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Good to see Kalin Cellars getting recognized. Terry Leighton has been making world class wines for decades. His winemaking philosophy as well as edict that he will release wines when they are ready to drink was a revelation to me when I met him over 10 years ago. His semillon is a stunner and the Cab's are elegant and refined. Bubblies are world class. Hell, everything is just delicious.

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I agree on the Kalin. The Domaine Serrene Is nice but a bit rough and needs serious air right now. I've had multiple Hanzell vineyard pinots recently from Kosta Brown and Walter Hansel and they have all been fantastic. I'd like to see the folks at Siduri, get into one of these lists. Adam Lee is making some wonderful pinot.

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I agree on the Kalin.  The Domaine Serrene Is nice but a bit rough and needs serious air right now. I've had multiple Hanzell vineyard pinots recently from Kosta Brown and Walter Hansel and they have all been fantastic.  I'd like to see the folks at Siduri, get into one of these lists. Adam Lee is making some wonderful pinot.

It is odd they left off Siduri, Loring, AP Vin, Radio-Coteau, just to name a few.

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Good to see Kalin Cellars getting recognized. Terry Leighton has been making world class wines for decades. His winemaking philosophy as well as edict that he will release wines when they are ready to drink was a revelation to me when I met him over 10 years ago. His semillon is a stunner and the Cab's are elegant and refined. Bubblies are world class. Hell, everything is just delicious.

I don't disagree, but Kalin wines have a VERY limited appeal. For a restaurant or retailer to support the brand has to be a labor of love, because they are not easy wines to sell. They are held back quite a bit so one has to appreciate older tones in wine.

They are also expensive.

Having said that, one of my favorite Pinot Noir bottles of all time was a Kalin - an '87 DD bottling I think (I could be mistaken - it's been a while).

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We had a few friends over last Saturday. We decided to try to answer a question asked by one of the folks on E-Gullet "Do you feel that women agree with these tastes?" when talking about CA Pinot Noir. While these are not necessarily representative of the CA PN landscape, they are of my cellar, so they are what we opened. I tried to let all of them decant for an hour or more in order to get a true picture of their flavors and aroma once they had a chance to open up.

2004 Dain American Beauty, Amber Ridge Vineyard - David Dain's inagurial vintage and a great start. Floral nose of cherrys, cola and nutmeg that was very pleasant. Supple, elegant wine, not as "big" as other PNs but still very fruit forward. Lots of black cherry, vanilla and earth flavors, well structured, good acidity, and supple tannins. Medium finish to long finish. Everythig on could want in a Pinot Noir. Excellent first effort and I'm really looking forward to the future for these wines.

2003 A.P. Vin Gary's Vineyard - Dark ruby in color. Initially showing a nose of cherrys, cola and allspice, as the evening progressed it gained cinnimon and licorice notes. On the palate rich flavors of cherrys and blackberrys with a wonderful earthiness, mild tannins that softened with each passing hour. Balanced with long structured finish. Excellent wine.

2004 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard - Nose of predominate cherrys, allspice/cloves with a nice earthy funk that blew off early. After decanting the fruit had begun to mute from its initial predominance and it smoothed out to a well balanced, supple PN. Still bigger than the Dain. Smooth fouth feel, short to medium finish. Nice easy to drink PN.

2002 Martinelli Bondi Home Ranch Water Trough Vineyard Pinot Noir - Medium-dark purple with a floral nose that clobbered you with cherries. Expansive with intense flavors of cherries and very ripe berries with a little smoke in the background. Almost a Syrah like PN, extracted, full bodied, and rich, but easily the favorite wine of the evening.

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Of the limited number of pinots from both new and old world that I have had the opportunity to taste, I prefer the new world style. I know that makes me horribly unsophisticated in the estimation of the old world terroiristas, but I say unashamedly: give me more cherry fruit and less mushroomy underbrush. However, I am priced out of the market for most of what is out there in the PN world and on your list above. Of the PNs that are affordable to me, I have liked Castle Rock RRV, Hangtime, Kimball and Acacia from CA and Adelsheim from Oregon.

Have you had any of these wines, and if so, how do they compare with the PNs in your tasting?

