This month's tasting was inspired by a scene from the movie Somm 3, where a group of young sommeliers blind taste a diverse set up Pinot Noirs. Unknown to all expect the organizer is the fact that half the wines are from Burgundy, and the other half are New World examples.
Our version of this was composed of three bottles from Burgundy and three from California. Just like the movie, we were instructed to focus on which we enjoyed more, rather than try to determine where they were from.
While far from a large sample size, our results showed that our palates generally leaned toward Burgundy, with three of the top four wines coming from the spiritual home of Pinot Noir. Our top wines were appreciated for their elegance and balance, and while our last place finisher was certainly a very good wine, it didn't taste varietally correct, showing over-ripe fruit and high alcohol.
None of these were inexpensive wines, but none were super-expensive either. Two bottles came from the same producer, just presented in back-to-back vintages.
Thanks to Andy this month for being the photographer.
First Place: Domaine Dublère Beaune Premier Cru Les Blanches Fleurs 2014. Bright red in color, but also slightly cloudy, with a complex nose of spearmint, flowers, talcum powder, bright cherry, tomato stem, and blueberries. Prettier than most of the others, and a slight bit stemmy. Josephine, who we can always count on to correctly describe floral scents, noted "rock rose." Some noticeable tannin, with plenty of acidity, and a balanced, elegant, and precise manner. Laser focused. David felt that "someone cared about this wine", and we agreed that it was a wine meant for food. Jamie decided early that this was one of the French bottles, saying that "I smell the beret", and that "The winemaker thought about eating as much as drinking." Received first place votes from Jamie, David, Andy, and Ali, with a total of 31 points. Jamie's bottle. About $59.
Second Place: Perrot-Minot Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes 2014. Darker in color and not as bright as some others, with slight cloudiness. Tasters felt that this was slightly fecal and reminiscent of barnyard, like hay, and less forest and more farm-like, plus notions of cloves and cardamom. Ali was reminded of whiskey. Nicely done, with more body, more tannin, and more brooding than most of the others, showing flavors of cranberries, and blackberries. Ripe and almost juicy, it also seemed younger. Well-made. Kristin and Josephine's favorite of the night, with a total of 24 points. Kristin's bottle. About $50.
Third Place: Calera Pinot Noir Fortieth Anniversary 2015 (Central Coast). Very clear at the edge, offering scents of acetone, overturned earth, slight diapery notes, raisins, cedar, and green olives. Josephine was remided of "cooked chard that's been in the fridge too long" and "woolen arm pit." Very ripe in the mouth, like crushed cherries. Well-made, though having a little too much obvious fruit, and slightly hot on the finish. 13 points. David's bottle. About $30.
Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Prieur 2017. Super bright garnet color, and the most clear of the night. Andy felt that "it's almost on, like electric." Complex nose, featuring yogurt, moss, bright cherries, dried herbs, dust, cut wood, shitake mushrooms, and pencil eraser. Josephine noted that it was "more earthy than fruity." Really nice and elegant in the mouth, with balanced acidity and fruit (blueberries), but also with savory raw red meat flavors. Evolved over time. Jamie questioned the group with, "Don't you want to have a duck breast with that?" Long finish, with nothing sticking out. Restrained, though seemed a bit thin with time. 12 points. Andy's bottle. About $34.
Calera Pinot Noir 2015 (Central Coast). Smelled of heated rubber, erasers, cherry candy, freesia, some dairy, spearmint gum, geranium, skunk, and bamboo shoots. A more manufactured aroma. A little candied in the mouth, with notions of pine, lemon zest, and camphor. A little simple. 3 points. Ali's bottle. About $32.
Belle Glos Pinot Noir Las Alturas 2016 (Santa Lucia Highlands). Dark, opaque purple, with tasters finding scents of cedar, wet forest, dark fruit, licorice, dark red roses, rosemary, and Robitussin. Tasted more like a California Merlot, with plenty of ripe fruit, licorice, kalamata olives, anise, and strawberries. Very good wine, but heady (this was nearly 15% alcohol), and not what we expected for Pinot Noir. Would be good with a winter stew. Ali felt that this was "like diving into a vat of prunes", and Jamie noted that it could be "an Instagram influencer." Received one point from Ali. Josephine's bottle. About $58.