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What do you find to be the most effective method to learn about wine?  Reading? Tasting? Wine classes?  For many, ‘learning by doing’ is the most effective way to learn about wine, or any other subject for that matter.

Learning by doing is an economic concept that can be roughly defined as the capability of workers to improve their productivity by consistently repeating the same actions.  For businesses, this consistent repetition – learning by doing – leads to production and cost efficiencies.  For us humans, we tend to get better at stuff – golf, writing, and even wine tasting – via repetition.  Duh, of course, it’s common sense, eh?

Reading about, and tasting a lot of wine is how I began my wine education back in 2005/2006 after suffering a bite from the ‘wine passion bug.’  Although I did learn quite a bit about wine from reading The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and a host of wine-related books, along with tasting a lot of wines, I’ve found that my personal wine knowledge tends to expand more by tasting with other people.  By tasting and talking through the wines with a group, and looking at a wine through someone else’s lens, I learn exponentially more than just reading about wine or having a glass or two a night.

To that end, I try to attend all of the small group tastings I can during my weekly travels.  Last week I was in the Washington, DC area working and took that opportunity to get together with fellow wine blogging friend, Dezel of Vine Spot and a couple other winos for a Pinot tasting.  We all threw in a few bucks and got together at Dezel’s place with a few bottles of Pinot.

We tasted five Pinots in the following order:

  • Philip LeHardi Mercurey 2005, $25.99
  • Muirwood 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve, Suter Vineyard $19.99
  • Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Elizabeth Reserve, $39.99
  • J 2006 Pinot Noir, Thomas Vineyard, $28.99
  • Domaine Jean Luc Dubois Chorey-Les-Beaune Clos Margot 2005, ~$22

First up for the tasting was the Philip LeHardi Mercurey 2005 1er Cru.  Had this been a blind tasting, I would have picked this one as an Anderson Valley, or Russian River Valley Pinot vice a Burgundy.  Very fruit forward – with an intense violet soap aromas along with spice, cherries, and earth.  Equally intense floral flavors, spice and wet straw flavors in the mouth.  A couple of the other guys noted intense mushroom aromas on the nose that I didn’t detect (one of the benefits of group tastings).  Not as much minerality and acidity as I would have liked, but a solid effort and price point for a Premier Cru Burgundy.

Second up in the tasting was the Muirwood 2007 Pinot from Central Coast, CA.  This one was my least favorite of the tasting – the oak treatment overwhelmed the fruit.  18 months in new French oak was way too much for this wine. (my personal opinion – ONLY neutral oak should be used with Pinot) I gave this wine the benefit of the doubt by giving it quite a bit of time in the glass to air out, but the sweet oak aromas and flavors seemed to just get stronger.  This is a big pass.

After the Muriwood, there was only one way for this tasting to go – UP!  Next up was the Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Elizabeth Reserve from Willamette Valley, Oregon.  An elegant, velvety Pinot with cherry, raspberry, spice, earth, and floral notes throughout – followed by a lengthy berry and spice finish.  Adelsheim is one of the premier Willamette Valley producers, and has never disappointed.  At $40, this certainly isn’t a Tuesday or Wednesday night wine, but would make a great wine to open for the holidays.  My favorite wine of the evening by far.

Next up was the J 2006 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.  I consider this a typical mid-level RRV Pinot.  On the nose, this wine showed raspberry, cherry cola and intense pepper aromas that I found unusual.  On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, ‘ok’ balanced, with a flavor profile similar to the nose – cherry cola, wet mushroom, baking spice and more pepper.

The last wine in the line up was the Jean-Luc Dubois Chorey-Les-Beaune Clos Margot 2005.  This wine started out with an unusual, and off putting cheddar cheese aroma that quickly burned off with a little air (thankfully).  On the nose I found cherry, raspberry, nice coffee, and wet straw aromas.  Medium bodied wine with flavors of an herbal component with mineral, cinnamon and cherry.  I felt this one had more notable acidity than any of the other Pinots in the line up.

My ranking for the evening, in order …

  1. Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Elizabeth Reserve, $39.99
  2. J 2006 Pinot Noir, Thomas Vineyard, $28.99
  3. Jean-Luc Dubois Chorey-Les-Beaune Clos Margot 2005, ~$22
  4. Philip LeHardi Mercurey 2005, $25.99
  5. Muirwood 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve, Suter Vineyard $19.99

As with many small-group tastings, I found this Pinot tasting to be a great time to just hang out, talk wine and learn about how others view and perceive wine.  Hat tip to Dezel for hosting the tasting – hopefully he can make it to our ‘Pork and Pinot’ tasting next week.