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Of the limited number of pinots from both new and old world that I have had the opportunity to taste, I prefer the new world style. I know that makes me horribly unsophisticated in the estimation of the old world terroiristas, but I say unashamedly: give me more cherry fruit and less mushroomy underbrush. However, I am priced out of the market for most of what is out there in the PN world and on your list above. Of the PNs that are affordable to me, I have liked Castle Rock RRV, Hangtime, Kimball and Acacia from CA and Adelsheim from Oregon.

Have you had any of these wines, and if so, how do they compare with the PNs in your tasting?

I've had them all except the Kimball. While the Castle Rock is excellent in good years, and in my opinion, the best of the inexpensive Pinot Noirs, the ones I wrote about are much more fruit forward and "jammy". The Adelsheim is more like a Burgandy than the CA PNs, and the Acacia is very typical of the Carnaros fruit. I really like the RRV PNs, and they are not that expensive when you compare them to a Burgandy.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Castle Rock is a roulette wheel of grape locality. They will switch grape sources within the same vintage. One minute, it's Napa, the next, Carneros, the next Monterey, the next Columbia Valley, etc... Buyer beware, and read those labels very carefully.

Without changing the direction of the thread too wildly, I've been of the opinion for years that women have finer palates and are better tasters than men. It's a biological fact that women have more taste buds than men do. I'm guessing that this had to do with evolution and mothers having to chew up food for their children and pass it to them by mouth, so mothers had to be able to detect poisonous and spoiled food so as not to harm their children.

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The Martinelli Bondi Home Ranch PN is made by Helen Turley. That would explain the "clobber" part.  :-)

No kidding, clobber was what it was. That is why we drank it last. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your view, Helen Turley had ( and still does) a great influence on the way CA PNs have evolved. Personally, I think there are times when I want that big, juicy, cherry bomb of a PN, but I often have problems with choosing them over a more subtle, elegant style of PN when I'm dining. It depends on what we are having, but too often the huge PNs just overpower the food unless you are having red meat or game. They just are too big to have with a roast chicken or salmon for my taste. But then, I prefer MEAT when I dine.

Of course, the DC Crü has been know to ask a restaurant to design a meal around a certain type of wine (The Rhone Night at Aquarelle comes to mind) and it would be interesting to see what a chef would come up with if the theme was RRV PNs or Santa Lucia Highlands PNs.

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I think that, with Pinot Noir in particular, the "riper-the-better" New World, Turley school of winemaking is totally out of sync with the varietal's character.

I'm okay with being punched in the face by my Zinfandel. Not my style of wine, but I expect it.

Pinot just isn't supposed to punch me the face, in my opinion. Pungently aromatic it should be, but let it offer up a nice array of fruit, spice, and plenty of mushroom and mineral and earth. And once you start ratcheting up the ripeness level, you start losing the acidity that is just so precious to good Pinot Noir.

I'm no Burgundy-phile. I firmly believe great Burgundy is still the benchmark, but it's such a qualitative crapshoot and so insanely expensive when great that I tend to avoid it.

So give me New World, but let's calm it down a bit and go for elegance! That's what Pinot is for!

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I think that, with Pinot Noir in particular, the "riper-the-better" New World, Turley school of winemaking is totally out of sync with the varietal's character.

I'm okay with being punched in the face by my Zinfandel. Not my style of wine, but I expect it.

Pinot just isn't supposed to punch me the face, in my opinion. Pungently aromatic it should be, but let it offer up a nice array of fruit, spice, and plenty of mushroom and mineral and earth. And once you start ratcheting up the ripeness level, you start losing the acidity that is just so precious to good Pinot Noir.

I'm no Burgundy-phile. I firmly believe great Burgundy is still the benchmark, but it's such a qualitative crapshoot and so insanely expensive when great that I tend to avoid it.

So give me New World, but let's calm it down a bit and go for elegance! That's what Pinot is for!

I think it is more a matter of style by the winemaker and what American tastes buy.

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I agree, Americans tend to go for "big" wines, no matter the varietal. It should be said that Turley's wines are unquestionably fantastic...I just feel like in Pinot's case especially, going for that super-extracted style robs the varietal of its character. I hope that we see a bit of a backlash in the market, a swing back toward more balanced wine that you can actually drink, and that won't overpower your dinner.

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I agree, Americans tend to go for "big" wines, no matter the varietal. It should be said that Turley's wines are unquestionably fantastic...I just feel like in Pinot's case especially, going for that super-extracted style robs the varietal of its character. I hope that we see a bit of a backlash in the market, a swing back toward more balanced wine that you can actually drink, and that won't overpower your dinner.

