While we have tasted Pinot Noirs from California before, this one was a gathering of only those from the Central Coast, the large region of appellations roughly south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles in California.
Our winner was a near-unanimous favorite, out-scoring the second place bottle by 19 points, and exhibited outstanding balance. But the next three bottles were separated by only one point, and every bottle received at least a few votes. Our last place bottle was technically not a Central Coast Pinot Noir.
First Place: Calera Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Coast). Tasters were reminded of Coke, dust, roses, smoke, campfire, and rubber glove on the nose. Creamy texture and the most balanced of the night, with cherry and white chocolate flavors. Ends with a little pop of acidity to go with the classic Pinot flavors. Every taster's #1 bottle, except for Claudia. Received 33 total points. David's bottle. About $22.
Second Place: Carmel Road Pinot Noir 2008 (Monterey). Unfiltered. Aromas of Crayola crayons, wax, burning candle, paraffin, bug spray, wet rock, brown sugar, and earth. A bit funky on the palate, with a soft texture. Sweeter than expected, with Ali commenting, "bordering on fake sweet", and finally, "I just took another sip and hated it". Three tasters gave this their second place vote. Received 14 points. Claudia's bottle. About $19 .
Third Place: Smith & Son Pinot Noir 2009 (Santa Barbara County). Brown sugar, bacon fat, pumpkin spice, perfume, pepper, meat, and cardamom aromas. Fuller bodied, and riper than many, and opens up to plum, bacon fat, and blackberry flavors. Cola on finish. Claudia's favorite of the night. Received 13 points. Ali's bottle. About $22.
Byron Pinot Noir 2008 (Santa Maria Valley). Aromas reminiscent of forest floor, mushrooms, pine needles, pacific northwest forest, funk, sulfur, truffle, brown paper bag, and ink. In the mouth, tasters noted ink, iodine, tar, black cherry, black licorice, and cinnamon. Andy said it was like he "licked a burnt log". Different texture than most, with more tannin, and a hot syrupy feel. Shows some intensity. Received 12 points. Kristin's bottle. About $26.
Stephen Ross Aubaine Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 (San Luis Obispo County). Tasters found buttered popcorn, canned goods, aluminum, overripe fruit, yogurt, herbs, mushrooms, and wet earth scents. Claudia was reminded of "Gap perfume". The palate featured sweet tobacco, cherry Coke, clove cigarette, and licorice flavors. Ali detected "a little tussin", an later noted that it "just let me down, big time". Kristin said that it "smells like nail polish remover now". Some alcoholic heat on the finish. Received 8 points. Andy's bottle. About $40.
Fleur Pinot Noir 2008 (Carneros). Rose colored, and smelling of Elmer's Glue, rubber cement, dust, cedar, dusty road, and herbs. Tart attack, then flavors of light cherry, charcoal, and tin foil. Kristin felt that it "leaves me wanting", while Ali found "Jello mix". David initially gave it faint praise of "pleasant", but later said that it was "vacant now, nobody's home". Metallic finish. Not from the Central Coast. Received 4 points. Steve's bottle. About $14.