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Mendocino Pinot Noir

September 9, 2002 • Upstairs Downtown

Mendocino Pinot Noir panel.The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival impressed me so much that I lobbied heavily for this theme. Graham Pearson prepared baked herbed salmon and a mixed field greens salad that allowed the wines to show off their complex delicacy. The findings were a mixed bag and not as exciting overall as I had hoped for and promised (overhyped?). The top three wines were excellent, with the Navarro a real bargain. Of the remainder, each wine had some particular weakness and a couple seemed to be quite falling apart, especially when compared with results from prior tastings and with acclaim published in other wine media. It didn't help that Mother Nature gave us a last blast of summer temperature that day - environment definitely affects sensory ability.

Brand Varietal / "Type"
Appellation, Vineyard

TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Alcohol. Varietal composition
(if known). Summary. ($ paid)

Wines are considered Equal Quality
Within Categories of Recommendation
(Listed Alphabetically by Brand)

consensus terms appear in bold
(possible flaws? are in brackets)
* indicates a second or third party


Esterlina Pinot Noir.Esterlina Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley

Dark red color; complex, rich, deep, concentrated, ripe, dark cherry fruit with alcohol (overripe?), violets, toasted almond, dried herb, dill, tomato and slight barnyard (mold?) aromas; young, pleasant, simple, initially sweet, cherry, red raspberry, white pepper, well-integrated flavors; smooth entry, medium body; very good balance, lively and just slightly tart; long, drying finish with a little heat. 13.5% alcohol. Lots of concentration and focus in this wine, which should gain a bit of richness with a year or two of bottle age, in spite of its drink-me-now appeal. ($30) WEBSITE

Goldeneye Pinot Noir.Goldeneye Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley

Medium-light red color; complex, sweet, ripe tomato, bacon fat, earth, American oak, spice, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla aromas; sweet, ripe, red and black cherry flavors; smooth, medium body, very slightly rich; good balance, slightly tart; long, flavorful finish. 14.5% alcohol. Clean, complex and distinctive flavors with lots of flash and nothing objectionable make this wine very enjoyable. ($40) WEBSITE

Navarro Pinot Noir.Navarro Pinot Noir

Clear, garnet red color; clean, fresh, concentrated fruit, Beaujolais-like, intense black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, currant, bubblegum, violet and oak aromas; ripe, strawberry, tart cherry, candy and cherry cola flavors; light to medium body, silky texture; well-balanced, faintly tart; very light tannins in the lingering, faintly bitter, very pleasant finish. 13.8% alcohol. Great flavors, refreshing, uncomplicated, easy drinking and well-balanced in a lighter style. ($15) BEST BUY WEBSITE


Elke Pinot Noir.Elke Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley, "Donnelly Creek Vineyard"

Light to medium red color, slightly hazy; rich, alcoholic, slightly fruity, ripe red cherry, watermelon, roses, spice, cinnamon, earth, barnyard, caramel, vanilla and toasty oak aromas; earth, somewhat oaky flavors overpower light Bing cherry fruit; light to medium body, very slightly rich; clean, good balance is slightly tart; finishes somewhat tart, drying, oaky and alcoholic. 13% alcohol. This wine has attractive elements in place, but the fruit is just hanging on by a thread. It could'a been a contender, but extra credit doesn't make up for not completing the basic assignment. ($22) WEBSITE

Husch Pinot Noir.Husch Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley ESTATE

Light to medium garnet color; black currant, black cherry, herbs, straw, ripe tomato with hints of leather, meat, American oak, smoke, toast, earth, barnyard and burnt rubber in the aromas; sweet, light fruit, currant, black cherry and oak flavors; light to medium body, very slightly rich; balance is slightly flat, low acid; mild finish lingers, is slightly hot. 13.9% alcohol. A lighter style that again seems shy on fruit. ($14.50) WEBSITE

Roederer Pinot Noir.Roederer Estate Pinot Noir 1998 Anderson Valley ESTATE

Medium dark garnet color, faint haze; smoke, toast, oak, earth, cinnamon, rubber, vegetal with muted cherry fruit and musty, moldy, mousy (Brettanomyces?) aromas; tight, anise, earthy, vegetal, mushroom, medicinal (filter pad?) and wispy cherry Kirsch flavors (oxidized?); light, round body without richness; good balance; medium length, lean, green (underripe?) finish. 13% alcohol. Decent, but underwhelming red from this California sparkling wine leader. ($18 - available at the winery only) WEBSITE


Braren-Pauli Pinot Noir.Braren-Pauli Pinot Noir
Mendocino, "Roar Vineyard"

Clear, medium dark red color; light, closed, low cherry and raspberry fruit aromas with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, herbs, grass, rye bread, smoke, wax, medicine, nail polish (ethyl acetate?), cardboard (filter pad?); light, spicy, flat, vaguely raspberry flavors; light body, slightly tannic; balanced, slightly tart; a little astringent, sharp and warm on the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Although complex and decently balanced, this lost favor for lacking freshness and depth and for showing more off flavors than it did varietal traits. ($11) WEBSITE

Handley Pinot Noir.Handley Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley ESTATE RESERVE

Medium garnet red color; berry jam, green peppercorn, watermelon rind, rhubarb, herbs, grass, mint, Sherry, oak and slightly medicinal (underripe? filter pad? stemmy? moldy?) aromas; dry, "pretty" fruit flavors with wood, oak and hints of tobacco and herbs; light to medium body; balance needs acid; finishes with dusty tannins, a little heat. 13.5% alcohol. Only 278 cases of this wine were produced and it won multiple Gold and Silver medals in competitions. The fruit in this bottle seems to have gone into hibernation leaving alcohol, oak and mustiness to take over. ($30) WEBSITE

This Panel included Regulars Mark, Glenn, Bob, Jim L., Betsy and Jim V. and Guests Antonio and Graham
About Pinot Noir



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