I couldn't agree with you more. While I am absolutely no cheerleader for the way most/many things are done abroad, it is interesting to note how Americans do not seem to enjoy the same simple tastes as their European counterparts. In fact, it seems we can never leave a good thing alone. Our coffee has to have mocha vanilla whip, our pizza needs 15 toppings, and our wine (red or white) has to have enough fruit injected into it to satisfy our addiction to Mountain Dew. It seems very few of us have a taste for mineral, hay, cedar, tobacco, must, earthiness, ...terroir. I, for one, mourn the Merlotization of American Pinot.

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I couldn't agree with you more.  While I am absolutely no cheerleader for the way most/many things are done abroad, it is interesting to note how Americans do not seem to enjoy the same simple tastes as their European counterparts.  In fact, it seems we can never leave a good thing alone.  Our coffee has to have mocha vanilla whip, our pizza needs 15 toppings, and our wine (red or white) has to have enough fruit injected into it to satisfy our addiction to Mountain Dew.  It seems very few of us have a taste for mineral, hay, cedar, tobacco, must, earthiness, ...terroir.  I, for one, mourn the Merlotization of American Pinot.

I definitely agree on your analysis of American taste. But there are Europeans only too willing to make wines along these lines as well. And their wines don't just sell in the US. There is a market for over the top in Europe.

For many, in Firenze Pincchiori is the ultimate restaurant while others would argue for Mario, Cocco Lezzone or other very traditional places. The adherents to these two camps almost don't recognize the merits of the other. The same is true in wine.

I am a traditionalist at heart, but I have a love for many a barrique aged red from Italy. But I am not a lover of over the top richenss and extraction to the point of that deature dominating all others. I feel that this is the hallmark of a Helen Turley inspired Pinot. They are amazing technical achievements that leave me cold. I just hope they do not drive out the market for a more subtle but still new world appriach to Pinot.

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I think that folks should remember that California isn't France, and Napa ain't Bordeaux or Burgandy. While there are CA, WA, and OR winemakers that strive for the Burgandian style, many would contend that what US producers are doing is making a true reflection of the terrior of the vineyards in the US. (and also making wine that reflects the taste of US consumers.) That said, I love the more Burgandian style of wines like the Radio Coteau Savoy.

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While there are CA, WA, and OR winemakers that strive for the Burgandian style, many would contend that what US producers are doing is making a true reflection of the terrior of the vineyards in the US. 

But is this terroir worth expressing? Now that is not the same as asking whether it's pointless to make wines from those sites--the only answer to that lies in the balance sheet--but whether or not they should be considered alongside other recognized-as-important terroirs. That is an aesthetic discussion.

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But is this terroir worth expressing? 

But are we getting an expression of terroir? In my experience, the HT style of Pinot Noir making yields a wine with low acidity, a syrupy mouthfeel, no real textural diversity. Sure there are differenced of fruit elements, but for the most part they do not show a wide range of experience. Many of the small hands on micro pinot producers are in a similar boat: wines that emphasize a certain texture with a limited range of other elements.

Terroir is a defining of place. If we say that Snta Lucia Highlands has a terroir of orange blossom or some particular fruit element, without discussint the minerality, the spice levels, the textural range possible from grapes made there, we are just identifying a fruit componene typical to the terroir. An element of the terroir.

I think there is a world of pinot producers who are exploring a wider range of elements than the expolsive fruit of Martinelli, Loring and others. Iron Horse, Dutton Goldfield, Marimar Torres, Sanford are a few that come quickly to mind in California while Chehalem, Adelsheim, Bergstrom are others from OR.

ETA David Bruce, Christom

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I think it's going to take a long time to really, truly get a sense of the "terroir" in any given site in California. Look how long it took in Burgundy! We'll eventually come to understand what terroir is worth expressing and what isn't.

Either way, I think we're in danger of losing any sense of terroir, though, if the Turley school, as dean fears, starts to drive subtletly out of the market. That's a really good point.

I'd like to see more American winemakers dedicating themselves to balance and an expression of soil, climate, etc. in their wines. We can make delicious wines this way. Try moderately priced stuff from Havens in Napa or Andrew Will in Washington State to see what the results of this method can be. Taste them alongside "Turley style" stuff. Sure the latter has more impact, but which one do you want to drink a few glasses of? And what can you eat with those Turley Pinots? Chocolate?!

