Wine Round-up: Pinot Noir from California, Oregon, Washington, Chile and more

Photo from Flickr Commons
Photo from Flickr Commons

SEATTLE,  March 25, 2014 – Pinot Noir is without question one of the most adored varietals there are, its fan base stretches far and wide around the globe. It’s both versatile with the foods it can pair with and in the styles with which it can be produced. However, it’s also a rather polarizing grape as it seems it has a large love-hate relationship with wine lovers.

This reviewer is a fan of any well-crafted beverage so of course I adore good Pinot.

In this round-up, we’ll take a look at a rather good sampling from Pinot made from around the globe with a bigger emphasis on Oregon since it’s one of the most popular Pinot-producing states, domestically.


2010 Cold Heaven Nevertell:
On the nose: Plums, box of raisins, ash tray, mushroom funk, shoe polish and blueberry compote.

On the palate: A fruit-forward pinot that has cascading flavors of raisins, plums, blueberry, spice and some pipe tobacco. This isn’t your “mother’s pinot” but is one that is a bit more jammy which means it’d go very well with barbeque or even Peking duck.

2010 Cold Heaven Makepeace:
On the nose: A cornucopia of plums, English breakfast tea, mud, blackberry compote and a camp fire.

On the palate: Not your “mama’s Pinot” but one that does an admirable job of showcasing the terroir in which it was produced in. Old world snobs may not “get it” and some of the new world fans may feel it doesn’t have enough “punch” (tons of fruit). What this wine does have is a delicate combination of both the new and the old.

2011 Thomas George Cresta Ridge:
On the nose: Bing cherries, cigar, dried plums, cedar box, spice and licorice.

On the palate: A lush pinot that has a full mouth feel and is quite the explosion of red berries on the palate. Full-bodied fruit goodness with a very good lingering finish make for a pinot that will cater to a good number of winos.


2012 Cono Sur 20 Barrels:
On the nose: Spiced cherries, quince, cedar smoke, cranberry-jam that’s been mixed with Christmas spices and toasted oak.

On the palate: A wine that’s a bit took oaky right now which could change over the next few years in the bottle. While it does exhibit some good acidity and decent fruit, the oak right now is a bit too much for my personal palate – some folks may like that.

2010 Matetic EQ:
On the nose: Quince, raspberry, white pepper, bell pepper, hoisin sauce and a hint of tobacco leaf.

On the palate: Not a classic pinot in the sense of flavor profile and comes across as a bit heavy-handed. While it does have some good fruit, the mid palate is a bit disjointed like a pre-teen going through an identity crises. Having said that, however, there are some reasons to like the wine if you can work past the fact it’s not very “pinot like” – good fruit, tannin and acids are here with a finish that hangs about for a while.


2010 Bourgogne:
On the nose: An old bookcase, worn leather, a nice bit of that “farm smell”, spice-dried cranberries and wet cedar.

On the palate: An old-world wine that knows its place. It has a very good sense of staying true to its roots in Burgundy. It’s relaxed, comforting and a no-brainer for the price.

2011 Vincent Girardin, Bourgogne, Rouge Cuvee St. Vincent:
On the nose: Dried cran-cherry, red apples, rose petals, nerds candies, baking spice, white pepper and Trix cereal.

On the palate: A very well integrated, somewhat complex pinot for the money. It has that ever-so-laid back feeling that one adores about Burgundy, yet retains good acid and a definite sense of terroir. It’s a beautiful wine from start to finish and one of the better values from Burgundy out there.


2010 August Kesseler, Pinot Noir “N”
On the nose: Beautiful notes of clove, currant, Bing cherry and allspice.

On the palate: A surprisingly gorgeous, light-weight Pinot that delivers a very nice texture across the entire palate and would be a no-brainer wine to go with pizza, salmon or even a roasted-beet and goat-cheese salad.


2007 1789:
On the nose: Smoked cedar, cran-cherry, match stick, rose petal, quince, forest floor, an old leather-bound book, sawdust and cocoa powder.

On the palate: A wine that’s clearly showing some benefits of age. A relaxed mouth feel, with stellar notes of sour cherry, cranberry, cedar smoke, tobacco leaf, mushroom, and leather.

2010 1789:
On the nose: Roasted fennel, cranberry, cherry, tree bark, moss, Nerds candy and some pomegranate.

On the palate: Even in its youth, this wine drinks very well, exhibiting flavors of tart cherry, cranberry, tree stump, pomegranate and smoke. Good transition from the fruit to the mid palate that pops with good acidity and a finish which is clean, brisk and very welcomed.

2011 Aberrant Cellars Carpe Noctem Eola-Amity Hills:
On the nose: Gorgeous aromas of cranberry, cherry, wet cedar box, modeling clay, mushroom and a hint of elk jerky.

On the palate: A simply splendid wine because it comes across as being so basic yet complex – meaning that it does a great job of showcasing simple flavors done brilliantly. It’s not over-done, not over the top and fully rewarding.

2011 Aberrant Cellars Confero:
On the nose: Violet, cran-cherry, an old locker up in the attic, leather glove, five spice, nutmeg and a hint of cigar.

On the palate: A wine that feels as good on the palate as a nice, well-worn pair of jeans does. Beautiful combination of fruit and tannin with just the right amount of acidity, however, it does tend to be a tad short on the finish but still a very solid Pinot overall.

