reviews wine bars

Four Calling Birds, Three Pinots Noir…

ErathI tasted these three wines in a flight at Cru on Second Street, simply ages ago. I enjoyed my visit; Cru has a respectable wine flight program and an interesting menu, including cheese flights. The ambiance is a little more restaurant than bar, and I get why people call it Dallas-influenced because its ambiance is more formal than most Austin wine bars I’ve visited.

Erath 2006 Oregon Pinot Noir, $19 retail: Light garnet, almost cranberry juice in color. On the nose, strawberry and cranberry cocktail, with some black tea with bergamot. Very Oregonian to me: light and elegant without all the dirt. The tea aroma is quite pronounced.

Palate is a good, tart cranberry with some mushroom in the mid-palate; the finish has some earth on it which gives it some weight. Not spicy, but not harsh and not a fruit bomb. Slightly silky; like a duet of cranberry and earth.

Dick Erath is like the inventor of Oregon wine, practically. He founded his winery (now owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) in the Dundee Hills in 1967. Thirty-four vintages later, he’s still growing grapes and blowing minds. This wine was closed with a screw-cap, which I applaud.

Acacia Pinot NoirAcacia 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir, $25 retail: Darker, opaque ruby in color. Very evident oak at first whiff, with an undertone of spice beneath that. Cherry, some heat, raspberry, mushroom and some violets on the nose.

On the palate, good drying tannins balance with acidity; nice black tea, cranberry, some warm nutmeg spice, and maybe some earth. Finish doesn’t last with the clarity of the Erath. Respectable, but not blow-your-mind wine. I remember this Acacia bottling as showing stronger than this.

Acacia Vineyard is a Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay house, and was acquired by Diageo when they bought the Chalone Wine Group. I’m really disappointed in their website, I must say. Winemaker Matthew Glynn starts the fermentation of this wine in stainless and then moves it into a barrels to finish the first and then the malolactic fermentation as well. I like this winery a lot; they’re always pretty solid, possibly because they pretty much stick to two varieties?

Dogpoint Pinot NoirDog Point 2005 Marlborough Pinot Noir, $40 retail: Very deep red in color, almost Merlot. Barnyard manure (finally!), blackberry, some cherry on the nose.

Palate is fecund, earthy cherry with strawberry, smoke, and candied flowers. Palpable tannic grip, but with enough acidity to balance it out just fine. Kind of a cough syrup finish. Decent enough texture, but little finesse.

Dog Point Vineyard has an oddly pared-down website. They don’t talk much about why the winery exists or what their winemaker’s philosophy is. The secret is that winemaker James Healey and vitculturalist Ivan Sutherland used to work for legendary Cloudy Bay Winery before they decided it was now or never and founded their own winery. They make a small amount of wine and sell the grapes they don’t use to Cloudy Bay. With chops like that and the careful business plan they seem to have, these guys should go far.

As Pinot Noir flights go, meh.  I guess someone was thinking New World (not from Europe) when they put this one together. It’s hard to offer affordable PN flights, I get that, but I really felt that if the Erath was supposed to be the example of the varietal that showed finesse, it was a little too entry-level for that. I assume the Dog Point was supposed to be the Wow Wine, and I liked it, but it didn’t blow me away. And the Acacia seemed a little too similar to the Dog Point for good contrast. Ah, well. You can’t win ’em all.

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