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WINE

Pinot Noir - California vs. France II
updated: Sep 30, 2010, 12:00 PM

By Marc Liberts

Last night I attended a winemaker dinner at Spiritland Bistro featuring Joe Davis of Arcadian Winery. The theme was California vs French pinot noir, and it turned out that Joe was the perfect choice to narrate the comparison because he is heavily inspired by French Burgundy. Joe gave a number of very enlightening talks about his winemaking style and philosophy, and shared a number of his wines with us.

Here are my reviews of the wines we tasted:

1. BOURGOGNE - Meo-Camuzet - 1999 - This was a older, lighter French Burgundy with a decent fruity old nose, and heavy sour cherry on the palate. It is probably 2-3 years past its prime, and I rated it 88 points.

2. LA CREMA - 2008 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast - Fairly quiet nose and light in color. Oaky, gamey, and a little bitter. I rated it 87 points.

3. LANE TANNER - 2008 Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley - Block 4 - I thought the acid was too high on this wine, and I also thought it was out of balance. I looked it up and most of the reviewers seemed to like it, but I'm sticking with my guns and giving it 84 points.

4. REX HILL - Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot Noir - 2006 - For the 2nd week in a row, someone brought an Oregon wine to the California vs. France challenge. It has a nice perfumey nose and is well balanced and reminded me of a young Burgundy. I rated it 88 points.

5. DRAGONETTE - 2006 Pinot Noir - Sta. Rita Hills - This wine has a nice nose, good fruit and is high in acid. This is a classic Sta. Rita Hills wine, and I rated it 89 points.

6. STEPHEN ROSS - Central Coast - Pinot Noir - NV - Tight nose and bitter on the palate. An ok wine but nothing special, I rated it 84 points.

7. DEMETRIA - 2006 Pinot Noir - Sta. Rita Hills - Pretty nose and good weight on the palate with a good finish. A well made wine, I rated it 91 points.

8. LAETITIA - Reserve du Domaine - Pinot Noir - Arroyo Grande Valley - 2007 - Fruity and hebal on the palate. Decent mouthfeel and density. I rated it 88 points.

9. BOURGOGNE - Leroy 1998 - far too oxidized to enjoy. An entry level Burgundy that needs to be consumed sooner rather than later. No rating.

10. LOUIS JADOT - Pinot Noir - Bourgogne - 2007 - Young with a nice herbal nose and decent fruit and acid. A very entry-level Burgundy. I rated it 86 points.

11. LUCIA - 2008 Pinot Noir- Santa Lucia Highlands - Nice nose, big fruit, plush mouth-feel, spicy notes & big finish. Really nice wine! I rated it 92 points.

12. BYRON - 2005 Monument Hill - Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley - Some manure on the nose - good fruit - decent finish. I rated it 88 points.

13. LA FENETRE - A Cote - Pinot Noir 2008 - Central Coast - OK nose but bitter on the palate and disjointed. I rated it 78 points.

14. FOLEY - 2007 - Sta. Rita Hills - Pinot Noir - T Anchor Ranch - Starts with a pretty nose, good fruit on the palate with a bit too much oak for me. Nice overall, I rated it 89 points.

15. BERINGER - Founder's Estate - California Pinot Noir - 2009 - Simple and plain. A basic supermarket wine. I rated it 80 points.

16. ARCADIAN 2006 - Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay - Santa Lucia Highlands - Delicious & beautifully balanced. No rating because this was a Pinot tasting. However, a glimpse into the beautiful, old-world wine-making style of Joe Davis at Arcadian Wines.

17. MELVILLE - 2009 Pinot Noir - Verna's - Highly acidic but balanced by the big fruit. High alcohol also. Too young to enjoy yet. I rated it 88+ points.

18. KIRKLAND SIGNATURE - 2007 - Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County - Not a half bad pinot from Costco's Kirkland. Decent fruit, low acid and great price. I rated it 87 points.

19. BEAULIEU VINEYARD - Carneros - Napa Valley - Pinot Noir - 2008 - Over oaked. Decent fruit. Another supermarket wine. I rated it 82 points.

20. FOG DOG - 2007 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast - Pretty nose, very nice fruit and quiet acid levels. An enjoyable wine. I rated it 90 points.

21. LUCAS & LEWELLEN - Goodchild Orchard Club Reserve - 2006 Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County - Plain nose, vegital and stemmy on the palate. I didn't like it and rated it 78 points.

22. BLOCK NINE - Caiden's Vineyards - 2009 Pinot Noir - California - Boring all the way around, average everything. I rated it 81 points.

23. CAMBRIA - Julia's Vineyard - 2007 Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley - Big fruit and slightly over-extracted. I liked it and rated it 89+ points.

24. COSTA DE ORO - 2008 Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County - Interesting maple bar scent on the nose and palate. Decent fruit/acid balance. I rated it 86 points.

25. LORING WINE COMPANY - 2008 Pinot Noir - Russell Family Vineyard - Paso Robles - an unusual entry from Paso Robles. However, Loring hits another home run with this one. Huge fruit and acid with big complexity on the palate and a long lingering finish. WOW WINE! I rated it 93 points.

26. PRESIDIO - 2008 Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara County - Presidio Vineyard - Decent fruit and acid. A slightly above average pinot. I rated it 85 points.

27. WILD HORSE - Unbridled 2008 Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido Vineyard - Santa Maria Valley - My first time trying this winery - very nice fruit and good acid balance. An enjoyable wine that will probably evolve well in the next few years. I liked it and rated it 90 points.

28. CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY - 2007 Vielles Vignes - Domaine Perrot-Minot - Finally the Old World shows up! Starts with a quiet nose. On the palate, the fruit and acid are in very nice balance, with big herbal and mineral notes. A complex and dense wine that will age nicely over the next 5 years. I rated it 91+ points. Impressive stuff!

29. SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE - 1ER CRU - 2005 AUX VERGELESSES - Another impressive Old World Burgundy. This premier cru probably needs a few more years, but is impressive now. Nice fruit, pleasant acid, interesting minerality, pleasant finish. I rated it 90 points.

30. LATRICIERES-CHAMBERTAIN 2001 GRAND CRU - J. Faiveley - My ringer for the evening. This grand cru is near its peak maturity. Sweet tannins, pleasant sour cherry fruit, nice minerality, meaningful finish. I rated it 92 points. I wasn't overwhelmed, but it was really nice.

31. ARCADIAN - 2000 Pisoni Vineyard - Pinot Noir - Monterey - Beautiful! One of the first California pinots I've had that's been made in the Burgundian style and aged. Just like the Grand Cru - nice fruit, decent minerality, strong structure, really nice finish. BOOM! I rated it 93 points. Excellent wine that you probably can't ever find.

My winners for the evening:

FIRST PLACE: ARCADIAN - 2000 Pisoni Vineyard - Pinot Noir - Monterey - 93 points.

SECOND PLACE: LORING WINE COMPANY - 2008 Pinot Noir - Russell Family Vineyard - Paso Robles - 93 points.

THIRD PLACE: LUCIA - 2008 Pinot Noir- Santa Lucia Highlands - 92 points.

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