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Tasting Report: 25 2009 California Pinot Noirs

Friday, September 23, 2011

I didn't set out to taste through so many 2009 California Pinot Noirs. Rather, it happened naturally as I enjoyed so many of the early bottles I tried and continued as I explored bottlings from new and familiar producers. At some points it felt like I couldn't miss with this vintage. In the $40-$60 range there are some amazing wines available.

But there are also some tremendous values in the $20-$30 range, and even south of $20 if you look hard enough.

I probably exerted equal effort tracking down and trying 2008 Oregon Pinot Noirs, but you haven't seen a post from me on that vintage. If I did write about it, the headline would probably be "Whatever happened to 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir?" For me, it's been an eye-opening experience that solidifies California as a more reliable place to buy Pinot Noir.

But that's just my palate talking. There are some great Pinots produced in both regions and I'll look forward to continuing the search.

Have a look at the ratings below and click through to read community tasting notes on CellarTracker. To find them at a retailer near you, click the Wine-Searcher link on CellarTracker.

And feel free to drop me an email at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com if you think I might be of assistance tracking these down.
  • 2009 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Las Alturas Vineyard - $44 - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (8/1/2011)
    Hard to think of a more delicious wine than this. It brings the same rich, plush satisfaction of the 2008 but (at this point) balances it out a bit with a layer of brighter flavors on initial attack. Behind this are the same slightly-sweet spice notes, cherry pipe tobacco, and enjoyable fruit flavors found in the prior vintage. Dangerously difficult to stop drinking. Highly recommended - back up the truck. Read more... (95 points WWP)
  • 2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - $52 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (7/1/2011)
    CA Pinot Perfection. (95 points WWP)
  • 2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/20/2011)
    Drank this bottle with great friends after an afternoon of golf. A really beautiful wine but I didn't geek out and analyze it so no formal tasting notes.
    Also tasted at Wine Spectator's Grand Tour stop in Boston. I think this wine is every bit as good as the Sonoma Coast. (95 points WWP)
  • 2009 Failla (Failla Jordan) Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch - $45 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/6/2011)
    Another one of these California Pinot Noirs that charms with it's fruit-forward aromatics and ultimately satisfies for how clean and free of "off" notes it is. Pure. Something for everyone I think, with aromas of tart cherries, orange oil, and soft leather. Well balanced. Silky smooth on the palate with a beautiful finish without any strange aftertastes. Fantastic stuff. Read more... (93 points WWP)
  • 2009 Black Kite Pinot Noir Kite's Rest - $42 - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (8/28/2011)
    Another beautiful 09 California Pinot Noir. Rich black cherries and slightly sweet spice backed by earth and minerality. Love it. (93 points WWP)
  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Pinot Noir Rebecca’s Vineyard - $37 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (4/17/2011)
    Fresh and lively with a real sense of place. You can taste the Russian River Valley in this wine. On the nose I get fresh cut strawberries and hints of a moderate oak regiment that reveals itself as a friendly Vanilla Coke sort of thing. Really nice. On the palate, it charms with generous fruit and signature Pinot Noir herbaceousness. Long finish.
    Beautiful wine. I really like it. (92 points WWP)
  • 2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands - $29 - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (7/10/2011)
    A powerful and focused wine with classic California Pinot Noir markings. It's generously fruit-forward with primarily black cherry notes but refrains from straying into over-ripe territory - at least for my palate. It finishes clean with just the slightest bit of heat on the backend. Overall an outstanding wine. Read more... (92 points WWP)
  • 2009 Chasseur Pinot Noir Sonoma County - $30 - USA, California, Sonoma County (6/1/2011)
    Dark in color, almost Cab-like. Cherry candy fruit on the nose along with tobacco leaf that emerges with some air. Rich mouth feel. May dominate food but on its own it's a beauty.
    Fresh fruit. Reminded me Crane Orchard's cold storage of fresh produce in Fennville, Michigan. For that alone this wine curries favor with me but that aside I think it's still an outstanding wine. (91-92 points WWP)
  • 2009 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - $29 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (7/9/2011)
    Perfectly ripe sweet cherries and pipe tobacco on the nose. Ultra-soft mouthfeel. A little CA Pinot twang with rich fruit flavors on the palate. I sense low acidity levels and hardly any tannins. I enjoyed it. (92 points WWP)
  • 2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Cuvée de Trois - $29 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/18/2011)
    Classic CA Pinot Noir. Really nice. A little cloudy and it actually threw a little silty sediment. I don't think I'll be in a hurry to drink these. Mentally budgeting myself to one per 6 months but I bet I'll be lucky to avoid the temptation of opening one a month. Really like the style here. A producer to get to know better. (91 points WWP)
  • 2009 Banshee Pinot Noir - $20- USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (3/26/2011)
    I read a lot of tasting notes saying how a wine really opened up after an hour our two. You're about to read another one of those.
    I bought quite a bit of this wine so when I first opened it I was a little disappointed. It was a little tight, tart, and awkward. But after sipping on it over the course of an evening it really developed beautifully. The aromas and flavors get darker and and richer over time. Some slightly silty tannins in the background.
    All in all I think it's great now and all indications are it would improve from just a little bottle age. Nothing crazy - just a year or two. If you want to drink it now, I'd recommend trying a sip, decanting or aerating, or saving a good portion of the bottle for the next night.
