all together now

Friday, February 02, 2007


After months and months of talking about forming a wine-tasting group, my friends and I finally got our act together and did it. Our first meeting was last Saturday. (Apologies for the late post -- my life is dominated by cardboard boxes and packing tape right now. Tomorrow is the big move. I am tired of wrapping things in layers of newspaper. And can anyone tell me why on earth I have not just one, but two egg cubers?)

Comparative tastings are great, especially when they're done blind. You always find something that surprises you, and you learn so much. And I love tasting with a group of people who have different relationships with wine and like totally different styles.

The focus of our first gathering: 04 Pinot Noir. (And no, no one brought Burgundy, or even something from Oregon. We were California-centric.) We tasted a total of six wines, and everything was done blind.

Here are my notes and rankings. (I'm only including my observations because I don't want to speak for someone else. And honestly, I can't remember and didn't write down what the group's final vote was, except for the No. 1 and No. 6 wines.)

1. Clos Du Val 2004 Pinot Noir, Carneros: Obviously, this is the bottle I brought. And obviously, I have a house palate. I could tell what it was, even though the tasting was done blind. (Our wines have a distinct nose. I don't really know how to explain it, but I can definitely pick them out when I sniff them. And also, I absolutely love this Pinot, so I know it pretty well.) But I wasn't alone in my vote; I think four of us ranked this wine No. 1. Anyway, I got aromas of cherries, spice and earth, and in the mouth, the wine had a very nice complexity, lots of bright cherry flavors and a touch of pepper. And the finish was fabulous -- long, long, long. I love my job.

2. Sterling 2004 Pinot Noir, Central Coast: So this was my surprise wine. I wouldn't have guessed Sterling because I just don't think of Sterling when I think of Pinot Noir. But I liked this wine. It had ripe cherry and strawberry aromas. In the mouth, I got a combination of fruit and leather.

3. Bouchaine 2004 Pinot Noir, Carneros: Probably the lightest Pinot of the bunch, both in color and in body. The nose: cherry, some pepper and a hint of fresh herbs. The mouth: light-bodied, soft, not as much flavor up front with everything coming at the finish. To me, this was a good wine, but it wasn't incredibly memorable. I ranked this wine third because I wasn't very impressed with the wines that came afterwards.

4. Gundlach Bundschu 2004 Pinot Noir, Rhinefarm Vineyard, Sonoma Valley: I got lots and lots and lots of oak here -- bordering on overkill, at least for me. The nose was full of toffee, and in the mouth, the wine was big and leathery. I thought it needed to age a little more in order to be more approachable. (Funny, though -- the winemaker/brewer/organic gardener boyfriend ranked it first. And he thought the Clos Du Val Pinot needed to age. We debated this in the car on the way home. And throughout parts of the morning the next day.)

5. Patz & Hall 2004 Pinot Noir Chenoweth Ranch, Russian River Valley: Patz & Hall is an excellent winery. It wins awards left and right. And this wine received a 93 from Wine Spectator. But it is just not my style. I am not a fan of big, knock-your-socks-off wines. But for those who are (and you can count yourselves in the majority -- most people like bigger wines and aren't lean freaks like me), this is probably the most fantastic Pinot ever. For me, not so much. I thought it was too big, there was too much wood, and the mouthfeel was sort of fizzy. And I got some heat on the nose when I sniffed it. Too much for little me.

6. Concannon 2004 Pinot Noir, Central Coast: No one in our group really liked this wine; everyone ranked it last. I liked the color (a nice, pretty ruby-red) and the nose (bright cherry), but when I tasted it, it was actually sweet, like it had some residual sugar or something. Also, there was no finish. And no complexity. It was kind of like fruit punch.

So there you have it. Our first wine-tasting group meeting. And after the "serious evaluation" was done, we polished off all six of these bottles and then some. It was a good night. I look forward to the next!

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