertical of wines that used fruit from Elke Vineyard in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, we challenged them with some stiff competition in both price and quality. The wines were divided into two flights, grouped by younger and older vintages. As might be expected, the first flight showed more complexity and maturity, while the second displayed more overall intensity and vibrancy. Individual Quiche Tarts and Mexican Roast Beef Caravans accompanied the first flight and Grilled Salmon with Aioli the second.

Brand
Vintage & Varietal/Type
Appellation -$ price / Alcohol
Consensus Tasting Notes
Notes in bold type indicate three
or more comments in agreement.
(enclosed ?) = comment on a possible flaw
#Rank
Buying Advice
FLIGHT ONE
1994-97 Vintages

.

Sanford Pinot Noir '97 Santa Barbara.

Sanford
1997 Pinot Noir
Santa Barbara County
$17. / 14.0%

Light garnet, clear; complex, rich, sweet, fruity, berry, tea, orange, spicy, cola, cassis, tobacco, vanilla, milk chocolate, smoke, mushroom, medicine (sulfur?) and barnyard aromas; pleasant, spicy, cassis, cinnamon, tea, leather, somewhat intense flavors (unripe?); slightly rich, well-balanced; smooth, round, developed tannins; medium-long, pleasant finish, faintly hot. Very attractive and nicely developed wine; very well balanced now, but probably at its peak over the next two years.

#1
Very Highly Recommended

Steele Pinot Noir '94 Bien Nacido.

Steele
1994 Pinot Noir
Santa Maria Valley
"Bien Nacido Vineyard"
$20. / 14.0%

Light garnet-brick, very slightly cloudy; complex, rich, spicy, "port"-ish aroma mixes ripe tomato, sour cherry, strawberry, slightly earthy-barnyard aromas with faint notes of perfume, cola, celery, green olive, smoke, bacon fat, leather, mushroom and medicine; similar flavors add tart cherries, raspberries and pepper; easy-drinking, slightly rich, fat, fully mature; balanced, slightly acidic; smooth, light, slightly dusty tannins; pleasant finish, not long. This wine drinks nicely, but is losing fruit and should be consumed within the next year or so, while some vibrancy remains.

#2
Very Highly Recommended

Farella-Park Pinot Noir '94 Mendocino - Elke

Farella-Park
1994 Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley, "Elke Vineyards"
$18. / 14.0%

Medium ruby to garnet-brick, clear with a few particles of sediment; complex, herbal, green tomato, violet, oak, vanilla and black cherry fruit aromas, with some barnyard and a slight sharpness (stemmy?); good entry, pleasant, herbal, spicy, woody, fruity and tart or dried cherry flavors; medium body, good balance, slightly tart; smooth, soft, medium tannins; lingers well, slightly hot. This wine is in good condition and may hang on for another couple of years of drinkability. Pair with salmon and a light citrus sauce.

#3
Very Highly Recommended

Elke Pinot Noir '97 Anderson  Valley - Donnelly.

Elke
1997 Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley
"Donnelly Creek Vineyard"
$22. / 13.5%

Light ruby to garnet-brick, clear; complex, rich aromas mix cherry, strawberry, cola, spice, smoke, oak, toast, barnyard, mushroom and faint ammonia (sulfur?); focused flavors are bigger than most wines in this group with elements of fruit, black cherry, spice, cinnamon, smoke and meat; somewhat rich, elegant, good balance, slightly tart; smooth tannins, long finish. This wine still has two or three years of life ahead and has flavors that will stand up to savory lamb and beef dishes.

#4
Very Highly Recommended

Cambria Pinot Noir '94 Santa Maria - Julia's.

Cambria
1994 Pinot Noir
Santa Maria Valley
"Julia's Vineyard"
$20. / 14.0%

Medium-dark garnet-brick, clear; subtle sweetness, slight woodiness to overall very light, although complex aromas of fruit, dried cherries, cola, raisin, bay leaf, capers, ketchup, stems, meat, smoke, mustiness, alcohol and diesel; nice mature flavors, raisiny, slight oxidation, touch of ripe strawberry fruit remains; good balance; smooth tannins with a velvety mouthfeel; finish is weak, slightly tart, slightly hot. This wine is on the waning edge of drinkability, oak seems dominant as the fruit drops into the background; drink up.

