Happy Fourth of July from Grapelive
by Kerry Winslow
To celebrate the Fourth of July and the American Dream I’m going to give a quick nod to some great American Pinots I tried at Pinot Days last weekend in San Francisco. This was my first Pinot Days event at Fort Mason, and it was awesome with lots of fantastic wines and many winemakers and winery owners on hand to tell their stories and share their visions of Pinot Noir and the vineyards where it is grown. For me the event was a success in everyway and I enjoyed meeting so many new people and finding even more exciting wines, plus catching up with old friends which makes it just that much more special.
The big surprise was the amazing showing of Oregon Pinots; this fun little rivalry between California and Oregon was the real highlight of the Pinot Days event. I was not just me that noticed these super Oregon Pinots, I was walking the show with a California Pinot Noir winemaker and we both agreed that the Oregon wines came out on top on this day. To be fair most of the Pinots came from the 2006 Vintage, which flatters the big rich, vintage from Oregon, which is not typical and for which California is more known for and that had a slightly lighter vintage in 2006 by comparison. Still even in a tough year like 2005, Oregon still produced some real gems and a few were shown at Pinot Days to good effect.
The California stand outs included some sublime wines, here are a few from my mental notes that stuck out from the crowd; the 2006 Bjornstad Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, the 2006 Freeman Pinot Noir, Russian River, the 2006 Martin Alfaro Pinot Noir Deer Park Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2007 Auteur Pinot Noir, Sonoma Stage *Barrel sample, and the 2006 August West Pinot Noir Graham Vineyard, Russian River. All of which are between $35 and $50 each and offer lots of bang for the buck, especially the Martin Alfaro Deer Park. The humble and friendly Joe Martin was pouring the beautiful 2006 Martin Alfaro Deer Park, which was competing nicely against the hundreds of other top Pinots on display and again tells me that there is a spot for the South Santa Cruz Mountains in the list of great Pinot Noir Terroirs!
Now for the Oregon Pinots that stole the show, they included; the 2006 Auteur Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon *Maybe my wine of the day, the 2005 & 2006 Vidon Pinot Noirs, the 2005 & 2006 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noirs, and the 2006 Lachini Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Again it was a surprise to find that even the tough vintage 2005 wines showed so well, but there is no doubt the 2006 Oregon vintage is a blockbuster year and I recommend trying and buying them up before they sell out. Beyond the Pinot Days event, I can say find the 2006 Bergstrom Pinot Noirs, the 2006 Beaux Freres Pinot Noirs and any 2006 Shea Vineyard Oregon Pinot, as they are some of the greatest Pinots I’ve tasted this year.
Highlights of Pinot Days
2006 Stoller Pinot Noir JR, Willamette Valley, Oregon
This is the entry level Stoller, but don’t let that fool you, this is a super wine that delivers with rich and interesting flavors and is a steal at $25! It starts fresh with bright raspberry and strawberry notes, but gets deeper with air and brings a core of cherry and plum fruit to the surface. This lovely little Pinot is a ready to drink darling that has some good depth and focus with touches of rose petal, spice, vanilla and sweet tea. ($25 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive
2006 Bjornstad Pinot Noir “Van der Kamp Vineyard”, Sonoma Mountain
This serious and intense Pinot is loaded with dark fruits and amazing depth, really this is a great wine. Greg Bjornstad has created a wonderful Pinot, though that is nothing new as he was one of the Gregs’ behind the highly rated Tandem wines, but I think I like this one even more than those Tandems! This wine has layers of complexity and the flavors are powerful and rich without being sweet or over blown. The dark berry and black plum fruits come at you first then you get a classic Pinot burst of cherry that fills the palate. There is some smoke, truffle, currant, mineral and vanilla cream all mixed in perfectly and with good balance and focus. Congrats to Greg on his own label and a very successful start and a great wine here! ($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive