California Pinot Noir
 

California Pinot Noir

The Fifty Best California Pinot Noir Tasting 2020

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 18 recent release California Pinot Noir wines with 14 members of our wine judging panel. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Strict tasting rules were applied. 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.

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.

DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Darioush 2017 Pinot Noir
(Russian River Valley) $74

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes that after fermentation was aged in new Burgundian oak for 15 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Raspberry, black raspberry, plums, prunes, cherry juice, blackberry syrup, plum skins, vanilla, dark chocolate, must, tobacco, earthy, juniper ash, smoke, dry cherry wood.
Palate: Bright dark cherry, ripe cherry, stewed cherries, plum, strawberry, ripe strawberry, macerated strawberries, raspberry, vanilla, mushrooms, leather, mineral, earthy, smoke, oak, rich, savory.
Finish: Strawberry, light strawberries with syrup, currants, tart cherries, plum wine, Granny Smith apple, violets, herbal, nice tannins, smooth.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Darioush 2017 Pinot Noir



Karah Estate Vineyard MK 2018
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

(Sonoma County)
BEST VALUE $18

Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Petaluma Gap AVA, this wine was fermented in open-top stainless steel and aged in neutral oak (35% American, 65% French) for one year before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, plum, strawberry jam, strawberry lollipop, strawberry Starburst, cranberry, apple, red cherry pits, black tea, minerals, stone, earthy, woody.
Palate: Cherry, ripe strawberries, blackberry, tart cherry juice, red currants, cranberry, orange, stone, smoky, clean, bright, balanced.
Finish: Ripe black cherry, cherry jam, black tea, earthy, dry oak, flinty, nice acidity, well balanced, nicely balanced, approachable.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Karah Estate Vineyard MK



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Gracianna 2016 Pinot Noir
Bacigalupi Vineyard

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $54

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak for 11 months before bottling unfined and unfiltered.

Aroma: Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, currants, cherry Starburst, liquored cherry, fruit punch, orange peel, vanilla cream, dough, mulberry, rosewood.
Palate: Cherry, bright cherries, macerated cherries, liquored black cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cranberries, jammy, dark chocolate, dough, sweet oregano, bright.
Finish: Black cherry, cherry pie, blackberry, juicy, jammy, vanilla, bright minerals, toasted tobacco, earthy, mild oak, approachable, lovely.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Gracianna 2016 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard



Gracianna 2018 Reserve Pinot Noir
Westside Reserve

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $74

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 11 months in French oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Aroma: Ripe cherry, ripe raspberry, strawberry, ripe plums, cranberry, sour cherry, floral, earthy mushroom, bright.
Palate: Cherry, ripe juicy cherry, tart cherry, tart cherry juice, purple plum, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, herbal notes, smoke, mild oak, creamy, smooth, big.
Finish: Strawberry, cherry pits, herbal, tea, tangy, mild oak, balanced, soft, delicate, great with food.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Gracianna 2018 Reserve Pinot Noir Westside Reserve



Lloyd Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir
(Sta. Rita Hills) $50

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir from La Viña and Rio Vista Vineyards. Following fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine was barrel-aged in French oak for 10 months and then bottle-aged for 12 months prior to release.

Aroma: Fresh strawberries, boysenberry, blackberry, cherry, currants, cranberry, grassy, Thai basil, tobacco, stone, earthy, smoke, oak.
Palate: Rainier cherries, ripe cherry, plums, candied strawberries, blackberry, cranberry, currants, juicy, minerals, flinty, earthy, woody, oak, great tartness, balanced, velvety, soft mouthfeel.
Finish: Cherry, strawberry, blackberry, mulberry, currant, juicy, sweet tea, cherry pits, earthy, smoky, nice sweetness, clean, crisp, silky, classic California Pinot, delicious.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lloyd Cellars Pinot Noir



Roger Roessler Cellar
The Saint 2018 Pinot Noir

(Sonoma Coast) $70

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes that were fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks using natural yeast, after which the wine was aged in French oak barrels (40% new) for 10 months before bottling.

