Spicy, Supple Pinot Noirs

For this issue, we invited members of the Cheers National Wine Panel to recommend some pinot noirs they’ve recently tasted. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). If you’re an on-premise or retail beverage professional who would like to participate in our panel, call Melissa Dowling at 203-855-8499 ext. 223, or email MDowling@SpecialtyIM.com.


(97) Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges Damodes 1er Cru 2011 (France). From one of the most established and respected houses in Burgundy, this Premier Cru Burgundy wine exudes class and elegance. Brilliant ruby in the glass; complex nose, with hints of red fruit, berries, along with subtle spicy notes; on the palate, the elegance continues with tastes that echo the nose, along with a bright edge. ($111)

(96) Joseph Jewell Russian River Sonoma Pinot Noir 2011 (California). Very elegant wine from this young winery (established 2006); beautiful red hues, strong cherry notes, with a light touch of oak; black tea and baking spice  aromas dominate the nose. A perfect wine for the late spring and early summer months. ($60)

(95) Loveblock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (New Zealand). A bright ruby red color; complex aromas include cherry, strawberry, violets, mushrooms and herbs; on the palate, a rush of sweet/tart berry flavors meld with lightly toasted oak, truffles and a hint of earthiness. Firm tannins linger on the finish suggesting some cellar time would be most rewarding. ($35)

(95) Miner Gary’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2011 (California). A bouquet of wildflowers and red raspberry lead to a viscous texture on the palate with flavors of red fruit, cherry, coffee, and spice; supple tannins with a nuance of toasty oak balance the whole. ($70)

(95) Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Exceptional deep color; aromas of black raspberries and cassis; full-bodied, silky texture; cellar worthy for at least five years. ($60)

(94) Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château 1er Cru 2009 (France). A brilliant, medium ruby in color; the nose is filled with a complex mix of red fruit, along with floral and spicy notes. In the mouth, the bright fruit leads the way, followed by a long and elegant finish. ($40)

(94) J Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A beautiful pinot noir with layers of deep fruit balanced with a pop of acidity. Rich and lingering flavors surround your mouth and keep giving up secret flavors long after the finish. ($36)

(94) La Follette Van der Kamp Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir 2011 (California). Brilliant ruby/garnet; a rich wine, with the nose dominated by elegant red fruits, as well as hints of spice with floral notes; the palate is rich and spicy, with great complexity and length. ($42)

(93) Cloisonne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Aromas of red berries with full flavors of red cherries and spice; soft, smooth and silky finish; a great value. ($22)

(93) Dierberg, Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2009 (California). An absolutely stunning pinot noir that is 100% estate grown; elegant, well-integrated fruit and energetic acidity. ($35)

(93) En Route Les Pommiers Russian River Pinot Noir 2010 (California). From the Far Niente winery, beautiful and smooth; generous notes of cherry, strawberry and hints of vanilla; delightful and balanced. ($59)

(93) Inman Family Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (California). Brilliant ruby/garnet in the glass; the nose is dominated by red fruit, with notes of spice, and hints of cola. The palate is elegant, with red fruit, and high-toned spices; the finish is very well balanced, with bright acidity contributing freshness. ($25) 

(93) Michel Picard St. Aubin Rouge 1er Cru 2009 (France). The bouquet is light, but there are subtle yet exotic notes of fruit and spice in the background that keep you coming back. Beautiful structure, balance and mouthfeel, and like the palate, the fruit flavors are a bit subdued, but in the fashion of Burgundian pinot masters; outstanding depth and complexity. ($30)

(93) Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 2010 (California). A very pretty pinot noir with spices and dried cherries on the nose; structured yet succulent fruit sourced from seven vineyards from four distinct regions. The finish is long, with a small hint of barrel spice; a very enjoyable wine. ($36)

(93) Valdivieso Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (Chile). Bright color with aromas of blackberries, casis and sweet oak. Full bodied with flavors of dark, rich berries, followed by a long lingering finish. ($27)

(92) Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (Oregon). A wonderful controlled explosion of fruit and textures on the palate; bright Bing cherry complemented by savory plum. The flavors combine with some brightness on the mid-palate; a satisfying finish. ($25)

(92) David Bruce Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (California). Aroma of cherries and blackberries, followed by flavors of cherries and blueberries; moderate tannins with a long finish. ($40)

(92) Martin Ray Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Lush upfront red fruit mixes with baking spices, bramble and earth to produce this complex and charming wine. The knockout finish is smooth with a mouth-coating texture and an abundance of flavor. ($25)

(92) Morgan Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (California). Hints of blackberry and oak on the nose with flavors of strawberry and black cherry; long, full finish; an outstanding wine. ($55)

(92) Peter Zemmer Rollütt Pinot Noir 2012 (Italy). From northern Italy, this is a great example of a wine produced in a region not known for pinot noir. The wine is a bright ruby/garnet, with lovely red fruit and berries on the nose; in the mouth, the bright fruit and spice are in balance. An excellent value for its class and elegance. ($16)

(92) Sonoma Loeb Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A beautiful wine with impeccable flavors of raspberries, tea, bramble and spicy cedar that are woven together; it finishes with great length, character and depth. ($50)

(92) Thomas George Estates Starr Ridge Vineyard Russian River Sonoma Pinot Noir 2011 (California). This medium- to full-bodied pinot noir is ripe and concentrated with gorgeous aromas of strawberry blossom and cherry pie. The tasty sweet spice flavors pirouette through a chorus of bold black cherry and strawberry flavors, before emerging in the lengthy finish. ($60)

(92) Willamette Valley Vineyards Eola-Amity Hills, Elton, Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon). Earth and mineral notes drift in the bouquet, and there is an underlying layer of ripe red berry and sweet currant. That mineral note opens the palate, providing a firm frame, and then it gets quite expansive, with ripe currant, cassis and boysenberry flavors. Excellent balance and depth, a long finish and an aftertaste that is quite persistent; an admirable food partner for sure. ($50)

(91) Banshee Sonoma Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A beautifully balanced, harmonious Sonoma Cost pinot with dark cherry and raspberry notes, along with a hint of cinnamon, new leather and wild flowers. ($23)

(91) Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A pinot noir with heady and powerful aromas of cocoa powder and dark fruit and really rich mouthfeel. ($40)

(91) Hartford Court, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A single-vineyard wine with bright raspberry and cherry fruit and packed with the right amount acidity to add complexity and a long, lingering finish. ($33)

(91) Hyland Estates McMinnville Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon). Inviting aromas of raspberry, smoke and incense lead to ripe red fruit upfront that shows tremendous depth and richness. A wine of excellent volume, it nonetheless remains light on its feet and finishes with lovely notes of Asian spices and blossoms. ($35)

(91) Sextant Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2011 (California). An intense bouquet of dark fruit, cedar and incense; the acidity provides excellent structure and elegantly balances the delicious flavors of dark cherries, spice and earth. ($30)

(91) Sonoma Cuvee Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Ripe cherry fruit is followed by highly expressive flavors of earth, cedar and baking spices; an added layer of intensity and depth that provides fanastic lift in the clean, pepper-tinged finish. ($30)

(91) Sonoma Loeb Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Vibrant and supple; exhibits stunningly pure aromas and flavors cherries, raspberries, smoke, tea and herbs. The layered upfront fruit is expertly balanced by the wine’s firm, generous acidity. This pinot noir offers the best of both the old and new world styles. ($30)

(91) Stoller Family Estates Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). Made in an elegant, approachable style; ripe berries, floral notes and spicy oak are accompanied by bright acidity and fine tannins. ($24)

(91) Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir 2011 (Chile). Full and creamy, with light cherry on the palate and hints of cinnamon, spice and light oak. ($19)

(91) VinStrata Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2008 (Oregon). Loaded with class and finesse, this wine displays captivating flavors of red berries, plum, forest floor, spice and earth. The texture, structure, and balance are expertly woven together, producing a wine whose energy and vitality are remarkable. ($50)

(91) Willamette Valley Vineyards Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon). The bouquet is beautiful, with a subtle perfume mingling with almost-ripe red berry and blueberry aromas, followed by oak spice and a light touch of leather. Slightly tart on the entry but quite pleasant, staying lively across the palate where the flavors turn ripe and round. Crispness returns at the finish, which is quite long. ($50)

