2009 California Pinot Noir: Best Vintage Ever?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wine Spectator called the 2007 California Pinot Noir vintage the "best ever". Now there's talk 2009 might be even better than 2007. The skeptic in me is starting to think this is like Bordeaux where a vintage of the century comes around three out of five years, but the reality is Pinot Noir consumption outpaces all other varieties combined around here so I'm paying attention to the accolades and buying 2009 California Pinot Noir. Although Oregon's Willamette Valley has a reputation for being the home of domestic Pinot Noir, all things considered I prefer the options available from California.

It's mostly because south of $30 I've had better luck with California Pinot Noir. Many of the lower-end bottlings from Oregon I've tried fall flat on the mid-palate and are accompanied by a green/stemmy aftertaste that sometimes dominates the flavor profile. It's not to say that there aren't fantastic Oregon Pinot Noirs. Far from it. But of the wines available in Massachusetts it seems like you have to spend north of $40 to find an outstanding bottle.

And that's not the case with California Pinot Noir. While it's not easy to find a great California Pinot Noir for around $25, higher production levels and wider distribution do make it possible.

If you search Wine Spectator's tasting notes for 90+ point Pinot Noir made in the US since 2006 costing less than $20 you'll find 5 wines. Two of them were made by Siduri (their 2007 Sonoma County and 2007 Willamette Valley).

As we look at early ratings for 2009s, three wines from Siduri again stand out: The 2009 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (91WS/$29), the 2009 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (also 91WS/$29), and the 2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir (92WS/$29).

I tried the 2009 Russian River Valley a while back and was unimpressed. I thought it was a little over-ripe and hot at points. I'd rate it 87 points. This left me a little "spooked" until I tried the 2009 Santa Lucia Highlands at the Wine Spectator event in Boston a while back. It showed quite well so I tracked down a bottle to try. I'm glad I did.

The 2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is 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. I'll go along with Spectator's rating on this one: 92 points WWP.

I think it's one to check out, especially if you can find it for less than $25. It's also trending a point or two higher than the 09 Siduri Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast bottlings on CellarTracker. A terrific example of outstanding California Pinot Noir and an insightful window into the 2009 California vintage.

Check it out:
Siduri website
2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands on CellarTracker
2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands on Wine-Searcher.com

I have more 2009 California Pinot Noir recommendations coming up, and a deeper analysis of the 2009 vintage. I'd love it if you subscribed to the site so we can keep in touch.

Question of the Day: What are your impressions of 2009 California Pinot Noir? Which producers are you buying from?


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