Still hoping for the backlash against these mega-wines.

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That said, I love the more Burgandian style of wines like the Radio Coteau Savoy.

Somewhat off topic, but the spring allocation of R-C arrived at my door yesterday! Eric Sussman is a great winemaker, and not necessarily in the Turley mold...
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My other fear, and clearly I am no expert here, is that the American willingness to adopt technology in "producing" or "making" their wines may prevent them from ever letting the grapes/terroir in the wine simply express themselves. While I'm sure it is somewhat true in Europe, and perhaps even increasingly so, not a week goes by that I don't read another article about the major roll that science plays in California wine making.

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Not pinot noir, but try Ridge zins, Seghesio zins and Italian varietals as well.  Again, anti Turleys.

Actually I like these Zins better than the high octaine Zins from Turley or Martinelli. I really liked the Radio-Coteau Hellenthal Zin that I had recently (a 2002 I beleive) Humm. Do I see a trend here with R-C?

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Actually I haven't had much experience with the Italian varietals made in CA or with the traditional CA varietals except Cabernet made in Italy. However, one wine I remeber very fondly was the '99 Ciacci Fabius which is one of the most fantastic Syrahs I've ever had.

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Actually I haven't had much experience with the Italian varietals made in CA or with the traditional CA varietals except Cabernet made in Italy.  However, one wine I remeber very fondly was the '99 Ciacci Fabius which is one of the most fantastic Syrahs I've ever had.

Can't wait to try the '01!

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So despite the pontification in the worst movie of 2005 , I've never been a big fan of American pinot noir. But last Saturday, making room for recent aquisitions, I found a bottle of Castle Rock 2003 Monterey County pinot noir. :P I have no idea how it got there. So I opened it for dinner, expecting to hate it, and... I really liked it.

So, am I just a total wine loser (yeah, I like merlot, so sue me), or was this a lucky find? And if I liked this, what other PNs would I like?

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If I remember correctly, Castle Rock put out two PNs in 03, a Mendocino County which was pretty good, and a Monterey County that wasn't nearly as good. Interestingly, in 2004, the Monterey County was quite good as was the Mendocino County.

In the under $15 price range, the 2003 Sebastiani PN Sonoma County was very good. If you go for Aussie PNs, the 2004 Wyndham Estate South Eastern Australia Bin 333 was pretty good and they made a good bit of it so you might be able to find it.

As to liking American PNs, I love them and at least 25% of my cellar is made up of small production CA PNs. Of course they cost more than $15 for the most part, but my wife loves them too so it is a no brainer for me. If I buy them, she doesn't complain about what I spend on the really expensive stuff like CA Cabs, Barolos, and Bordeaux.

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I was drinking pinot back when everybody else was drinking merlot, and I was drinking that cheap Oregon stuff, thinking to myself, wow, this should cost way more than $7. Recently, I've been extremely disappointed to only find Oregon pinots way out of my price range, especially at restaurants. Damn that Sideways! Drove me back to merlot, let me tell you.

Anyway, anyone know of any other good pinots priced under $20 retail? Especially in DC?

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Anyway, anyone know of any other good pinots priced under $20 retail? Especially in DC?

Schneider's on Cap Hill has Saintsbury Carneros Garnet (2004) on sale for $13.99. I'm not a pinot enthusiast (in large part because of pricing) but this is a nice easy bottle to drink with cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. I had my first bottle just last week and intend to go grab more soon.

I, too, am definitely interested in other modestly priced pinot suggestions.

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You liked the Castle Rock Pinot Noir because it probably has up to 20% Syrah in it. This is a trick California producers are using 1-to get more people like you who think Pinot Noir is too light to drink it and 2-to be able to produce and sell more "Pinot Noir." There is a shortage of good Pinot Noir fruit in California (the only thing about Sideways that I don't like is that it made good Pinot Noir more expensive and harder to get), so some producers add Syrah to stretch their production.

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For those who want their pinot on the more elegant side, there are some interesting, gutsy crus Beaujolais entering the market. Gamay, yes, but the serious side of this overly-maligned cepage. Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions has three or four different 2005 cru bottlings, from Chiroubles, Chenas (brilliant), and Moulin-a-Vent, coming into market now. He self-distributes in Virginia and DC.

Sticking up for the little (importer) guy,

Jake

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