California Pinot Noir

California Pinot Noir

The Fifty Best California Pinot Noir Tasting 2021


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 10 California Pinot Noir wines with 11 members of our wine judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the wines were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles and served at room temperature. Only ice water and white peasant bread were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each wine on score sheets. Scoring was based on a 5-point system, with 5 as the highest. Double-Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. Medals are provided based entirely on merit and only to products judged worthy of such award.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The appelations are identified for each brand. Prices indicated do not include tax.


Patiné Cellars 2018 Pinot Noir
Gap’s Crown Vineyard

(Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County)  $65

Aroma: Cherry, plum, spicy strawberry, big fruit, cocoa, bread crust, fresh prosciutto, tobacco, mineral, balsa wood, new oak.
Palate: Black cherry, blackberry, currant, plum, red plum, jam, apricot, ripe fruit, vanilla, clove, baking spice, spicy right up front, pepper, forest floor, decent tannins, fresh.
Finish: Tangy berries, plum pudding, jammy, grape jelly, amaro, spice, cocoa, oak, above average, youthful.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Patiné Cellars Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard

Gracianna 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir
(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County)  $79

Aroma: Raspberry, cherry, fig, honey, violets, buckwheat, tobacco, earthy, smoky, oak, Burgundian.
Palate: Ripe raspberry, red raspberry, strawberry, cherry, sweet cherry, sweet plum, fruit forward, toast, clove, spice, oak, fresh.
Finish: Red raspberry, balanced smoky macerated red fruit, white tea, well-balanced, nice, memorable, elegant, delicious.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Gracianna Reserve Pinot Noir


Lorenzi Estate 2018 Pinot Noir
(Napa Valley)  $120

Aroma: Dark cherry, raspberry, dark plum, floral, cinnamon, clove, baking spices, humid, leather strap, vibrant.
Palate: Cherry, sweet cherry, tart cherry, raspberry, blackberry, black plum, watermelon, lemon, fruit forward, baking spice, decent tannins, savory, easy to drink, pleasant.
Finish: Cherry, black plum skins, tobacco, spicy, tannins, minerals, clean, fresh, different, can pair easily with red meat.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Lorenzi Estate Pinot Noir

Cakebread Cellars 2018 Pinot Noir
Two Creeks Vineyards

(Anderson Valley)  $50

Aroma: Blackberry, cherry, plum, ripe papaya, violets, dried flowers, black tea, toasted bread, tobacco, earthiness, ash, oak, cedar.
Palate: Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, plum, lemon, clove, mineral, bright acidity, nice, soft.
Finish: Berry, cherry, black tea, mint, dark cherries, smoke, balanced, fragrant, approachable, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir Two Creeks Vineyards

Black Box 2019 Pinot Noir

Aroma: Fresh cherries, blueberries, prune, currant, fruit leather, bowl of fruit, vanilla, cocoa, mushroom, ocean water, gravel, white smoke, pine.
Palate: Cherry, sour cherry, toasted cherry pie, blueberry, sweet black plum, prune, lemony, honey, vanilla, cocoa, clove, decent structure, nice balance, complex, savory.
Finish: black cherry pie, sugar plums, dark chocolate, smooth, harmony of flavors, summer Pinot, fun, above average, lovely.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Black Box Pinot Noir


Pedroncelli 2019 Pinot Noir
Signature Selection

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County)  $22

Aroma: Cherry, plum, raspberry jam/preserves, rose petals, bramble, menthol, earthiness, coffee, leather.
Palate: Cherry, sweet plum, raspberry, blueberry, lemon tart, clove, tobacco, leather, good balance, savory.
Finish: Mixed berries, white raspberry, floral, cream, mineral, spicy, rustic, nice balance, fresh, soft, delicate, easy drinking, savory.

Silver Medal
Silver medal


McClain Cellars
2018 Love & Happiness Pinot Noir

(Santa Ynez County)  $59

Aroma: Strawberry, strawberry jam, raspberry, cherry, Bing cherry, roses, flowers, butterscotch, caramel, mushroom, musty, tobacco, humidor, earthy, dusty.
Palate: Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, jammy, dragon fruit, lime, cedar, funky, fresh.
Finish: Toffee, creamy, baking spice, spicy, a bit smoky, elegant.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

McClain Cellars Love & Happiness Pinot Noir

Barefoot 2018 Pinot Noir
(California)  $6

Aroma: Strawberry, sour plum, cantaloupe, Coca Cola, fresh roses, hibiscus, pink flowers, vanilla, leather, tobacco, oak.
Palate: Raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, plums, apricots, candied cherry, strawberry cake, vanilla, black tea, tobacco, leather, oak, tangy.
Finish: Red raspberry, cherry, plum, black tea, would be good with a cigar, easy to drink, enjoyable.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Barefoot Pinot Noir


Au Contraire 2018 Pinot Noir
(Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County)  $30

Aroma: Blackberry, currants, herbal, potpourri, silk, cocoa, leather, musty, forest floor, oak, linear.
Palate: Cherry, plum, currants, dark stone fruit, fruit forward, clove, baking spice, earthy mushroom, dried pine needles, oak, silky, interesting.
Finish: Almond, mushroom, earthy, stone, well balanced, clean, fresh, soft.

Bronze Medal
Bronze medal

Au Contraire Pinot Noir

Ca’ Del Grevino
Estate Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir

(Santa Maria County, Central Coast)  $125

Aroma: Black cherry, cherry liquor, raisin, dried fruit, cinnamon cookie dough, spicy, mushroom, truffles, bamboo after rain, oak, bright acidity.
Palate: Bing cherry, black cherry, plum, strawberry, berry jam, silky tannins, woody note.
Finish: Cherry, raisins, earthy, cherry wood, soft, smooth.

Bronze Medal
Bronze medal

Ca’ Del Grevino Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir





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