About once a month, the people at Pappa Bros. Steakhouse do a wine tasting of various themes. April’s theme was one of the most anticipated among my group of regulars, Pinot Noir. Wine director and Master Sommelier Barbara Werley put together an interesting list from around the world, including some aged Burgundy, to help the patrons get a better feel for the styles of Pinot Noir.
2007 Ancien, Russian River Valley, California 2008 Rodney Strong, Russian River Valley, California 2007 Rex Hill, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008 A to Z, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2007 Sherwood Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand 2008 Bodgea Chacra, “Barda”, Rio Negro Valley, Argentina 2008 Byron, Santa Maria Valley, California 2002 Pisoni, Santa Lucia Highlands, California 2005 Bindi, “Composition”, Victoria, Australia 2004 Domaine Bertagna, 1er Cru, Clos de la Perriere, Vougeot, Burgundy, France 2002 Domaine Denis Mortet, Marsannay, “La Longeroies”, Burgundy, France 1999 Domaine Leroy Chorey-Les-Beaune, Burgundy, France
One of the reasons why I started going to the tastings is the fact that you can taste many different styles of winemaking and how important and distinct region can impact the wine, especially with a grape like Pinot Noir. For example, there were four California wines presented in the lineup, two from the north in the Russian River Valley and two from the south in the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands.
The first two from the Russian River Valley were fruit-forward with cherry and raspberry notes and only hints of earth. The southern California wines were also fruit-forward but had richer fruit flavors, even with the age, and had cola, violets and baking spices as well. This is what makes California distinct; the Pinot Noir usually has strong, rich fruit with more briar and forest flavors. When you try this next to a typical Willamette Valley Pinot from Oregon, the Oregon Pinot will usually have more red fruit (cranberry, strawberry and red cherry) and have stronger earth notes (mushrooms, truffle, forest floor are typical characteristics). This was true of the two Oregon wines in the tasting and made an interesting comparison.
The southern hemisphere wines needed some help. The wines were light in style with stronger fruit notes and weaker earth and terroir characteristics than some of the other regions. Enough said.
Finally, the last three wines from Burgundy were the real draw for me and they did not disappoint. Red Burgundy wines are known for their non-fruit characteristics, like the strong limestone and mushroom notes in the 1999 Leroy. This is what makes the old world wines special when compared to new world wines; while there is some fruit in the French Burgundies, these wines are driven by mineral, mushroom and herb flavors paired with good acid that makes them perfect for food. If you have not had a good French Burgundy, it is definitely worth the effort to find one to try.
From the experienced taster to the novice who wants to explore, these monthly tastings are a great way to talk to some experienced individual about different wines and to taste something you may have never had a chance to taste before. On May 13th, Barbara Werley and the rest of her sommeliers will be doing a sommelier choice tasting and I invite you to come out and taste with me. I will be the guy with his nose stuck in a glass.
Barbara Werley photograph courtesy of Mike Hiller