(90) 24 Knots Monterey Pinot Noir (California). Bright strawberries and black cherries on the nose with a toasty, earth continually balanced by the long, enjoyable finish. Pair this value-driven pinot noir with roasted vegetables or grilled salmon. ($15)

(90) Angeline Sonoma Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A refined pinot noir that possesses subtle flavors of raspberries, spice, and pepper that continues to gain in intensity all the way through to the lively, energetic finish. ($25)

(90) Bethel Heights Estate Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). This wine has a wonderful blackberry aroma and flavor with a hint of pepper, leading to a smooth finish with a nice acidity. ($32)

(90) Bodegas Salentein Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (Argentina). Nose of cherries and strawberries; very refined and elegant mouthfeel with notes of bright red fruits; smooth and delicate, but with enough body to balance the silkiness. ($20)

(90) Coelho Atracao Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). Vibrant flavors of red cherries, bramble, earth and cola; medium bodied in mouthfeel, with a long, structured finish that harmoniously intertwines all the individual components. ($30)

(90) Corvallis Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). A highly polished pinot noir from start to finish with attractive notes of dark fruit, earth, spice and peppery cedar. There’s plenty of richness and texture in the wine’s layered, crisp finish. ($35)

(90) Domaine Loubejac Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon). Dominated by red currants, roasted herbs and forest floor, the Domaine Loubejac presents a focused, precise profile that is reminiscent of an Old World style, while still having plenty of New World flavor concentration. ($25)

(90) Joel Gott Sonoma County/Monterey County Pinot Noir 2012 (California). This is a bright and fresh pinot noir; wonderfully balanced structure with layers of plum and cherry fruit; great to pair with a variety of foods. ($20)

(90) Kudos Yamhill Carlton Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 (Oregon). The most striking thing about this wine is the fantastic interplay between the flavors of black cherries, earth and tobacco. Grainy tannins and a firm acidity provide excellent precision, making this wine edge more toward an Old World style while still providing plenty of New World fruit. ($30)

(90) LaPlaya Block Selection Block No. 16 Limari Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Chile). Lush, zesty, fruit-forward, and delightfully quaffable, with lovely aromas and flavors of cherry, cranberry, allspice and soft, toasted oak. Lively and crisp on the finish, it’s a delicious bistro style that’s also a great value. ($13)

(90) Liberty School Central Coast Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Pinots priced at less than $20 can be a little risky, but this one is a steal. Fresh floral nose, with flavors of juicy strawberry and cherry; medium bodied with zippy acidity on the finish. ($18)

(90) Messmer Trocken Burrweiler Pfalz Pinot Noir  2011 (Germany). More robust than other Spatburgunders, this pinot noir has a floral, earthy nose that leads to flavors of currant, black cherry, mushroom and clove. It finishes with soft tannins and a hint of “terroir” that is almost Burgundian. ($17)

(90) Montoya Monterey Pinot Noir 2012 (California). This gentle and light-bodied wine has delicious aromas and flavors of raspberries, vanilla and spicy cedar. A prolonged, crisp finish provides great structure while allowing the pure flavors to linger. ($20)

(90) OFV Willamette Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). Layers of dark cherries, cola, tea and spice; medium bodied with a firm, crisp finish that skillfully balances the upfront fruit and deposits additional notes of blossoms. ($25)

(90) Red Pony Ranch Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A smooth and soothing red with gentle flavors of spicy cherry, raspberries, cola and toasty oak; the finish is persistent, plush and silky. ($20)

(90) Rock View Monterey Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Dense and layered flavors of black cherries, vanilla, and pomegranate are intricately woven together in this juicy, vibrant pinot noir. A crisp finish provides solid balance and makes this a great wine to pair with food. ($25)

(90) Soter North Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011 (Washington State). Aromas of sweet herbal tea, red raspberry and rose oil perfume; seamless, with refined ripe tannins; lengthy and classy. ($30)

(90) Testarossa Cuvee 107 Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Medium bodied with a fine grained tannins, this is layered with beautiful flavors of sweet spices, raspberries and fresh flowers. It finishes bright and focused with a fine, palate-cleansing acidity. ($25)

