Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wining by proxy...staff writer Marya Glur fills us in on the 3rd Annual Pinot Days...

The Goddess & JD were in San Francisco for ZAP, so staff writer Marya J. Glur and her intrepid sidekick stepped in to cover Pinot Days! Her report:

I have a secret. I’ve kept this secret since I started drinking, tasting, appreciating and loving wine, oh, so many years ago. It’s a secret that I have been loath to tell for fear of retribution, especially around wine aficionados who wax poetic about the subtleties of Pinot Noir. I keep mum around people who go on and on about how delicate and temperamental the grape is and how difficult it is to grow and what clones are grown where and how Burgundy is the ultimate of all wines. Blah, blah, blah...

My secret is now out – I am not a big fan of Pinot Noir. It’s not that I can’t appreciate the subtleties of the grape. It’s not that I can’t tell the difference between a really good Pinot and a mediocre one. It’s that I just don’t choose to drink a lot of Pinot. Whew, I’m glad that I don’t have to hold that in any longer!

Because Pinot is not my choice wine, my interest was peaked and anticipation riding high for the grand Pinot Days tasting on Saturday, January 28. My intrepid winemaker friend, Shawn Shai Halahmy of Shai Cellars (better known as the “Renaissance Man”) and I started the day by once again indulging in a savory crepe filled with European Ham and Swiss Emmenthal Cheese at Café Crepe in Santa Monica before heading over to the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport for the wine tasting. We both agreed that this was the perfect foundation for our Bordeaux extravaganza the week before and once again, the crepes did not disappoint.

Walking into Barker Hanger was quite overwhelming. The wineries were set up in alphabetical order which made it impossible to taste by AVA (like we were able to do with the Bordeaux) without wasting an extraordinary amount of time locating each winery. The only way we could cover the event with the amount of time we had, was just to dive in. We made a beeline for Melville – which was opposite the entrance – because we both have been to the actual winery near Buellton and knew it was a fantastic place to start.

Melville was showing two wines at this event: The 2009 Santa Rita Hills Estate Pinot Noir (lovely black cherry and wood nose with a bit of herbal spice on the finish) and the 2010 Santa Rita Hills “Carries” Pinot Noir (beautiful mouthfeel and bright fruit). Simply brilliant! I regret to say that the wines at Melville often sell out just to their wine club members, so you really do need to be on top of it to get any of these great wines in your cellar.

This would be a long boring blog if I listed every wine in the order that we tasted. Many of the Pinots shown at this tasting were very elegant with balanced acidity and fruit with a whole lotta tannin. In fact, I never realized how much tannin there is in Pinot until I was desperate for a Chardonnay palate cleanser! (Thank you to those winemakers who thought to bring a Chardonnay for just that purpose!) I was astonished at the crazy flavors that ranged from strawberry jolly rancher candy to licorice and cinnamon to skunk and gasoline! It was fantastic to discover so much diversity with a grape that I have not much experience with.

Here are some of the highlights from the remainder of the day (in no particular order):

2010 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($54) with its strawberry jam and cherry pie nose is compared to their 2000 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills with its intense floral, strawberry and blackberry nose and taste of violets and wood with lots of tannin. Holy Cow! is my official review. Unfortunately, the 2000 is sold out! I wonder if you hold the 2010 to drink in 2022 if it would show the same as the 2000 today. Buy now!

2009 Fritz Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($30) – Chocolate covered dark cherry nose with a nice balance of wood, fruit and aciditiy. Very smooth mouthfeel, slight tannin and wood finish. Really lovely.

2009 L’Objet Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($42) – Ripe cherry nose, clove and vanilla on the tongue with a black pepper finish.

2009 Cornerstone Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($50) – Anise and blackberry on the nose with dark cherry fruit taste and a cherry wood finish.

2009 Domaine Chandon Chardonnay Carneros ($26) – Butter cake and caramel apple on the nose, nice minerality and citrus on the midpalate with an oaky finish that lasts FOREVER.

2010 Presqu’ile Rosé Santa Maria Valley ($18) – Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this Rosé packs a lot of WOW!! From its strawberry nose to its watermelon and citrus flavors on the palate to its long caramel and wood finish, this wine screams “drink me all day!”

2008 Paraiso “Faite” Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($65) – Made from grapes found in specific rows of their estate vineyards, this is the perfect Pinot Noir with more structure, balanced acidity, supple mouthfeel, flavors of dark cherry with a dash of spice and a finish with the right amount of tannin and wood. Kudos to winemaker David Fleming! 

2010 Spy Valley Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand ($25) –  A nose of cola infused with cherries and strawberries linger into the palate along with a dose of chocolate and mushroom on the finish full of tannin.

I regret to say that we discovered the Wine House’s Burgundy table too late in the day to properly note anything that was poured. We decided that the only way to end the day was to head to Il Fornaio for some al dente pasta covered in rich tomato sauce to soak up all the wine and cleanse our palates from all the tannin. I wish I could report that we opened a bottle of Shai Adome to enjoy with the pasta, but sadly, we were just wined out!

Thank you again to the Goddess of Wine, Denise Lowe, for letting me play in her sandbox. Thank you also to our gracious host Lisa Rigisich. Cheers!

And thanks to you, Marya! I so appreciate your diligent efforts - especially when tasting a grape that really isn't your favorite - or have you grown a little fonder of it now?

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