Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A confession and change of heart...

I've been having somewhat of a love hate with my Pinot Noirs. I love to drink them young, but I hate to think what I'm going to miss. Something had to give. So, I've basically resolved to cellar them all (for the most part) and pick up some older Pinots at auction for consumption now. I decided that whatever you get in easy gratification from early drinking, you lose in harmony, as these young wines (for all their charm) are not really knit together yet.

Accordingly, for my long-term strategy, I've been looking for wines with great tannic and acid structure to match the inevitably sweet California fruit. Largely, that means eliminating the wines with lower acidity and higher alcohol. I must admit that I got this really wrong in my early impressions in Pinot Noir. I defended the bigger style of Pinots, while others knowingly clucked that I'd come around. At least it didn't take long for me to see the light! I'm not saying that others can't enjoy those wines, but for me and my palate, they weren't really working. Generally speaking, I've found these wines to be from the true Sonoma Coast and, to a certain degree, RRV. I've gone through almost all my Central Coast Pinots and now stick to Williams Selyem, Rivers-Marie, Littorai and KB (because I can't afford not to buy it). I also like some of the things that Andrew Vingiello, Jamie Kutch and a few others are doing.

So, here's a couple of tasting notes from my new adventure into the world of self-denial. While I love fruit from WS Rochioli, the precision and focus of the WS Hirsch clearly won my heart. Perhaps it's my love of the Sonoma Coast or perhaps, just perhaps, I drank the 1998 too young....
  • 1998 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Rochioli Riverblock - The marriage of Williams-Selyem and Rochioli fruit is always going to be a treat. The nose was quietly brooding with an earthy raspberry and tell-tale RRV cola notes and some baking spice. It had a tremendous presence on the palate with juicy, sappy dark red fruit. Still, it lacked a bit of precision and, while the acidity was ample, it still needs a little time to integrate better with the fruit. Given that there was a surprising amount of tannic structure left, I think this actually needs a little time for the fruit to mellow. Who'd've thunk it.
  • 1994 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard - Just a stellar bottle of wine. The nose showed pure and complex with vibrant and vivid red fruits intermingled with wet earth and a satisfying citrus that I love in Sonoma Coast Pinots. The fruit was quite lively and remarkably precise, dancing along in the mouth on beam of lemon-y acidity. The most satisfying this was that everything was in its place; all elements driving the wine from the glass through the finish.

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