(90) Vistamar Sepia Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 (Chile). Fresh and focused with notes of raspberries, bramble, and spice. Finishes crisp and smooth with light tannins and pleasant hints of wild flowers. ($15)

(90) Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2011 (Oregon). Sourced from the winery’s vineyards around the Willamette Valley, this pinot noir delivers complex red and black cherry aromas and flavors, fine tannins and a long finish. ($30)

(89) Castle Rock Carneros Pinot Noir 2011 (California). A good basic pinot noir with balanced red raspberry fruit and easy acidity. Pair this wine with roast chicken or barbeque chicken. ($13)

(89) Fortant Mountain Grand Reserve Languedoc Pinot Noir 2011 (France). The subtle bouquet is lightly earthy—as pinot should be—and with time intensifies. A touch tart on the palate entry but maintains a smooth, elegant feel. There is some zip to its mild red cherry and strawberry flavors, with some cranberry arriving in the finish. ($20)

(89) Grafen Neipperg Spatburgunder 2010 (Germany). Nice hints of cherry and red fruits on the nose; light and fruity with lean cherry, strawberry and herbal notes; hint of smoke and wet stone. ($20)

(89) Lassalle Pays d’Oc Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (France). This affordable pinot noir evokes the earthy scents of Burgundy while the palate brims with ripe, juicy fruit flavors that are more in line with the New World. Black cherry, juicy strawberry and faint cola notes are all present in this stylish, light-bodied red; a terrific value. ($13)

(89) Mark West Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Easy to enjoy; silky texture, cherry and raspberry flavors with a touch of oak and candied vanilla; a good value. ($12) 

(89) Meiomi Santa Barbara County, Monterey County and Somoma County Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Cherry and cola on the nose; cherry, blackberry flavors; moderate tannins with pleasant lingering finish. ($20)

(89) Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2012 (Oregon). Earth-driven, with scents of warmed strawberries and roses; sleek yet mouth-filling at the same time. ($20)

(89) Point North Pinot Noir 2012 (Oregon). A medium-bodied Oregon pinot noir made by the Sean Mino Winery with strawberry, cherry and raspberry aromas. These flavors linger with the addition of spicy, earthy notes and cherry flavors throughout; bright mouthfeel that embraces the soft round tannins. ($20)

(89) Red Pony Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir 2012 (California). A fresh and charming wine infused with flavors of strawberries, rhubarb and cola. The smooth finish has admirable length, with notes of tea and forest floor. ($15)

(89) Robertson Winery Pinot Noir 2012 (South Africa). A bit earthy in the nose; medium bodied and beautifully soft and smooth on the palate, yet with pinpoint acidity; juicy and fresh red berry, currant, blueberry and plum flavors. ($10)

(89) This Is Eleven Pinot Noir 2012 (California). From California’s Santa Maria Valley, a smooth, dry and flavorful pinot noir. ($16)

(88) Momo Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (New Zealand). A certified organic wine made using fruit from three Marlborough vineyards. The nose shows earthy, herbal characters with hints of cedar and mushroom; in the mouth there is dark fruit, smoky oak and fine tannins. ($17)

(88) Periodic Central Coast Pinot Noir 2011 (California) The bouquet is extremely light; it is medium bodied and has a soft palate feel and a decent array of mild plum, blueberry and cranberry flavors. Nicely crisp acids near the pretty long finish. ($18)

(88) Schug Carneros Pinot Noir 2011 (California). Lovely nose, with sweet ripe cherry flavors and a nice smokey finish with herbal accents. ($23)

(88) Toad Hollow Goldie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (California). This is a luscious Russian River pinot noir with dark cherry, raspberry, tobacco and chocolate; good acidity makes this especially food friendly. ($20)

(87) Domaine de Valmoissine Verdon Pinot Noir 2011 (France). This Louis Latour wine is ruby red in color, with an intense nose, cherry flavors, nice balance and a silky smooth finish. ($15)

(87) The Seeker Pinot Noir Vin de Pays du Puy de Dome 2012 (France). A French pinot noir that delivers good bang for the buck. ($12)

(86) Bluebird Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2012 (California). Dark-fruit amoma of plum and black cherry; plum and cherry flavors follow with strawberry notes; medium tannins with a moderate finish; good value. ($13)

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