Monday, March 29, 2010

Pinot Paradise, Grand Cruz Tasting 2010

Last weekend was the SCMWA's Pinot Paradise event, an annual event where most of the region's Pinot producers get together to show off the latest releases. It's always a great event, well organised and supported. The food looked and smelled lovely, but I was trying to concentrate on the wines.

Last year I moaned a little about the number of dump buckets and lack of water on the table; I'm pleased to say that the organisers took care of that this year; I didn't see a single table without a bucket and the staff ensured they never got too full. Thank you!

I was disappointed not to see McHenry or Ahlgren there; I hope that all is well with them both.

As usual I struggled to get to everyone, managing to visit about 2/3 of the tables. Apologies to everyone I missed. I'm sure that Richard Jennings and Wes Barton will fill in the gaps.

All wines are from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA unless noted otherwise.

Alfaro Family

2007 Alfaro Family Vineyard
An odd plastic note quickly blew off to reveal an earthy, brambly nose. Smooth and spicy black cherry, with a tannic finish. 90
2007 Lindsay Paige Vineyard
Vanilla and tangerine on the nose. Much more tannin than the Alfaro Family Vineyard; flavours of tart cranberry and cherry. 89+

Martin Alfaro

2007 Lester Family Vineyard
Bright cherry aromas, with a little cinnamon. Rich, sweet cherry fruit, oak showing on the finish. 90


2007 Devery Vineyard
Smoky, tart nose with redcurrant and grapefruit. Flavours of bright cherry and grapefruit; light in both body and tannins, decent acidity. 88
2007 Estate
Smoky, earthy, berry nose. Sweet, simple fruit flavours with a little spice. Some tannin on the finish. 84


2007 Beauregard Ranch Vineyard. Ben Lomond Mountain AVA
The first vintage from new vines. Nose shows rose petals and cranberry. Flavours of earth, mushroom and black cherry; nicely structured. 90+
2007 Trout Gulch Vineyard
Interesting nose of orange with a hint of clove. Sweet red cherry flavours with a touch of smoke; nice acidity, fairly light tannins. 89

Big Basin

2007 Alfaro Family Vineyard
Floral oak and cherry aromas. Rich complex fruit with some cinnamon notes and a good long finish. 93
2008 Woodruffe Vineyard
Lighter nose, with violets and black cherry. On the palate it's got quite concentrated, smoky cherry flavours and a nice medium-length finish. 92

Black Ridge

2006 Estate
This has come together nicely since I first tasted it 2 years ago. Nice bright cherry, with smoother tannins. Drinking well now, but will hold. 90
2007 Estate
Has a richer nose than the 2006; still lots of tannin backed by plenty of black cherry and a medium length astringent finish. Still needs a couple of years. 90+
2008 Estate, barrel sample
This had an unusual nose, with mint, tangerine and sandalwood. Flavours of baking spice, redcurrant and cherry. 89-92


2007 Estate - Unfiltered
Definitely unfiltered - this was very cloudy indeed; almost soupy, and a little offputting. However the nose was interesting; stemmy and floral. Flavours of sweet cherry, raspberry and dough. Liquorice on the finish. 85
2007 Estate Block 4
Smoky nose with raspberry and orange. Rich, sweet fruit but fairly one-dimensional; light tannins on the finish 86

Clos LaChance

2007 Santa Cruz Mountains
Light nose with hints of barnyard, cherry and caramel. Lovely smooth cherry flavours with some baking spice and a long finish. Good value 92+
2007 Biagini Vineyard
A blend of four clones: 113, 114, 115 and Mount Eden.
Earthy yet rich with nice strawberry notes and good structure. 92
2007 Biagini Vineyard Nancys Block
Made solely from Mount Eden clone; I was particularly impressed by this one.
Nose has smoke, oak, cherry and spice. Lashings of good rich fruit, lots of spice and a long finish. Really nice. 94

Heart of the Mountain

2006 Estate
Light smoky nose. Rich, tart cherry, nice vanilla oak, medium finish. 91
2007 Estate
Similar nose to the 2006, though with a hint of stemminess. (More whole cluster?). Palate has darker fruit; brambly notes and a longer finish. 92

Hunter Hill

2008 Estate
Nose shows redcurrent backed by an oddly chemical note - perhaps a trace of va? Earthy, with cranberry, redcurrant and some minerality; nice acidity. 86

Kings Mountain

2005 Estate
The nose shows some bretty barnyard and band-aid characteristics. There's some good cherry and strawberry fruit behind it, with a mineral (possibly sulphur?) note on the finish. 88

Loma Prieta

2007 Saveria Vineyard
Lovely expressive nose, floral with notes of pine and earth. Rich earthy cherry flavours, but a harsh oaky finish spoils it. Hopefully that will resolve with time. 88+
2008 Saveria Vineyard
More earthy, forest floor notes than the 2007. Brooding, earthy black cherry and a very earthy finish. Interesting. 89+

Mountain Winery

Second vintage from the replanting of what was once one of the finest vineyards in the country. The young vines (777, 828 and Swan clones) are still getting established, but signs are good. In a sense history comes full circle, since the wine is being made by Jeffrey Patterson at Mount Eden. I expect great things from this label; I hear the Chardonnay is outstanding.
2007 Estate
Tart cherry and earth on the nose; Rich, spicy cherry flavours with a tart finish. Needed more air. 91+

Mount Eden

2006 Estate
Awesome rich, spicy nose. Complex, with plenty of spicy black cherry, and lots of tannin. Needs 5+ years. 92+
2007 Estate
I've already praised this wine enough, but I wasn't going to pass up the chance to taste it again. While the nose is more restrained than the 2006, the palate is superb, with loads of concentrated fruit. 95+