2010 August Kesseler:
On the nose: Cigar-laced cherries, allspice, anise, wet mud, dark violet, blackened cranberry and black pepper.

On the palate: A good culmination of fruit, mouth feel and texture that combines in such a way to entice you to keep sipping. It’s definitely not a “burgundy” but that’s okay – it’s different in its approach as the fruit is a lot more into the play of things. This would be a good spring-time sipper and a good picnic wine.

2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuveé:
On the nose: Craisin, peppercorn, cedar box, beef jerky, blackened cherry, cocoa powder and a hint of cigar humidor.

On the palate:  A more “fleshy” Pinot in that it has the “grip” on the tongue that I know many will appreciate. Having said that, it does come across as a bit more “new world” and that will create either a love/hate relationship with this wine. It has a very good combination of fruit, acid and tannin with a good sense of softness on the finish which does linger around for hours.

2011 Ghost Hill Cellars Bayliss:
On the nose: Aromas of tart cherry, craisin, cotton ball, white pepper, leather and a beautiful hint of lavender.

On the palate: The cherry action in this wine is both off the charts and balanced with good acids, floral action, horse saddle, raisin and cranberry. It’s a wine that from – start to finish – represents about as good as a Pinot as one can find in its price range and should be at the top of your “must try” charts for around $40 – it’s a no brainer.

2011 Ghost Hill Prospector’s Reserve:
On the nose: Rose petals, cherry, craisin, saddle leather, lavender, pink peppercorns, nutmeg, cassis and licorice.

On the palate: Easily one of the most poundable Pinots around – its sublime integration of fruit, floral action, acid and tannin which glance on the palate with the easy of ballet dancer but with the energy and intensity of Michael Flatley. Hands down, a Pinot that anyone should try as the reward and experience it offers should not be missed.

2010 Gypsy Dancer Tribute:
On the nose: Sour cherry, cranberry, cedar smoke, tart strawberries, red licorice, cocoa powder and a light hint of spice.

On the palate: A light-bodied pinot that has gorgeous flavors of sour cherry, cran-raisin with overtones of cedar box and spice. An easy drinker all by itself or stellar with shepherd’s pie, beef stew or braised ox-tail.

2012 Gypsy Dancer Legacy:
On the nose:  Roses, Bing cherries, leather, pot roast, peppercorns, tobacco and beef jerky.

On the palate: A pinot that has a great deal more fruit up front in contrast to some others in this round-up and that means it’ll cater to those who prefer a more new-world style. An aspect that’s enjoy about it is how it does a good job of luring you in with the fruit but it quickly leads into a mellow mid palate that evokes the tongue with a sense of ease and comfort. The finish has the fruit making a nice come-back on the end with lingering notes of cedar.

2011 Keeler Estate:
On the nose: Rose pedals, cedar, cran-apple, craisin, red vines, cherry and fruit cake.

On the palate: A substantial pinot that is easily one of the best of this line-up. It has an incredible mouth feel, texture, fruit, acid and finish that beckons one to keep tapping more of it until you tear-up after realizing you just pounded the entire bottle.

2011 Noel Family Vineyard:
On the nose: Wet cedar plank, cran-cherry, a worn church pew, a stack of old books, mushroom and pink peppercorns.

On the palate: A harmonious pinot which does a tremendous job of marrying the essence of the old world in a very approachable presentation. The subtle undertones of worn leather, cedar chest, spice, cranberry, cherry and earth make you feel as if you’re being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a cold, wintery day.

New Zealand:

2012 Mohua Central Otago
On the nose: Dried cherries, cranberry compote, toasted graham crackers, cocoa, cigar and tea.

On the palate: A nice herbal component comes through right off the bat along with the fruit overtones of dirty cherries, cranberry and spice. The wine starts off really nice with the fruit and has a solid mid palate but the finish is just a tad short.

South Africa:

2011 Hamilton Russell Vineyards:
On the nose: Rainier cherries, with a hint of barnyard Brettanomyces, pink peppercorns, Elmer’s paste, cedar and cran-apple.

On the palate: It’d be nice to taste the fruit here but to be honest there’s simply a bit too much Brettanomyces that keeps the wine stifled. Normally, Brettanomyces – in check – is somewhat acceptable but in this case it’s simply too over powering.

Washington State:

2010 Phelps Creek Columbia Gorge:
On the nose: Currant, black cherry, ash, caramel, cigar wrapper, worn leather chaps and a rousing hint of “the farm” on the end – love it.

On the palate: A gorgeous Pinot which does a brilliant job of marrying the new and old world. The balance it achieves between the fruit, tannin, acid and finish is fabulous. It welcomes you with a mix of fresh berries, black currant, leather, a light dusting of ash and some tobacco. The finish lingers on for days and begs to be pounded with pork belly, smoked salmon or even an herb-crusted pheasant.

Top Picks:

  • 2010 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuveé
  • 2011 Noel Family Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Keeler Estate
  • 2011 Ghost Hill Prospector’s Reserve
  • 2010 Phelps Creek Columbia Gorge
  • 2011 Vincent Girardin, Bourgogne, Rouge Cuvee St. Vincent
  • 2010 August Kesseler, Pinot Noir “N”
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