Now Bob and Jim Varner are justly famous for their excellent Chardonnay. From the Spring Ridge vineyard in Portola valley make the "Bee Block", "Home Block" and "Ampitheater Block", as well as a blend under the Neely label. However they also make a small amount of Pinot Noir. I tried the 2005 Neely Pinot Noir earlier this year, and frankly wasn't all that impressed. Then one evening last month I was looking through the cellar for something to pair with a stuffed pork chop and spotted a 2005 Varner Hidden Block Pinot Noir that I'd picked up. I decided I may as well quaff it, after all it was nothing special.
The colour didn't give much away; it's so amazingly light, I've seen darker Rosés. If you drink a lot of Burgundy then you're no doubt used to it, but Californian winemakers (with a few notable exceptions) seems to prefer their wines much darker. And the nose wasn't much of a clue at first - dusty oak and some white flowers. But on the palate I was surprised - wave after wave of rich, sweet fruit; cherries and redcurrants, together with mixed spice and more. The depth was amazing and it just got better with air. Highly recommended.
On the other hand, Windy Oaks are best known for their Pinot Noirs. They have around 14 acres of Pinot planted down near Corralitos, together with one acre of Chardonnay. Yet that one acre makes some amazing wine. I've tried both the 2005 and 2006 recently; they each had flavours of lemon meringue pie, pineapple and custard. Overall I think the 2006 has the edge. Again, a highly recommended wine.
While on the subject of Windy Oaks I'd like to mourn the passing of a bottle of their 2006 Proprietor's Reserve Pinot Noir. I intended to open an older vintage to impress a good friend from France. Unfortunately the 2006 had just arrived and I picked the wrong one. If you own any of these babies I implore you to please let them rest; they need at least 3-5 years of beauty sleep before they are ready.