Pinot noir fanatics are a rare breed. Unlike other wine lovers with more general tastes, the hardcore pinot noir fanatic will traipse around the globe in search of the best pinot noirs. Now, what they consider “the best” varies from fanatic to fanatic. There are pinot lovers that profess that only Burgundian-style pinots are representative of all the poetry and beauty this temperamental varietal has to offer. Others profess that New World pinots from Oregon and California show the true brightness and full flavor profile of this little, complex grape. Still others are not terribly fixated on region, and simply want to try every pinot noir imaginable, and make up their minds based upon the virtues of each producer and their respective vineyards of choice. Pinot-noir lovers of every imaginable stripe, though, found at least one wine, if not many, they could fall in love with at the wonderfully educational yet fun World of Pinot Noir festival held earlier this month on California’s Central Coast.
The World of Pinot Noir, an annual event held at the Cliffs Hotel in Shell Beach, California, is the kind of wine festival tailor-made for serious wine lovers who still like to have fun while enjoying friendly banter and a relaxed mood. For six years now, this highly successful, single-varietal-focused event has been able to attract some of the finest pinot noir producers in the world, and this year was no exception. The esteemed Burgundian producer Maison Louis Jadot was featured in an exclusive, sold-out seminar, while others signed up for a tribute to Bien Nacido Vineyard, held at the historical Bien Nacido Adobe, in Santa Maria Valley.
After tasting through many pinot noirs at the Pinot Noir by the Sea Tasting, here are my standouts from the World of Pinot Noir 2006:
From the Santa Maria Valley, California
Belle Glos 2004 Clark and Telephone Vineyard, $38 Twentysomething winemaker Joseph Wagner has created a real beauty with this offering from Santa Maria. The vines from which this particular pinot was created are more than 30 years old, and are own-rooted on the Martini clone. The results are an exceedingly well-balanced and elegant wine. Wagner has winemaking in his genes — father, Chuck Wagner, is the owner and winemaker of the world-famous Caymus Vineyards. Belle Glos, the younger Wagner’s project, is named for his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos-Wagner.
Native 9 2004 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard, $42 This highly anticipated release comes from renowned vineyardist James Ontiveros. The “9” in the title represents the number of generations the Ontiveros family has farmed in California. It’s no wonder, then, that this pinot noir exhibits a deeply complex and varietally correct flavor profile. I adore this wine for its sheer loveliness and structure. With only a small number of cases produced, this is one to grab and to hold while it’s still available.
Dierberg 2004 Santa Maria Valley, Steven Vineyard, $46 Named for his grandson, Steven, owner/vintner Jim Dierberg offers something truly special here. Winemaker Nicholas de Luca has fashioned a knock-out pinot noir from Santa Maria Valley. This was one of my personal favorites, with notes of allspice, white pepper, and cranberry on the nose. Temperance, though, is the word of choice for this pinot. It is so well-crafted that each flavor integrates perfectly with the next, and the results are a real stunner.
From Santa Rita Hills
Bonaccorsi Wine Company 2004 Melville Vineyard, $50 Winemaker Jenne Bonaccorsi has captured the essence of Santa Rita Hills with this wine. Working with the fruit of vineyardist Chad Melville, she has created an unstoppable pinot. The finish on this wine is magnificent, due in part, I’m certain, to its great structure and balance. This is the food lover’s pinot noir, as its subtlety of flavors allows for it to perfectly accompany a meal.
From Anderson Valley
Goldeneye 2003 Anderson Valley, $50 This unique pinot noir hails from the Mendocino Coast. Winemaker Zach Rasmuson works with about 19 different clones to create this pinot. There are bold notes of cedar, cherry, and wet earth on this wine. It opens up in the glass after about 20 minutes to reveal a lovely rose component.
Sineann 2004 Resonance, Oregon, $48 Winemaker Peter Rosback is an intense purist. I was immediately wowed by his selection of pinots, most notably the “Resonance,” which is entirely bio-dynamically farmed. This wine has great mouth-feel, possessing as pleasant a texture as one can hope for in a wine that is not shy on structure, fruit-forwardness, and balance. There is something ineffably suggestive about Sineann wine. Every pinot lover should try them at least once. Visit sineann.com.