The evening began at 6:30 with very tasty apps of bacon-wrapped scallops and a mushroom duxelle on puff pastry, and generous pourings of a rather atrociously over-oaked Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc.
At 7:00 we were seated. Host Damon spoke briefly about Pinot Noir, and we were all given a one-page handout on the iconic grape. In the first round of bites from Chef Charles Bloemsma, served with the first flight of three wines, were a fairly austere Sesame Tuna on Cucumber with Soy and a stunningly well-paired Brie Tart with Raspberry and Hazelnuts. With the second flight of three wines (still blind of course) we got a delightful Crispy Chantarelle with Almond Pesto and a very elegant, well-balanced Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese and Cranberry Chutney.
You can check out the group’s consensus on the wines we tasted that night here, and below are my tasting notes, wines listed in order of my personal favorites. Lighting in the dining room was a little dim, so I didn’t record color notes, so’s you know.
Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2005, $35: Nice thick earthy barnyard nose, very French, with good dark smoke aromas. Almost meaty on the nose. On the palate, exemplary cranberry and cherry fruit with delicious ripeness and herbal balance. Elegance and length on the finish, with just fantastic balance being my overall impression. I didn’t expect a Pinot Noir with so much flesh on the nose to be so fine and sophisticated; very enjoyable New World styled wine. I’m pretty sure Adelsheim can’t screw up any grape they manage to vinify; I’ve always enjoyed their wines and cringed at their prices… but for gawdsakes they make a single-varietal Auxerrois and a Pinot Noir icewine, so you can’t ignore them completely! Great to find them in this tasting.
Amisfield Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005, $34: Really enjoyed the cranberry, thyme and clove I got on the nose here. Well-integrated aromas of oolong and earthiness chimed in for a very stylish sniffer. On the palate, I perceived some appealing sweet strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, with well-balanced tannins and bright acidity and an intriguing floral note on the finish. Felt like this one wanted to open up a little more. Evidently Amisfield also does method traditionelle sparklers and whites. I’ll keep an eye out for this “Grown Not Made” brand on my next trip to the wine shop.
Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir 2005, $30: Really concentrated fruit – plum, cherry, some raz – with a lovely minty character I thoroughly enjoyed. Felt a little hot, though. I had originally pegged this Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir as Carneros for the intensity it brought on the palate – wow! Raspberry syrup flavors with grippy tannic structure made for interesting contrast. Love Morgan wines, and I can see why this wine is sold out at the winery.
Cycles Gladiator Central Coast Pinot Noir 2005, $11: Sweet vanilla, with some violet or rose aromas, along with sweet cherry, almost candied, scents. On the palate, there was not much structure, but acceptable fruit-acidity-tannin balance, with a good black tea finish. Not sure I would buy this; too candied for me, but it was very popular in the tasting.
Les Fonateneles Pinot Noir 2005, $8.50: I was impressed with the nose on this French vin du pays: cherry, warm spices, pine, raspberry, almost kool-aid-like it was so fruity. I lingered over the nose for a good while before tasting it, then found myself quite disappointed in the palate. I found it almost aggressively unfruity: kind of buttery and mild with light, almost imperceptable tannin and light acid. Weird.
Domaine St. Martin Masannay 2004, $24: I simply could not get over the intense, overwhelming dill pickle aroma on the nose of this wine. It was interesting from an academic standpoint, almost minty with a savory cast, but utterly monolithic. The minty pickle character persisted on the palate, though I picked up some violet notes and maybe a hint of truffle. The acidity added to the pickle character, and there was a structure here, but largely unattractive to my tastes.
I was pleased with myself for picking the snazzy Oregonian PN as my favorite, from a patriotic standpoint(I’m from Oregon originally), and I though I put the Amisfield above the Morgan, those two were more of a tie for me. While I enormously enjoyed all three of those wines, none of the wines I liked from this tasting really wrapped up what I love about Pinot Noir: that barnyard, cranberry and spice nose with a lovely integrated elegance on the palate and a silky texture. But you gots to love how many variations there are to the vinification of a single grape! And I’m definitely looking forward to my next Winebat tasting for that reason.
Oh, and hey: Green Pastures offers a great little prix fixe dinner for $25 right after these tastings (including a choice of salad, entree and dessert), so keep that in mind when you decide to catch your next Winebat. I haven’t stayed for dinner yet, as the tastings don’t usually come to a close until 8:30-9 pm and then I still have to drive half an hour home on a school night, but if I lived in town I’d be all over that shit. Check it out!