Wednesday, January 6, 2010

TN: Two Holiday Pinots

I've placed these Pinot Noirs in a separate post since they're in a higher price point than I usually like to discuss. I'm usually trying to find interesting wines at or below $20. Since it's the holidays, though, I opened two higher end Pinots for our guests. I paid around $25-$30 for each, one though the suggested retail price is $45-$50.

Torii Mor 2006 Willamette Valley Reserve Deux Verres Pinot Noir - This is a blend of barrels from various vineyards located in Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, McMinnville and Willamette Valley. The bouquet delivers as it should at this price point (whether you go with what I paid or full retail) with black cherry, ginger, flower blossoms and herbal nuances. So far so good. But like many Pinots, it's slightly disappointing in the mouth. Yes, it's a medium to full bodied wine. But this is related to a bit of alcohol burn and a somewhat candied quality, be it from oak, alcohol or both, on the finish. I don't mean to say this is a bad wine, though. The acidity is also quite high to help with balance and there are bits of earthiness that assert the Pinot character. It's certainly enjoyable to drink, but feels somehow disjointed. 2006 was a warmer vintage in Oregon, and it does seem that this wine drinks more like a California Pinot, though I wouldn't say it's truly over the top. It just doesn't have the finesse to match the beguiling aromatics.

Pros: Top Class Bouquet, Medium-Full Bodied, Varietal Character
Cons: Slightly Candied Flavor, Disjointed Alcohol and Acidity
Decant: Yes, there was a lot sediment in the bottle
Price: $25 from wine.woot.com ($45 retail)
QPR: Mediocre/Fair (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

Ortman Family Vineyards 2006 SRH Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir - Here's a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir sourced from a well-known vineyard, Fiddlestix. This one has cherry, sage, smoke and baking spice on the nose, and is both shifty and classy as one would expect from a single vineyard Pinot Noir. Like the Torii Mor Pinot above, this is full bodied and fruit-forward. However, it also had a bit of a candied flavor on the finish suggesting over-ripeness or over-oaking (60% new oak was used with this wine). While the acidity is better integrated, this wine seems to be lacking a bit of freshness. It's well-made wine and certainly a varietal Pinot Noir, and is enjoyable to drink. So perhaps I'm nitpicking a bit. But that clumsy candied flavor hangs around on the finish, so it sticks out in my mind.

Pros: Top Class Bouquet, Medium-Full Bodied, Varietal Character
Cons: Slightly Candied Flavor, A Bit Flabby
Decant: Yes, there's enough stuffing that air can only help
Price: $28 from wine.woot.com ($50 retail)
QPR: Mediocre/Fair (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

OK, these are both really good wines and if forced to score them, I'd go for something in the high 80s. But that's the kicker--I expect great things from wines that would ordinarily cost $40+. Both of these wines seem like textbook examples of 'reserve' styled wines that basically use riper fruit aged in newer oak to justify their designation. While they're not over the top fruit bombs, the balance is tipped toward the New World style more than I'd prefer. Where's the earth-funk and silky texture I desire?

In their defense, these are built to age at least a couple of years, so I opened them pretty young. They should integrate and mellow better over time. I don't know that this will fundamentally change the character of the fruit and oak influence, though.

3 comments:

Matt Mauldin said...

That candied quality on the finish of American Pinots is a slippery slope. When it's held in check with good acidity the wines work out well. When it's not, it's a real bummer. I've been real disappointed with a couple of recent Oregon Pinot's that I've tried, one from 2006 and one from 2007.

One from SRH that I've had recently that had a lot of finesse and restraint was a 2007 Lafond SRH Pinot- under $30. It seems like something you might like from reading your stuff. Cheers-

CabFrancoPhile said...

I had the '06 Lafond about a year ago and thought it was great. Definitely my style. I'd bet on liking the '07, too.

My experience with OR Pinot isn't all that great, but I'm getting the feeling if the vintage isn't great, don't bother. Since '06 was hot and '07 was rainy, I think I'll wait for a new vintage to pop up before making another attempt.

Matt Mauldin said...

Glad you mentioned that about the OR '06 and '07 vintages. I hadn't really kept up with Oregon vintages and wondered if the wines I've had recently might have suffered for that reason. I worked for a distributor that carried some great OR labels that I regularly enjoyed... but most of what I tasted during that time was prior to the 2006...