Aroma: Strawberry, stewed strawberry, strawberry pie, raspberries, strong dark cherry, cranberry, violets, wet earth, oak.
Palate: Strawberry jam, rich blackberry, tart raspberry, currants, soft cherry, cherry pits, almonds, black tea, leather, minerals, great acidity, cabernet style.
Finish: Sweet dark cherry, red berries, tart cranberries, soft oak, balanced, smooth, bright, pleasant, enjoyable.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Roger Roessler Cellar The Saint Pinot Noir



Kerr Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir
(Sonoma Coast) $64

For this wine, grapes harvested from Manzanita were fermented and barrel aged in Burgundian oak (50% new) for 17 months before bottling.

Aroma: Ripe raspberries, rich blackberry, soft strawberry, rhubarb, jackfruit, Coca Cola, faint sandalwood, menthol, soft cherry tobacco, tobacco, smoke.
Palate: Cherries, black cherry, strawberry, stewed strawberries, cranberry, old leather, mild tobacco, earthy, wood, mild oak, big, balanced.
Finish: Ripe cherries, dried strawberries, cranberry, preserved lemons, black tea, nice tannin, very chewy, well balanced, easy drinking, delightful.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kerr Cellars Pinot Noir



Gracianna 2017 Estate Pinot Noir
Mercedes Riverblock

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $68

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak for 11 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Aroma: Red cherry, black cherry, strawberry, blackberry, currants, fresh plums, ripe raspberries, fresh raspberry pie, slight vanilla, bright, rich.
Palate: Black cherry, red cherry, strawberry, ripe plums, macerated cherries, blackberry, nice tannins, smoky, balanced.
Finish: Cherry, strawberry, watermelon, lavender, vanilla, bitter almond, herby, smoky, nice balance, rich, velvety, smooth, delicious.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Gracianna 2017 Estate Pinot Noir Mercedes Riverblock



Patiné Cellars 2017
Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir

(Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County) $65

Following fermentation, this 100% Pinot Noir wine was aged in French oak barrels (50% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Ripe raspberries, ripe strawberry, cherry, ripe plum, black currant, sour cherry, lime zest, mushroom, earthy, wood spice, musty, dry forest, dogwood.
Palate: Strawberry, stewed strawberry, black cherry, macerated red cherries, Cherry Coke, cranberry, unripe plum, sour cherry, quince, green leaves, white pepper, vanilla, leather, earthy, oak, big tannins.
Finish: Ripe cherries, lingering cherry, tart cherry, ripe plum, juicy, floral, slight menthol, tobacco, leather, tannic, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Patiné Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Iron Horse Vineyards
2017 Gold Ridge Pinot Noir

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $85

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir (3 separate clones) harvested from the Green Valley. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels (average age of 4 years) for 9 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Strawberry, ripe strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry, cranberry, white cranberry, orange peel, menthol, camphor, popcorn, rye seed.
Palate: Cherry, ripe cherry, stewed cherries, raspberry, strawberry, light cranberry, thyme, tobacco, leathery, smoke, woody, velvety, smooth, delicate.
Finish: Cherry pie, sour cherry, light white cranberry, cinnamon, bittersweet chocolate, mushroom, earthy, tannins, mild oak, balanced, velvety.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




Iron Horse Vineyards Gold Ridge Pinot Noir



Gracianna 2015 Pinot Noir
Bacigalupi Vineyard

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $68

This wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak for 11 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Aroma: Big cherry, stewed cherry, beautiful strawberries, ripe red berries, vanilla, herby, tobacco, earth, great aromatics.
Palate: Cherry, dark cherry, ripe raspberry, rich blackberry, ripe strawberry, strawberry pie, strong oak, great acidity, well balanced.
Finish: Dark cherry, soft cherry, plums, pluot, blackberry, cherry pits, smoke, oak, delicious.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Gracianna 2015 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard



Scott Family Estate
2017 Pinot Noir Dijon Clone

(Aroyo Seco, Monterey County) $18

Following fermentation, this 100% Pinot Noir wine was aged for 10 months in French and American oak.

