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A common trend with me seems to be tardiness – more specifically tardiness of posting, so another late one here.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I invited a small group of friends over to our house for a ‘pork and pinot’ dinner.  The charge – bring one pork dish along with a bottle or two of pinot.  The best part of these get-togethers, aside from drinking way too much and falling asleep in a window box, is the food.  Several of our friends are superb cooks, with an excellent taste in wine to boot.

For the blind tasting we included eight bottles of Pinot Noir ranging in price from $9.99 to $55.   Each of the wines were bagged, shuffled, and numbered to ensure complete blindness.  Wines were scored on a 10-point scale (1 being undrinkable, 10 being wine utopia).  After the tasting, each taster’s wine scores were added up, and the wines were ranked based on overall score.


The eight Pinot Noirs included in the blind tasting:

  • Bogle, 2007, Russian River Valley, CA
  • Belle Vallee 2006 Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR
  • Adelsheim Elizabeth Reserve, 2007, Willamette Valley, OR
  • Scotchman’s Hill, 2007, Geelong, Australia
  • Caretaker, 2008, Arroyo Grande Valley, Central Coast, CA
  • DePonte Cellars, 2007, Dundee Hills, Dayton, OR
  • Erath, 2007, Oregon
  • Martin Ray, 2007, Santa Barbara County, CA

When the final results were tabulated, the wines finished as follows (my personal ranking in parenthesis):

  1. Caretaker, 2008, Arroyo Grande Valley, Central Coast, CA. $9.99 at Trader Joe’s.  Given the fact that this was the youngest Pinot of the tasting coupled with the $10 price point, I was surprised this one took the top spot of the tasting.  On the nose, I found bright strawberry, raspberry, hints of spice with floral components that led to flavors of violets and more red fruits.  I gave this one an ‘ok’ in terms of acidity and found it slightly off balance – likely a result of its youth.  Or maybe it was really off balance – my ability to decipher my ‘wine tasting shorthand’ scribbled on my score sheet after the fact is questionable.  I do suspect this wine will show better a year from now. (Finished 3rd in my ranking.)
  2. Martin Ray, 2007, Santa Barbara County, CA.  I’m not sure the exact price for this wine here in Virginia, but this one can be found widely online for $19.99. This wine reminded me of one of my very favorite candies – Lifesavers Raspberry Cream Cremesavers.  The wine was dominated by raspberry crème throughout, with nuances of cherry and earth.  I wrote TANNIC in all caps on my tasting sheet, which is usually an indicator of a wine needing more time to open up.  I’m not too surprised that this one finished second in the overall scoring – these round, fruit crème wines tend to be crowd pleasers.  (Finished 2nd in my ranking.)
  3. De Ponte Cellars, 2007 Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Dayton, OR.  $55 at the winery.  I picked up this wine several months ago during a visit to the Willamette Valley.  DePonte has some of the most amazing views in the Dundee Hills <SEE photo at bottom>.   This wine shows a pure nose of violets, raspberry, cherry, baking spice with hints of mushrooms.  In the mouth, I initially got a Dr. Pepper flavor with spices, strawberry and raspberry.  The tannins, acidity and fruit worked very well together.  This ranked #1 on my tasting sheet with a score of 8.5, but I will admit that I may have been slightly biased since I could immediately tell this was the DePonte Pinot.  Although this wine finished 1st in my personal rankings, I feel this one would have benefited from more time in bottle. (Finished 1st in my ranking.)
  4. Bogle, 2007, Russian River Valley.   $9.99 at Total Wine.  Like all of the Bogle wines that I’ve tried, this one is a solid effort at the $10 price point.  Although Bogle wines are not transcendent, they do provide reasonably good value at the $10 – $12 price point.  On the nose I found earth, cherry and toasty oak, which carried over on to the palate along with vanilla cola and floral flavors.  Solid tannins, but a bit disjointed.  Although I did like this pinot, I must admit that I expected more fruit from this one.  (Finished 5th in my ranking.)
  5. Scotchman’s Hill, 2007, Geelong, Australia.  I believe I paid about $20AU ($18US).  I brought this Pinot back with me from my trip to Australia earlier in the year.  This particular Pinot showed remarkably well at a tasting I attended in Melbourne – unfortunately that tasty goodness wasn’t included in this bottle.  A really watered down ruby color in the glass, this wine had a nose of cola, mushroom and earth with sour cherry flavors in the mouth followed by a short, sweetart candy finish.  Really disjointed wine.  (Finished 7th in my ranking.)
  6. Adelsheim Elizabeth Reserve, 2007, Willamette Valley, OR.  $39.99.  Another surprise – can’t believe this wine didn’t finish higher in the overall rankings.  The 2006 ‘Elizabeth Reserve finished a strong first in a small tasting I attended the week before this tasting. Surprisingly, it finished in the middle of the pack in this tasting.  I loved the nose – cherry, raspberry, sweetart candy, and spice throughout.  Very well balanced with nice acidity.  Long red fruit finish.  (Finished 4th in my ranking.)
  7. Belle Vallee 2006 Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR.  $37.99.  The first note on my tasting sheet was ‘weird.’  Standard, generic Willamette Valley Pinot – cola, earth, cherry.  No finish.  I’ve had this particular wine before and I didn’t much like it then either.  (Ranked 6th on my tasting sheet.)
  8. Erath, 2007, Oregon.   ~ $19.99.  Smokey, oaky, light fruit, sour cherries.  Tannic, out of balance, smooth as a car with square tires.  This wine was not showing well at all – ranked at the bottom of nearly every taster’s scoring sheet. (Ranked last on my tasting sheet.)

The aftermath...

In the spirit of continual improvement, I feel a different format based on each taster’s ranking, not score, would provide a more accurate basis for ranking the wines.  Since one very low score can artificially skew the results, using each taster’s rankings (1 = most favorite, 2 = next favorite, etc.) seems the most equitable way to determine the winner.  (since I’m a genius, I have to be right about this) Also, the next time I write a blind tasting review, I plan to ask the other tasters to provide tasting notes for their favorite wine of the tasting to include in the post.

To accompany the wine, we had pork tacos with spicy avocado slaw, braised pork belly atop polenta, pork sliders, and a handful of accouterments.

A big thanks to Rob, Jen, Jay, Sharon, Kim, Brent, and my lovely wife for sharing your pork dishes, wine, and friendship on Saturday night.  I hope we can do this again soon.

View at De Ponte Cellars

View at De Ponte Cellars