Tag Archives: pinot noir

Wine of the week: Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir Barriques Reserve 2010

Luc Pirlet pinot noirThe Wine Curmudgeon's winning streak with cheap pinot noir from the Languedoc region of France continues. First, there was the Tortoise Creek, and now there is the Luc Pirlet ($10, purchased). Who'd have thought this was possible, given the region's problems with pinot noir?

Frankly, this was much, much better than I expected (being the curmudgeon that I am). It has moderate black fruit, plus some pepper and earthiness. What's missing is what I expected to find — that New World kind of fruitiness that makes cheap pinot taste like it could have been made anywhere in the world. But this is 100 percent pinot noir, so the flabby fruit that comes from adding syrah or grenache is missing.

It's not quite as well done as the Tortoise Creek, but it's still a stunningly well-made $10 bottle of pinot noir — let alone from a region where pinot has such a sorry history. This is a candidate for the $10 Hall of Fame, and yes, Mom, would appreciate it over the weekend. Drink this on its own, or with burgers, barbecue or meatloaf. Who knew pinot, normally so expensive and often overpriced, could turn into a midweek dinner kind of wine?

Mini-reviews 35: Anne Amie, Chianti, Raimat, Cline

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:

? Anne Amie Estate Riesling 2009 ($19, purchased): Lots of petrol on the nose, acid and lime fruit to balance what sweetness there is, and a nice slate-y finish. It’s not what I expected — a little more sweet and not as honeyed, but that’s more my problem than the wine.

? Fattoria Montellori Chianti 2009 ($13, sample): Thin but adequate, with black pepper and some red fruit. But there are better examples of Chianti that cost less.

? Raimat Castell de Raimat Albarino 2011 ($8, purchased): Simple, basic wine with lemon and some varietal character, but won’t be confused with better examples of albarino. A decent value and something to keep on hand if you want a glass for dinner.

? Cline Pinot Noir Cool Climate 2010 ($18, sample): Lots of red fruit (cherry and strawberry?), but not overly sweet, with some pinot earthiness and character. Just not sure if it’s $18 worth of wine.

Wine of the week: Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir Les Oliviers 2010

Tortoise Creek wines have always been a favorite on the blog, almost making it into the $10 Hall of Fame one year. The problem with the wines has never been their quality, but availability. A couple of years ago, I met Mel Master, the Englishman behind the label, and we spent most of the discussion lamenting how difficult it was to find his wines. And, in one of those ironies that proves the point, this wine was shelved with the red Burgundies at the store where I found it, almost guaranteeing no one would buy it.

Master makes French wine, using grapes from the Languedoc in the south of France. Quality can often be uneven from that part of the country, but Master's wines are always varietally correct and delicious. In this, the Les Oliviers ($12, purchased) may be his finest achievement. It is the closest thing to traditional pinot noir the Wine Curmudgeon has found for under $20 in years.

This is a simple wine and will never been confused with $50 red Burgundy. But that's one of its advantages. It means the Les Oliviers doesn't have any silliness — no jammy fruit, no extra tannins, no bonus alcohol. It tastes like French pinot noir should taste: light, low in alcohol (13 percent), with easy tannins and some blackberry fruit, though not nearly as much as comparably priced California wines. Most importantly, it had some earthiness, which has long gone missing in pinot at this price. Or, frankly, at French pinot at twice the price.

Serve this on its own (even slightly chilled) or with almost any food that calls for a lighter red wine. Highly recommended.

Wine business slow? Then boost the scores

There is a reason the Wine Curmudgeon is so cynical about the wine business. It’s news like this:

“The numbers are in, and they’re historically impressive. In Wine Spectator’s report on California Pinot Noir, a whopping 55% of the 350-plus wines from the 2009 vintage had scores of 90 points or higher, including 15 wines that scored a classic 95 or better. It’s the category’s best performance ever.”

