Last night we did a tasting of Pinot Noirs with the VINO staff & some of our wine friends. We served the wines BLIND (again, not to guess anything, but instead just to assess the wine–whether it was good or not–why/why not–……how much would you pay retail for it……& what kinds of foods would it work with & why). This was fun & quite insightful. It is amazing what side by side tastings can help reveal. (FYI–I eliminated those that didn’t show so well in this blog, just to keep things positive).
2016 CF Wines Pinot Noir “Santa Maria Valley”–The 2016 has just arrived into Hawaii & this was the first time our staff actually tried the wine. Like the 2015, it was light in color–one could readily see through the wine–, had wonderfully alluring perfume (although there was fruit smells, it definitely had an underlying minerality/earth core, especially on the palate). Yes, this wine was quite ethereal, savory, remarkably light on the palate, though very compelling, lovely, delicious, seamless AND UN-oaky, UN-heavy, UN-alcoholic–& therefore ideal with a wide range of foods it could work with. I was very proud of the wine, & even more so because everyone liked it so much. In fact, for many, it was the wine of the night, which was saying a lot, given the incredible line-up. Thank you Gary Burk of Costa de Oro again for another wonderful vintage. (I believe the first vintage was 2002 & with each vintage, the outcomes just seems to be getting better & better. I really don’t completely understand how Gary does it!)
2012 Neely Pinot Noir “Spring Ridge Vineyard–Hidden Block” –while this wine was quite masculine & savory in style, it displayed a surprisingly light hue, which was very different than the last time I had had it. It had dark kinds of fruit with a stoniness/base notes in the core, was seamless, suave & a wonderful drink. On this night, this bottling showed so much better than what I have experienced from previous vintages, which were also very good, especially for the dollar. It was also a popular selection on the night from the tasters. (3 acres–roughly 700 feet in elevation, planted in 1997–Dijon clone 115–fractured sedimentary soils, no irrigation, NO herbicides/pesticides, wild yeast fermented, bottled unfiltered, unfined, for all 405 cases).
2016 Camino Pinot Noir “Umino Vineyard”–this is the handiwork & own project of Tadeo Borchart, winemaker of Neyers Vineyards. The grapes come from Umino Vineyard in the Sebastopol Hills appellation, a very cool hillside (11 acres planted in 1996/1997 to Dijon clones & #459. though I am not sure what Tadeo actually gets) within the Sonoma Coast AVA. This wine was not as showy as one would expect from Dijon clones & this neck of the woods, but that’s just Tadeo’s style. Tasters all agreed it was very enjoyable–suave, classy & VERY well balanced, something to be thankful for in these parts & these days.
2016 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir “Willamette Valley”–When we opened Sansei in Seattle in I believe 2015, we made sure we included their wine onto the small, but well selected winelist. While in Seattle recently, I was reminded this to be one of the hotshot wineries from Oregon by 2 of the finest wine stores there. So, I bought a bottle to try. The Oregon wines we had previously admired included top end projects such as Evening Land, Chapter 24 & more recently Lingua Franca, each interestingly feature superstar French consultants such as Dominique Lafon & Louis Michel Liger-Belair, as well as highly revered American wine professionals such as Master Sommelier Larry Stone, Rajat Parr & winemaker Sashi Moorman. I originally searched out Big Table Farm because winemaker Brian Marcy did a stint at Neyers winery in the Napa Valley, a winery who does things in the vineyard & winery with Old World sensibilities & uber-sustainably. NO big press & NO big star power, just a couple set to own an actual working farm, complete with animals & respect for the land, to which they added a winery. (Maybe it was wine first, then came the farm). The perfume was pretty, nuanced, alluring & compelling rather than showy or oaky. On the palate, we loved the elegance, grace, transparency & balance of the wine. It was delicious & very intriguing in a more civil, well balanced style. This style of wine sometimes gets overlooked in side by side comparative tastings, especially ones like this with so many quality minded wines. It grabbed my attention!
2016 Rose & Arrow Estate Pinot Noir “1st Highland Close–Chehalem Mountain”–I originally opened a single vineyard Oregon Pinot Noir for this slot, but was shaken in disbelief how much VA the wine overtly displayed, UNTIL I realized it was “barrel sample”. My mistake. (Barrel samples should be consumed as early on as possible, especially those using little sulfur). So, to remedy the situation, I grabbed this bottle of wine, as I was scrambling around, searching for something to fill the slot. In short, this wine was a revelation. I was really taken by its supreme elegance, grace, class, texture & balance. While the others tasted really good, this was CRU quality…..majestic & highly sophisticated. I previously did not know what I was opening, so you can imagine my surprise & thrill after popping it open & tasting it! OMG. The “1st Highland Close” bottling is from 1.88 acres–very rocky & higher elevations–in the Chehalem Hills & crafted by team Chapter 24. 346 cases.
