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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some New California Pinot Noirs - June 4, 2009


We tasted last night (6/4/09) Some Calif PinotNoirs:

  1. Holdredge PinotNoir RRV (14.3%l 6 vnyds/13 clones; 10% whole cluster; 834 cs) 2007: Med.light
    color; attractive bright/cherry/PN slight earthy low-key pencilly/oak nose; tart bright/zippy/
    cherry/cherry pie/spicy/PN very light pencilly/oak flavor; med.long bright cherry/cherry pie/spicy/
    PN light pencilly/oak finish w/ light tannins;a very pretty cherry/Pinot for current drinking. $35.00
  2. Holdredge PinotNoir SelectionMassale/RRV (14.6%; 9 interplanted clones; 75 cs) 2007: Med.color;
    strong black cherry/PN some earthy/mushroomy light pungent/toasty/oak interesting nose; soft black cherry/PN slight mushroomy light toasty/oak flavor; med.long richer/lusher black cherry/PN light mushroomy light toasty/pungent/oak finish w/ light tannins; can use a yr or two yet; the SelectionMassale should, in theory, make for a more complex Pinot but I don't seem to get that. $40.00
  3. Holdredge PinotNoir WrenHopVnyd/RRV (14.7%; 125 cs) 2007: Med.color; fairly strong black cherry/Pinot slight mushroomy/earthy light toasty/oak nose; soft attractive/cherry/black cherry/Pinot slight earthy light pencilly/toasty/oak flavor; long soft fragrant/cherry/black cherry/Pinot light pencilly/oak
    finish w/ light tannins; very attractive Pinot w/ lots of bright Pinot fruit; bit more lively on its feet than the Selection. $40.00
  4. Holdredge PinotNoir BucherVnyd/RRV (14.2%; 90% clone 667, 10% clone 115; 220 cs) 2007: Med.light color; bit more toasty/pencilly/pungent/oak more earthy/mushroomy strong/plummy/black cherry/PN nose; bit more toasty/oak lighter/black cherry/PN slight more earthy/plummy flavor; long rich/black cherry/PN bit plummy/ earthy fair toasty/pungent/oak finish w/ light tannins; bit more oak and bit less bright fruit. $40.00
  5. Holdredge PinotNoir MazieRose/RRV (14.5%; www.Holdredge.com; 70 cs) 2007: Med.color; deeper more intense cherry/black cherry/PN light toasty/pencilly/oak slight earthy/mushroomy/truffle more complex/interesting nose; tart fairly rich/lush bright/cherry/black cherry/PN earthy/truffle some toasty/pungent/oak some spicy/perfumed flavor; very long strong/cherry/black cherry/PN light toasty/pungent/oak spicy/mushroomy/truffle finish w/ some tannins; my easy favorite of these SV Pinots; more intensity and more spiciness. $45.00
  6. NicholsonRanch PinotNoir SonomaCoast (14.6%; www.NicholsonRanch.com; 267 cs; Dijon clones:
    667, 777, 115; 33% new Fr.oak) 2006
    : Med.dark slight murky color; strong smokey/toasty/oak slight
    earthy/funky/Burgundian some black cherry/cranberry/PN nose; soft/soupy bit overripe strong
    pungent/toasty/oak bit funky/Burgundian/barnyardy flavor; med.long soft/soupy/very ripe black
    cherry/PN/cranberry slight funky/Burgundian/pencilly/toasty finish w/ some tannins; most
    Burgundian/funky of these Pinots; bit like the Swan Pinots in Joe's day. $42.00
  7. Radio-Coteau LaNeblina SonomaCoast PinotNoir (1688 cs; U/U; 14.4%) 2007: Med.dark color; rather pencilly/Fr.oak bright cherry/black cherry/PN very spicy/perfumed slight peppery lovely nose;
    tart bright/very spicy/cherry/black cherry/PN light pencilly/oak flavor; very long tart cherry/ black cherry/PN light pencilly/oak finish w/ light tannins; very ready to drink; loved this wine
    for the almost Zin-like spiciness. $42.00
  8. Radio-Coteau TerraNeuma SonomaCoast PinotNoir (318 cs; U/U; 14.4%; www.RadioCoteau.com)
    : Med.dark color; bigger earthy/mushroomy strong toasty/pungent/Fr.oak quite spicy/DrPepper
    strong black cherry/PN nose; tart big/rich black cherry/PN/spicy/CherryCola rather toasty/pungent/oak
    fairly tannic flavor; long fairly tannic black cherry/PN/CherryCola strong toasty/smokey/oak finish
    w/ fair tannins; needs 2-5 yrs; less bright fruit and more deep/black cherry character w/ strong oak component. $50.00
  9. OjaiVnyd PinotNoir FeCiegaVnyd/StaRitaHills (14.0%) 2006: Very dark color; some toasty/oak deep black cherry/Pinot slight licorice very perfumed/fragrant/floral/violets lovely nose; tart deep black cherry/
    Pinot/floral slight earthy/dusty/mushroomy spicy light pencilly/oak flavor; very long rich/black cherry/Pinot/ floral/violets light earthy/dusty light pencilly/coffee/oak finish w/ some tannins; a beautiful fragrant Pinot that needs several yrs. $53.00
  10. OjaiVnyd StaRitaHills PinotNoir ClosPepeVnyd (14.0%; www.OjaiVineyard.com) 2006: Wow....one of the most TCA-tainted wines yet; huge wet cardboard/musty/TCA nose you can smell several ft away
    from the glass; a bit of fruit on the palate but dominated by the TCA. $46.00
  11. OjaiVnyd PinotNoir BienNacidoVnyd/SantaMariaVlly (14.0%) 2006: Very dark color; very strong black
    cherry/Pinot/framboise/plummy light toasty/oak very spicy/peppery perfumed/fragrant nose; very tart
    bright/cherry/black cherry/classic BienNacido/framboise light peppery/spicy/licorice very light
    pencilly/toasty/oak some tannic flavor; very long/lingering plummy/black cherry/Pinot/framboise light toasty/pencilly/oak finish w/ ample tannins; a beautiful/classic BienNacido Pinot w/ yrs ahead of it; one of Adam's best Pinots yet. $42.00
  12. OjaiVnyd SantaMariaVlly PinotNoir SolomonHillsVnyd (14.0%; 3.3 tons/acre) 2006: Dark color; strong pungent/toasty/oak ripe/licorice/black cherry/Pinot some earthy/mushroomy nose; tart rich/earthy/licorice light black cherry/Pinot fair/toasty/charred/oak some tannic flavor; softer long licorice/ripe/some black cherry/Pinot rather toasty/charred/oak plummy/ripe flavor w/ some tannins; not the finesse and the fragrant/perfumed character of te other two Pinots; needs age yet. $46.00