    What was remaining in the bottle the 2nd day was very good which is unusual for a domestic Pinot Noir and a good indication this needs a little time. (90-91 points WWP)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled - $24 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/20/2011)
    Rich but not overripe. Black cherry and cola notes. A little rough around the edges but there's so much right here it's hard not to love. Really nice wine. Read more... (90 points WWP)
  • 2009 Michael Pozzan Winery Pinot Noir Annabella Special Selection - $14 - USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (12/1/2010)
    After an ever-so-slight step backwards in 2008, I think this 2009 Annabella is back on track as a solid 90 point Pinot Noir. Combine that with its wide availability in the $12 range and I think this deserves a slot in the rotation of anyone who likes fruit-forward domestic Pinot Noir.
    Medium-dark in color and ready to go immediately upon opening. Aromas of pomegranates, cranberries, dark cherries, and dusty fresh blackberries in a briar patch. The initial attack is straight fruit. Silky tannins and it finishes clean with a hint of earth and slight tartness which balances out its otherwise fruity nature.
    This wine is money and if you don't like it your opinion is false. Just kidding, but kind of not kidding. I drink Pinot Noir more than any other variety and I'm convinced this wine would fool a lot of people blind, hanging with $30-$50 Pinot Noir. Noticeably better than the 08. On par with the 07.
    Highly recommended. One of the best Pinot Noirs I've found in this price range the past year. (90 points WWP)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - $39 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (5/20/2011)
    So much good stuff going on here but a slightly herbal "off" note bit me on almost every sip. An otherwise pretty wine - would like to try other bottlings from this producer. (90 points WWP)
  • 2009 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Meiomi - $22 - USA, California (2/2/2011)
    I was very interested to try the 09 vintage of this wine after thoroughly enjoying the 08 (92 pts across a half-dozen bottles). The signature sweet spice is still there but I also get ample chimney smoke at Christmas. It's a little unusual - we'll see whether I sense it in future bottles. But I still think this is a solid wine. Will buy more for sure. (89 points WWP)
  • 2009 Rickshaw Pinot Noir Sonoma County - $16 - USA, California, Sonoma County (2/12/2011)
    The wine is nicely transparent visually but clings to the glass due to its 14.6% alcohol and high viscosity. The nose lacks some markers that would otherwise tip its hand as being Pinot Noir when tasted blind, but in its place it there is ample round fruit and a hint of spice. Really pleases with root beer flavors on the palate on top of supporting round fruit. Some acidity. Hard not to like this. 90 points if you're in the mood for a relaxing vacation in southern California, significantly lower if you'd rather be reading a book about Burgundy on a cold winter night. (89 points WWP)
  • 2009 Sean Minor Pinot Noir Four Bears - $18 - USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (2/2/2011)
    A luscious, fruit-forward CA Pinot Noir. A great value at around $15. (86-88 points WWP)
  • 2009 Capiaux Cellars Pinot Noir Chimera - $28 - USA, California, Sonoma County (6/28/2011)
    Disappointingly dour personality. Lacks richness you'd think would come with the color and replaces it with a peculiar bitter finish. (87 points WWP)
  • 2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - $29 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (2/28/2011)
    I'm a little disappointed with this wine. A little over-ripe and hot at points. Something in the flavor profile feels a little off to me, but still - an enjoyable bottle overall. (87 points WWP)
  • 2009 Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir - $9.99 - USA, California, Sonoma County (5/12/2011)
    My bottle lists the ABV at 13.8%.
    It's only 20-30% opaque which bodes well for it behaving like a Pinot Noir. On the nose I get ample fruit, herbal tea, and a tangy (signature?) California Pinot Noir note.
    On the palate it's classic domestic Pinot Noir with strawberry flavors, silky smooth texture, and hardly any tannic bite. Doesn't get overly fruity but it's satisfyingly flavorful.
    Bottom line: This is legit Pinot Noir for $9.99. The only thing lacking is acidity and perhaps some minerality. But it scores points for what it *doesn't* have: I didn't detect any off-putting aromas or flavors.
    Well done and a value at $9.99. (87 points WWP)
  • 2009 Byron Pinot Noir - $16 - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (12/22/2010)
    A 90 point nose but for me it was downhill from there. Still, a nice wine in an attractive package. Might buy again in the $13 range. (86 points WWP)
  • 2009 Our Cellars Pinot Noir Hamilton-Steven's - $8.99 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/30/2011)
    Hard to argue with an $8.99 RRV Pinot Noir, and this one fights above its weight class. Unfortunately it's got rough edges the first night and runs a little hot at points. The second night it's softer but the fruit has faded as well. That said you can do a lot worse for $8.99 in this category. (84 points WWP)
  • 2009 Beringer Vineyards Pinot Noir Founders' Estate - $9 - USA, California (12/9/2010)
    A little bashful upon opening, but after just a little time it delivers round candied fruit backed by vanilla. Scores points for revealing a variety of aromas as it evolves. However, it lacks acidity, depth, and length of finish so it's hard to be taken seriously. But as a daily drinker it may deserve consideration in your line-up. At least once. (84 points WWP)
  • 2009 Caretaker Wines Pinot Noir - $9.99 - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley (4/6/2011)
    A pretty nice nose, but too many bitter off notes on the palate to make it worth buying again. (83 points WWP)
  • 2009 Banshee Pinot Noir - $20 - USA, California, Sonoma County (11/27/2010)
    So young it practically tastes unfinished to me. Won't open another bottle for a year. (NR)
Posted from CellarTracker

Okay, I hope you enjoyed 2009 California Pinot Noir week here on the WWP. 
Next up: 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape! Are they as good as the 2007s?

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