2014 Denis Jamain Reuilly Rouge–The appellation of Reuilly is located in the Central Vineyards of France’s Loire Valley. Its nearby neighbors include the more recognizable Sancerre & Pouilly Fume. Interestingly, one of Reuilly’s other neighbors, Quincy, was the 2nd appellation approved by the French government in the 1936 AOC declaration (even before anything from Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne!). The point being, this area has been noted for growing & making noteworthy wines for quite some time. I would add to that, that the notoriety was more for the white wines back then, pre-“warming of the planet” & its effects of more sun drenched vintages & therefore the increase in frequency of red wine production & the subsequent higher acclaim. While the soils of Sancerre & Pouilly Fume are a mix of limestone, sand, gravel & marl to the clay, Jamain’s Reuilly vineyards feature Kimmeridgian limestone soils, very similar in profile to those found in Chablis. As wine lovers well know, the white wines of Chablis, at its best, offer such purity, divine minerality, etherealness & lightness on the palate, so very different from the other Burgundy Chardonnays to the south. Jamain’s Reuilly similarly offers this kind of character in their white wines, intertwined with the traits of Sauvignon Blanc. On the red side, their Pinot Noir based reds similarly are light colored & weighted, more ethereal, leaner, firmer, lower in alcohol & therefore much more quaffable & food friendly in style. Not for everyone, but certainly a treat for us to try.
2015 Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder “Ahr”–I vividly remember my first experience with this producer & his wines back in the late 1980’s, they were that good! I was also quite in awe when I traveled there in the early 1990’s when seeing their vineyards & just talking story with Werner. While many of the top echelon of German winemakers have a real precise, more scientific edge, I instantly found Werner Näkel, to be more engaging, which makes sense since he was previously a school teacher before taking over the reins of this iconic estate. That first encounter was, in fact, a big welcome party, complete with a big tent, lots of wine, simple pupus & lots of talking story & laughter with at least 50 to 60 people. I was again quite taken by his Pinots, & on this night, especially his “S” bottling. These were definitely wines to be taken seriously, at a time when German Pinot Noir was almost as a novelty, with exceptions from Joachim Heger from Baden & Paul Fürst from Franconia. Meyer Näkel is located in the Ahr region, the most northerly of all of the winegrowing regions of Germany. They have 3 noteworthy Cru vineyards–2 featuring some blue slate to the base & the other gray slate to the base. That is why I often get a slate-y character in the wines & the wines over all have a distinct minerality to them. Werner was selected 2004 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & deservedly so. The wines feature a masculinity in their core, but are nonetheless seamless & well balanced.
2014 François Lumpp Givry Premier Cru, “Petit Marole”–François Lumpp is located in Givry within the Côte Chalonnaise of Burgundy, France. Because of the ever rising prices of the noteworthy Pinot Noir based red wines, especially from the Côte de Nuits & its iconic villages such as Chambolle Musigny, Gevrey Chambertin & Vosne Romanee, we are always looking elsewhere & digging around for gems, which offer quality at more affordable prices. Here is one which recently came on to our radar screen. While, this wine will never be confused with any of these more renown, iconic villages by any means, one can’t help but appreciate the wonderful transparency, pretty & ethereal qualities of this wine. Yes, I adore Pinots which are alluring, classy, refined & delicately nuanced. This is that kind of wine AND we were all quite surprised at its reasonable price.
2015 Ganevat Pinot Noir “Cuvée Julien”–“Jean-François Ganevat is a master of his craft, one of the true magicians of the eclectic. To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.” Ganevat works with vineyards in the Jura region of eastern France, each at varying elevation, steepness grades & facings. I therefore thought why not throw in one of his extremely hard to get wines just to provide a different perspective & hopefully create a stir. Cuvée Julien comes from a 7 hectare parcel of limestone-clay, which was planted in 1977. Its done via whole cluster & aged for 12 months in oak. The resulting wine is NOT oaky, but one can readily tell it is framed by oak. This wine has a mesmerizing purity/transparency, wonderful, soothing texture, bountiful sublime nuances which just appears with each swirl & sip. Yes, this was a wine to behold & I think referring to it as entirely otherworldly is most apropos.
2000 François Jobard Blagny “La pièce sous le bois”–François Jobard has been one of my favorite producers out of Burgundy for a long time, though mainly for his Cru white Meursaults. Over the years he also produced this bottling of red wine, which was always hit or miss for me. It wasn’t about the quality of what’s in the bottle at all. I find/found this bottling to be very moody with more downs than ups. Someone in the know once lamented to me that this wine just doesn’t travel well at all. Makes sense to me, because usually when I taste it, it is so closed & unforgivingly hard, even more so than their white wines can be. On the other hand, I once tried a 1996, which was re-released from the winery in the mid to late 2000’s that I thought to myself–“finally”! Well, unfortunately the other 11 bottles of the case, were closed & hard. There is no doubt the wine has vinosity & complexities, but they are so hidden. I even had a 2002 & a 1995 in the past couple of weeks & walked away scratching my head in bewilderment. The 2000, on the other hand, on this night was halfway open. It had a murky, masculine, tight fisted perfume that I thought was captivating once the bottle stink aired away. In the mouth, it was NOT welcoming or delicious in any sense, but this wine had good structure, vinosity in the core & was finely detailed, just tight fisted & still quite hard. The partially open nose still made it a wine well worth trying. Sadly this vineyard has been redone with Chardonnay, so whatever bottles are out there is the last of this bottling. Thank you Helen & Brent for sharing. I always love the opportunity to try a wine from François Jobard.