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28th Annual Best of The Best:
California Pinot Noir

QRW Tasting Team

We tasted 60 wines largely from the excellent 2009 vintage for this blind tasting. California Pinot Noir producers continue to increase, as indeed do the prices. But for us, most of the wines making the short list for Best of The Best were from producers long on merit and quality, like Donum, Belle Glos, Fess Parker, Merry Edwards, and Williams Selyem. There are no bargains for “Best of The Best” California Pinot Noir because there is a growing market for this varietal. Wine buyers like it because it can be consumed fairly soon, giving unhesitating and easy gratification. As noted above, the 2009 vintage is superb, and we liken it to the splendid 2007 vintage. Generally, the wines are silky, spicy, and rich, with moderate tannins. The Pinot Grape may be fickle and hard to grow, but we saw no evidence of this in the wines below. In the entire tasting, there wasn’t a regrettable wine. As always, the wines we taste have to be readily available at retail and restaurants, or easily through the winery. No trophy or private subscription wines were tasted. Prices are supplied by the wineries.

— Richard L. Elia



2009 Donum, Thomas, Carneros



2010 J. Lohr’s Fog Reach Vineyard, Arroyo Seco

California Pinot Noir

2009 Donum, Thomas, Carneros, $100. Deep and beautifully made. Black cherry, raspberry, ripe, spicy, silky, with vanilla notes. Lush. A magnitude! Decant. 96 points   BEST OF SHOW

2010 Belle Glos, Las Alturas Vineyard, Santa Lucia Vineyard, Monterey County, $44. Big, deep, and intense. Strawberry and raspberry with coffee notes. Cedar and mint, chocolate nuances in finish. Brilliant! 95 points

2009 Donum, West Slope, Carneros, $85. Black cherry, strawberry, nutmeg, silky, with chocolate notes in finish. Complex. 95 Points

2009 Merry Edwards, Olivet Lane, Russian River Valley, $57. Perennial winner at QRW tastings. Good weight and texture. Ripe, succulent, plum and chocolate. Splendid stuff! 95 points

2009 Patz and Hall, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $70. Lip-smacking, long on texture, black cherry, strawberry, spice, nutmeg. Delicious. 95 points

2009 Alysian, Rochioli Vineyard Edgewater, Russian River Valley, $55. Raspberry/strawberry and coffee notes. Earthy. Spicy. Nice texture. Well made. 93 points

2008 Artesa Estate Block 91-D, Carneros, $95. Raspberry, chocolate-cocoa notes, nice spice tones, rounded, and lip smacking! 93 points

2010 Belle Glos, Clark & Telephone Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County, $44. Lush, good weight, roasted aromas; black cherry and raspberry, and rich. 93 points

2009 Chamisal Vineyards, Califa Selection, Edna Valley, $60. Black cherry and raspberry, nutmeg spice, mineral, with lots of texture and depth. Decant! 93 points

2009 Fess Parker, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Santa Barbara County, $50. Well made, highly stylized and polished. Cherry, raspberry, and chocolate, with depth and elegance. 93 points

2009 Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley, $110. Complex. Black cherry, strawberry, plum, and cranberry. Intense with deep finish. Decant! 93 points

2010 Paul Hobbs, Russian River Valley, $55. Ripe, well-knitted, black cherry, spice, with style and elegance. Lovely! 93 points

2009 Williams Selyem, Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $46. Cherry, raspberry, rich, dark chocolate, well concentrated and well made. 93 points

2009 Williams Selyem, East Side Road Neighbors, Russian River Valley, $49. Nice jammy notes, with blackberry and raspberry. Bacon and mushroom nuances. Mineral and earthy. Delicious. 93 points

2010 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, $35. Ripe and succulent cherry and raspberry, with cedar, chocolate, and tea notes. Silky. Great buy! 92 points   BEST VALUE

2010 Laetitia, Reserve du Domaine, Arroyo Grande, $40. Ripe, nice spicy nutmeg notes, black fruit, raspberry. Polished! 92 points

2010 WALT, Griffin’s Lair, Sonoma Coast, $46. Rich, black fruit, raspberry, with chocolate notes. Engaging! 92 points

Related articles:

• 28th Annual Best of The Best: California Cabernet Sauvignon
• 28th Annual Best of The Best: California Zinfandel


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