A Pinot Noir Tasting Experience
A couple weeks ago someone asked me about my favorite Northern California area wineries specifically in Napa and Sonoma Counties. Thinking a minute of my current faves I had to admit that I did not have a favorite from that region. I have never been to that region on a wine tour so my lack of familiarity is certainly key. Additionally, I associate (rightly or wrongly) that region with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines and of all the red grape varietals these two are my least favorite. Shame on me but I like what I like.
I mentioned to him my love of Pinot Noir and he mentioned the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County as a major producer of Pinot Noir wines. Other than MacMurray Russian River Pinot Noir which is sold in grocery stores, I never really looked for a Russian River wine. Thus I decided that I wanted to do a Pinot Noir tasting and include one from the Russian River Valley. I would also select one from the California Central Coast which is my “go to” when looking for a Pinot Noir. Finally, one from France. In France a Pinot Noir is called Burgundy and they tend to be a higher price point so I went with a French wine bottled for the US market thus labeled as Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir Selections
I bought all three of these wines from Total Wine. I wanted the wines to all be under $20 per bottle. Most of the Russian River Valley wines were $30 or more. So I asked a clerk and he pointed me to this River Road Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve, 2015 for $19.99. In order to get under $20 from Russian River Valley, I had to choose a “winery direct” selection which means this wine is only sold as labeled to Total Wine. So I decided all three wines should also be “winery direct” for comparative purposes. The Rock View Pinot Noir Reserve Monterey County, 2014 sells for $17.99 and the Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir Reserve, 2015 sells for $11.99.
The Four Tasters
This tasting took place last Sunday afternoon and included Gary, Bryan, Craig and I. The pollen count in the air has continued to make tasting wine a challenge for us all. We may not be as specific or clear in our descriptions but we definitely each had our favorites.
River Road Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve, 2015
This wine is darker in color and more dense that what is considered the standard for a Pinot. Gary was not a fan and found his first taste quite acidic. Bryan, Craig and I had a completely opposite reaction. We found it medium-bodied, smooth and balanced. I did find too much alcohol on the nose. Craig and I both tasted blackberry while Bryan said elderberry. I guess we could agree dark berries. To the winemaker they describe it with cherry and plum notes. Bottom line, this is the Pinot Noir I like to drink and of the three it was my number one pick. It was the same for Bryan and Craig while for Gary a distant third.
Rock View Pinot Noir Reserve Monterey County, 2014
Classic Oregon style for a Central Coast wine. Light-bodied and light in color especially when compared to the River Road. Clear ruby color with garnet highlights. I tasted vanilla. Gary and Craig more of white pepper and nutmeg. Bryan and I both felt there was a tart finish. Craig and Gary called it more of a textured finish. Bryan stated, if he was served this wine in a restaurant it would be perfectly acceptable. He would enjoy it to the end. This is a good wine. It is just different than the first wine we tasted. Agreed. However, I am surprised that I do not like it more than I do as I am normally a much bigger fan of Central Coast wines.
Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir Reserve, 2015
Darker in color but light in body this wine is not what I expected based on the “sales pitch” and presentation offered at the retailer. That said, it is exactly what Gary and Craig expected, lighter-bodied yet very balanced. Gary having the most wine training feels that this wine drinks more like a French blend more a Pinot. Everyone concurred that this is a perfect cocktail wine/first wine of the night with a fruit and cheese plate. Would not hold up to dinner and get lost if this was served later in the evening. No one would be offended by this wine it is so middle of the road. I realize that this is not a exciting testimonial but at $11.99 it does what it needs to do.
Wrap it up, Rick!
In summary, on any given day all of these wines would make you happy you were enjoying a glass. The River Road seemed to be more in line with what Bryan and I prefer. The Luc Pirlet was more in line with what Gary would prefer. I think Craig feels like it would depend on his mood and when and why something was served as they all had something to offer.
In the introduction I mentioned MacMurray Estate Vineyards Select Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. I have had this wine several times when out on the town. I will pick one up at the grocery store when out of town and wanting to pick up something quick. The choice to sell a $25.00 bottle of wine through grocery stores may make some turn up their nose. Not me. While I try not spend over $20 on a bottle… I know that MacMurray Estate Vineyards is consistent in their mission to make a great Pinot Noir wines so when I want to get something I know, I can always turn to MacMurray Estate Vineyards.