2006 Estate
Light cherry, berry nose. Good, balanced red fruit with some spice and an earthy finish. 90
2005 Estate
Nose shows pear drops and vanilla essence. Tart cherry and strawberry, with a medium finish. 86


The winery struggled a little in the earlier part of the decade, relying on consultants. In 2007 they took on Ian Brand as full-time winemaker; 2008 is the first vintage that he made from start to finish.
2008 Santa Cruz Mountains - Barrel Sample
Fruit sourced mostly from Corralitos. A light nose, with spice, oak and red fruit. It has a big, chewy mouthfeel with bright red cherry flavours and a medium length, tannic finish 90-92
2008 Estate - Barrel Sample
This has a brighter nose than the other sample; shows more oak, with nice flavours of cherry pie, good structure and a dry finish. 90-92

Pleasant Valley Vineyards

Formerly a tiny all-estate producer, now producing a range of additional wines with purchased fruit. Their Pinots and estate Chardonnays remain the outstanding centrepieces.
2007 Thelma Henrietta Block
It's full name is 2007 Dylan David Pinot Noir, Lester Family Vineyards, Thelma-Henrietta Block (Dijon Clone #115) and the wine is as much of a mouthful as the name.
Nose shows smoke and black fruit. In the mouth there's lots of concentrated black cherry and brambly fruit, with a good, long finish. 93+
2007 Willa-Louise Block
Sharing a similar name and pedigree, this is made from a block of Clone 667. Bright strawberry fruit on the nose; Rich red fruit - strawberry and raspberry - on the palate, with light, silky tannins. 92+
2007 Dylan David Estate
Here's a wine that I know from experience needs a lot of time and air to show its best; I got the first pour from a freshly opened bottle. The nose was restrained, not showing much beyond oak and earth. On the palate it's quite intense and earthy, with dark cherry and brambly fruit. 93+


First time attending Pinot Paradise for Regale, an impressive new property on Summit Road near to Burrell School. They have around 4 acres of Pinot planted as well as a little Chardonnay. 2007 was their first vintage from the young vines; less than 50 cases were made.
2007 Estate
Nose shows herbal notes - mint, lavender and liquorice. In the mouth there are concentrated black fruit flavours - berry, currant, cherry. A surprisingly intense wine from such young vines. 93
2008 Estate
As yet unreleased. This had a lighter, fruitier nose than the 2007, with some sulphur evident. A touch more elegant, but with nice black cherry fruit and lots of tannins. 92+

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

2007 Branciforte creek
Very earthy, spicy nose. Bright, intense cherry and cranberry flavours with a longish, tannic finish. 92+
2006 Baileys vineyard
Lighter than the Branciforte and with more acidity. Good cherry, cranberry fruit and a long finish. 92+

Sarah's Vineyard

Sarah's has a new winemaker. Ken Deis, formerly of Flora Springs has taken over from Robert Henson. The winery has recently launched a range made from Rhone grapes, as well as a fourth Pinot Noir.
2008 Santa Cruz Mountains
Sourced from the Regan and Veranda vineyards. Nose of raspberry and black cherry; floral, with flavours of sour cherry. Some nice tannins. Seems more substantial than the 2007. 91+
2009 Santa Cruz Mountains - Barrel Sample
Nose shows plenty of red fruit - redcurrant and raspberry. Lots of red fruit up front, tails off somewhat in the middle. 88-91
2007 Rebhahn Vineyard
A tough vineyard to deal with, out of the way on a steep hill. The clusters are unusually small.
Black fruits on the nose, particularly blueberry. Dark, rather high acidity and quite tannic. Certainly needs time to come around. 88

Silver Mountain

2007 Miller Hill
Light nose - mineral and tart cherry. Bright acidity on the palate and lots of tannin. Some red fruit, with an earthy finish. 86+
2007 Estate
An initial odd, plastic note, which soon blew off revealing some cranberry. Nice flavours of redcurrant, cranberry and gooseberry, with good acidity. 89

Thomas Fogarty

2008 Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose is floral, with oak and red fruit. Sweet red cherry and strawberry with a hint of cocoa. 91
2007 Windy Hill
Dark fruit and undergrowth with some stemmy notes. Nice sweet red fruit flavours; the stemmy notes return on the finish. 91

Trout Gulch

2007 "La Source"
A light, tart nose, with notes of mineral and cherry. Good flavours of sweet cherry and raspberry, with a nice finish. 91
1999 Estate
Clearly a mature nose, reminiscent of apple cider. Rich and meaty on the plate with flavours of dried cherry and cranberry, and some pastry. Still plenty of tannins. Interesting. 89
1990 estate
Odd nose that reminded me of blue cheese! Mature, earthy flavours with some dried cherry. Probably a little past its peak for my tastes. 87

Windy Oaks

Perhaps more than any other winery on show, Windy Oaks needs time or air to show its best. In particular I got surprisingly little out of the 2007 Wild Yeast, which is odd as I've really enjoyed the 2006. I suspect with a few hours of air I would have scored each of these a few points higher, particularly the first two.
2007 Wild Yeast
Nose showed a little sulphur and red cherry. Nice cherry with notes of fresh earth and quite a lot of stemmy tannin. 90++
2007 Cuvee
Bright nose of earthy cherry. Fruitier and a little lighter than the Wild Yeast, with good acidity. 91++
2007 Henry's Block
Lovely perfumed nose showing roses and raspberry. Rich smooth fruit, nice complexity. 92+
2007 Whole Cluster
Floral - rose petal nose with earthy notes. Fuller and richer than the Henry's Block. Fresh earth, sappy tannin, less pronounced fruit. 92+


2006 Estate
A nice earthy, spicy, smoky nose. Rich and complex with dark cherry and a long, spicy finish 93