Besides offering a large and aggressive consumer impression for Pinot Noir itself, this tasting was designed to have a bit of competition between the great Pinot Noir regions. Joe Herrig of Suburban Wino offers a comprehensive list of the Twitter hashtags that were used to submit votes for each individual's favorite region. I was lucky enough to taste a Willamette Valley, Edna Valley/San Luis Obispo, and Santa Maria Valley/Santa Barbara County pinot noir and record my impressions:
Tolosa 2005 Pinot Noir Estate Edna Ranch - A slightly translucent scarlet red, this wine had a tart strawberry rhubarb nose, with a bit of herb. The fruit seemed a bit retracted as the supple mouthfeel gave off flavors of dusty red fruit, a pronounced earthiness, and some nice spice. The finish was short and gave the impression that the wine may have been more enjoyable when it was initially released (it is no longer available for purchase). The 2007 vintage is currently available from the winery for only $28. At that price, and with the vintage information that is coming out about the 2007 Edna Valley pinots, I would recommend trying this wine. View the winemaker's live tasting video of the 2007 wine here. I score the vintage I tried at a 3/5 but my interest in Edna Valley is peaked enough that I will visit Tolosa next time I am in San Luis Obispo.
Consilience Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 - Located rather close to Edna Valley, the Santa Maria Valley frequently produces some of California's most praised Pinot Noir. Consilience is a rather small producer, producing just 654 cases of this wine. The pinot was much more opaque than the previous wine, with a nose full of ripe cherries, a bit of gamey leather, and some very intriguing musty mushroom (LOVE THIS). With a big 'ol swirl of the glass I also picked up a very present Big Red cinnamon whaff. The mouthfeel on this wine was very silky, with ripe red cherry and strawberry flavors and hints of vanilla. The wine is 16% abv and did have a bit of heat on the finish, but this settled down the longer the wine sat open. The Consilience sells for $36.00 which is actually a nice price point for what this wine offers: 3.5/5.
But the winner of the evening was the Willamette Valley Vineyard 2008 Founder's Reserve Pinot Noir. This translucent purple-red wine was a bit closed at first (it isn't even released yet) but ultimately offered up seductive aromas of cherry, blackberry, some toasted oak, coffee, and some good old fashioned earthy funk. It was medium bodied with some slightly tart cherry flavor, smoke, fresh earth, and just a bit of a piney mint. This wine almost makes you blush in its appeal, and epitomizes why pinot has the reputation of being irresistible to those who have given into its beauty. This wine will be released at around $30 and earns a 4/5 and a strong recommendation.
I hate the way that pinot noir makes me describe it, because it can sound so grandiose. However, the grape seems to have that power on me. In the end both the Consilience and the Willamette Valley Vineyards wines are bottles that you think about for several days afterwards. This was a great event, and while Willamette Valley won out in this particular setting, all 3 regions proved to me that we make some great pinot noir on the west coast of the US.
(The Consilience and Willamette Valley Vineyards wines were received as samples with the intent to participate in #pinotnoir)