More than half are 90-point wines? A record-setting four percent are “classic”? Why? What made the 2009 vintage so special? Robert Parker’s vintage rating called it barely “outstanding,” and one Sonoma winemaker didn’t even go that far; he called the 2009 crop good to very good.

Full disclosure, first, of course. Regular visitors here know that I have no use for scores, and so I view any report heralding scores with a sneer and a quizzical look. Also, I have not tasted all 350 wines in the Spectator report, and it’s always chancy to criticize something when you don’t have all the information.

Having said that, though, there are a couple of things to note about all of those classic wines. First, style matters. The 2009 pinots I have tasted were well made, but in that very ripe and busty style that the Winestream Media enjoys and that makes me reach for something else. Which is, of course, the biggest problem with scores. Second, that many of the high-scoring wines cost more than $30 a bottle. If a wine that costs more than $30 a bottle doesn’t score 90 or better, there isn’t any reason for the winery to be in business. Which is, of course, another problem with scores.

Finally, what would happen if the Spectator did a pinot noir issue that said that the vintage was ordinary and that the wines were ordinary? And what would happen if the magazine did that during a three-year sales slump, like we’re going through now?

Exactly. So don’t worry if you miss this classic vintage; I’m willing to bet there will be another one in 12 months.

Expensive wine 25: King Estate Pinot Noir Signature 2008

What's better than an expensive wine that deserves a review? An expensive wine that is marked down from its suggested list price.

The Wine Curmudgeon is a fan of Oregon's King Estate, which makes more expensive wines but almost always does so with value in mind. Its pinot noirs are an excellent example of this. They're not quite as pricey as their California and Oregon counterparts, but always seem to deliver just as much quality. And their Acrobat line is about as close as you'll get to top-notch discounted pinot noir and pinot gris.

The Signature ($29, sample) is no exception. It's classic Oregon pinot noir — some cherry fruit, minimal tannins, enough acid to offset the fruit, and only 13 percent alcohol. In this, it's the way pinot noir should be — lighter and more delicate than cabernet sauvignon and merlot, which is something that too many pinot producers have lost sight of.

And the price? This is a previous vintage, and when it arrived at the end of last year, the wine cost $34. Today, it's listed on the King web site for $29, and a quick Wine-Searcher check found it for as little as $20. Considering the awful, tannic and harsh pinots that cost $20, this is a steal.

Winebits 168: Airline wine, pinot noir, budget cuts

? Airline wine quality: Yes, flights are oversold, the overhead bins are crammed, and the seats are uncomfortable. But know what's worse? The wine is lousy, reports the Baltimore Sun, especially for those of us who fly in coach. Which, come to think of it, may be why the Wine Curmudgeon has not had a glass of wine on a plane in years. Typically, they're brands I've never heard of (or avoid because I have heard of them), and the article notes that many U.S. airlines don't much care about wine quality.

? Oregon pinot noir fight: What happens when one Oregon winery says it's the birthplace of pinot noir, the state's national grape? The other wineries that claim they're the birthplace take exception, and nasty fight develops. Oregon's News-Times newspaper has the details, in which the men who run Eyrie and Hillcrest wineries have taken exception to a marketing campaign that says what is now the David Hill winery was the pinot pioneer. This is as sad as it is predictable, a function of the way the wine business works. I've seen these kinds of squabbles in many other states, including Texas. What people lose sight of, said one Oregon winemaker, is that "Boasting about where Oregon pinot was born is really antithetical to the culture of how Oregon wineries sell our wine and educate people about the area."

? New York board will close?: New York's budget crisis could mean an end to the state's wine organization, which would be a huge mistake. The New York Wine and Grape Foundation saw its funding removed from the state's proposed budget, which means it would close in June. The foundation and president Jim Trezise have done miraculous work for New York wine — and for all of regional wine — and eliminating the organization will undo much of that success. It's difficult to believe that the state doesn't have $700,000, which the foundation spent last year, for the next budget.