And yet another pompous/blathering BloodyPulpit :

1. Holdredge: This was the first exposure most of my people have had to John's Pinots. They were
very well received. The standard RRV Pinot is full of bright zippy Pinot fruit and very good drinking.
The SV Pinots were all pretty classic RRV Pinots w/ lots of black cherry fruit & taht slight earthy/
mushroomy character of RRV. The oak was very low key in all the wines. Light on their feet and very good drinking. Most seemed to prefer the WrenHop, but my (slight) favorite was the MazieRose. All very attractive Pinots. That said, I didn't find particularly dramatic differences between any of the SV wines.
2. ClosPepe: I was looking forward to trying this Pinot as the ClosPepe vnyd is one of my favorites.
Bummer on the TCA. Fabien will replace this btl. Larry pointed out that if you're a winemaker, this is
the kind of TCA-taint you would want. Unmistakably flawed. If it were just a low-level TCA-taint
that just hinted of mustiness and robbed the wine of fruit, the drinker may just conclude it was
poor winemaking and not revisit that wnry's offerings.
3. OjaiPinots: Adam has professed an interest in changing the style of his wines and the direction of his Pinots from wines that appeal to the (so-called/mythical perhaps) "ParkerPalate" and toning them down a bit in terms of oak/extraction/alcohol. Wonder how long before critics will characterize his Pinots as "low-brow village Burgundies"??

Anyway, this threesome are perhaps an example of Adam's new direction. The SolomonHills struck me as more in the style of the OjaiPinots of old, whilst the FeCeiga and BienNacido are perhaps the "new" Ojai Pinots. Both showed a lot less oak and much more expressive of the fruit/vnyd. The BienNacido may be the best BienNacido Pinot Adam has yet made. Lots of acidity and that classic BienNacido black cherry fruit. It should age extremely well.

The latest OjaiRed is probably the best OjaiRed yet (note to follow). It is roughly 80% pre-bottle
racking of the '07 Pinots, according to Fabien. He feels it's a good indicator of the '07 Ojai Pinots
to come. It is a screaming deal at $14....it's morally repugnent to buy a wine this good at that
cheap a prices. My group has no morals...we're going back for more.


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