Aroma: Big cherry, Rainier cherries, ripe black cherries, tart cherries, plums, strawberry, raspberry, currant, black tea, musty, great aromatics.
Palate: Cherry, red & black cherries, strawberry, tart raspberry, cherry pits, black tea, mossy, cherry wood ash, oak, classic California pinot, nice tartness, balanced, delicious.
Finish: Fresh cherries, raspberry coulis, kiss of vanilla sweetness, mild leather, wood spice, cherry wood ash, oak, smooth, absolutely lovely.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




Scott Family Estate Pinot Noir Dijon Clone



August West 2018 Pinot Noir
Graham Family Vineyard

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $48

Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes (fermented unstemmed), this wine was aged in once-used French oak barrels for 10 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, cherry, liquored ripe cherry, tart cranberry, dried raspberry, sour plum, potpourri, leather, mild tobacco, cherry pipe tobacco, fresh sawn cherry wood.
Palate: Cherry, black currant, cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, dried cherry, ripe liquored cherry, lemon, kaffir lime, lemon zest, dark cherry pits, cola, earth, well-balanced, crisp, velvety.
Finish: Cherry jam, sour cherry, cherry pits, maduro tobacco, oak, nice mouth feel, easy drinking, enjoyable, delicious.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



August West Pinot Noir Graham Family Vineyard



Mansfield-Dunne 2018 Pinot Noir
Cortada Alta Vineyard

(Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County) $58

This 100% Pinot Noir was fermented in stainless steel tanks (60% whole clusters), then aged in French oak (75% new) for 10 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, ripe strawberry, plums, currant, guava, macerated raspberries, sweet tarragon, light cumin seed, mineral, woody, oak, cabernet-like.
Palate: Cherry, black cherry, fresh picked raspberries, raspberry pie, strawberry, stewed strawberries, blackberry, rich dark fruit, cola, vanilla, herbaceous, soft oak, chewy.
Finish: Soft cherry, tart cherry, raspberries, blackberry, smoky, old oak, soft tannins, good acidity, crisp, balanced.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Mansfield-Dunne 2018 Pinot Noir Cortada Alta Vineyard



Fathers + Daughters Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir
Ferrington Vineyard – Ella’s Reserve

(Anderson Valley) $52

This wine was made from hand-picked grapes with 30% fermented as whole clusters in open top fermentation tanks, after which it was aged for 21 months in French oak barrels (20% new) before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, cherry Twizzlers, pomegranate, mild raspberry, Gala apples, lemon verbena, rosemary, earthy.
Palate: Cherry, red & black cherries, ripe red berries, tart cranberry, faint strawberry, strawberry Starburst, citrus, lemon tea, herbaceous, floral, tannic, smoke, oak, delicate.
Finish: Lingering cherry, tart cranberry, juicy, lemon, cherry pits, black tea, tannic, smoky.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Fathers + Daughters Cellars Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard Ella’s Reserve



Austerity 2017 Pinot Noir
(Monterey) $55

Grapes for this wine were fermented in stainless steel and then barrel-aged in French oak (100%) for 10 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, Bing cherry, ripe cherry, black plum, stewed strawberry, cranberry, bright.
Palate: Black cherry, boysenberry, strawberry, blackberry, tannins.
Finish: White strawberry, mushroom, tannins, well balanced, dry, soft.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Austerity Pinot Noir



BRONZE MEDAL WINNERS

Frey 2018 Organic Pinot Noir
(Mendocino) $18

This wine, made with primarily Pinot Noir and the addition of a very small amount of Chardonnay, was aged in stainless steel for about a year and for a lesser time in a combination of French and American oak.

Aroma: Cranberry, strawberry jam, Welch’s concord grape juice, stewed prunes, Graham crackers, jasmine, tarragon, anise, eucalyptus, wet leaves, wet oak, smoldering, campfire, charred wood.
Palate: Cherry, strawberry, sandalwood, herby, tobacco, strong leather, chalk, earthy, woody.
Finish: Strawberries, herbal, vegetal, chalk.

Bronze Medal
Bronze medal



Frey Organic Pinot Noir



Pacific Redwood 2018 Organic Pinot Noir
(Redwood Valley, Mendocino) $13

Following fermentation, this Pinot Noir (produced with the addition of a small amount of Chardonnay) was aged in stainless steel for a year and for a small period of time in American oak.

Aroma: Sweet cherry, cherry cola, eggplant, oregano, basil, sandalwood, funky, oaky, pine.
Palate: Sweet cherry, cranberries, cola, sandalwood, menthol, mineral, musty, funky, young oak, chewy.
Finish: Kirschwasser, sandalwood incense, mushroom, earthy, chewy.

Bronze Medal
Bronze medal



Pacific Redwood Organic Pinot Noir

 

 

 

 

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