#5
Recommended

CORKED (unnamed)


(an additional bottle turned out to be "corked" - PfW HATES it when this happens ...)

(not rated)
FLIGHT TWO
1998-99 Vintages

.

Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir 1998 Mendocino.

Williams Selyem
1998 Pinot Noir
Mendocino
$35. / 13.0% alcohol

Medium ruby-brick; big, rich, fruity (underripe?), sweet, raspberry, cherry and cola aromas with spicy hints of cinnamon, peppermint, pine, tea, truffle, smoke and barnyard; big, sour candy, strawberry and orange peel flavors; good balance, but lean, lacks richness; medium body; light tannins; faint heat noticeable in the fairly long finish. This wine won out on the power and appeal of its aromas and disappointed some tasters for not having a bigger mouth feel to match the nose.

#1
Very Highly Recommended

Steele Pinot Noir '98 Mendocino - Dupratt.

Steele
1998 Pinot Noir
Mendocino
"DuPratt Vineyard"
$20. / 14.0%

Medium-light ruby; spicy notes of oak, coconut, truffle, earth, smoke and briar dominate cherry fruit aroma (musty?); sweet fruit, rhubarb, cherry, cola, "kool-aid" or "cough syrup" flavors with spicy, oak, vanilla, tobacco, tea, cinnamon and coconut notes; medium body is slightly hollow; fairly long finish is slightly tannic and hot. This big wine drinks very well, but derives much of its power from spicy, sweet oak, rather than ripe, deep fruit. Time may not be kind.

#2
Very Highly Recommended

Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir 98 RRV - Allen.

Williams Selyem
1998 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley
"Allen Vineyard"
$48. / 13.0% alcohol

Medium-dark ruby; pretty, raspberry, strawberry fruit, slightly spicy aromas with a hint of barnyard (initial herbal or sulfur stink?); big, rich, powerful, full, fruit and berry flavors with some smoke in the background; medium body, lush texture; very well balanced, slightly tart; medium tannins; long finish. Excellent wine and very enjoyable to drink. Should last easily for three to five more years of cellaring.

#3
Very Highly Recommended

Elke Pinot Noir '98 Anderson Valley - Donnelly.

Elke
1998 Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley
"Donnelly Creek Vineyard"
$22. / 13.5%

Light ruby; bright fruit, black or dried cherry, spicy, black pepper, green (stemmy?) and very slightly oaky aromas are initially closed-in; light, cola, fresh strawberry and cherry flavors; light to medium body, silky texture; balance slightly tart; long finish is slightly hot. Not as intense or powerful as its company, but very nice wine, altogether enjoyable.

#4
Highly Recommended

Elke Pinot Noir 99 Anderson Valley - Donnelly.

Elke
1999 Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley
"Donnelly Creek Vineyard"
$22. / 13.5%

Light ruby; light, but appealing, ripe tomato, cinnamon, cherry, oak and slightly earthy, faintly yeasty aromas; fruity, cherry-berry, cedar, cinnamon and licorice flavors; somewhat rich, silky texture; balance slightly tart; young tannins; light, long finish is faintly hot. Youthful and angular, this wine may come together with a little more bottle age before its release later this summer.

#5
Recommended

Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir '98 California.

Pepperwood Grove
1998 Pinot Noir
California
$8.00 / 13.1%

Medium ruby; pleasant, sweet, bright, fruity, jammy and cherry aromas with hints of tomato, salami, olive and mint; light, young, simple, pleasant, berry, easy-drinking flavors; well-balanced; light body; short finish. A simple, reasonably varietal, pleasant quaff that is more than reasonably priced.

#6
Recommended
BEST BUY

This Panel included REGULARS Kevin, Mark, Deanna, Glenn, Jon, Jim, Ron, Greg, and James and GUESTS Betsy, Bob, and Frank
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