Mark Johnson hosted a phenomenal tasting last week where we went head-to-head with Pinots from the North (Sonoma County) vs. Pinots from the South (Santa Rita Hills & Santa Maria). We tasted 15 wines in all – all heavy hitters with the trio of Seasmoke butting up against the trio of Kosta Browne. The big disappointments of the night were indeed the Seasmoke 2005 and 2006 TEN, both of which scored low on my score sheet coming in at 6.0 and 5.5 out of 10 respectively. Tasting notes used descriptive words such as zingy, high alcohol on the nose, tight and tannic – probably young. The third Seasmoke Vineyard addition was the Foxen ’05 with a higher score of 7.0 – it boasted a big fruity nose that followed through on the palate, a bit tart and high alcohol.
The big winners of the night — which was no big surprise to me — were all three of the Kosta Browne wines. Following are my notes:
#1 Both scoring 9 points and tying for first place were KB ’05 Kanzler with a great nose of ripe cherries and a nicely rounded flavor profile including an exotic spice mixture, sweet red cherries and a perfect amount of acidity – I loved this wine. The 2nd, but also scoring 9 points out of 10 was the KB ’05 Miran Vineyard which permeated a high alcohol nose which was very well integrated once tasted – a very complex wine with great fruit flavors and slight tannins on the finish which leads to believe this one will only get better with a little more time in the bottle.
Snagging the #2 position was the KB ’05 from Keefer Ranch scoring 8.8 out of 10. This is a solid wine that encompasses all the characteristics a good Pinot should have and well balanced between fruit and acidity – an all around good wine.
I scored the ’05 Dierberg from Steven’s Vineyard 8.9 on the first round, but then shot it back down to 6.0 after a revisit. My notes for round #1 – bright ruby red color, very floral nose, like a Grenache. A very big wine with layers of dark fruit and firm tannins on the long finish. Not very Pinot like, but I like it! The 2nd tasting just lost most of the big fruit flavors and seemed mediocre. To be fair though, this was re-tasted after we made it through all the wines and each one had been decanted for at least an hour. Wine Spectator gave this one 79 points and says: Pungent herbaceous and smoky, tarry, woody flavors make this a mixed bag. Lacks fruit and varietal character. 168 cases made. –JL Very INTERESTING.
Next in my top 5 lineup is the Papapietro Perry ’04 from the Mukaida Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. This wine scored a big 95 points from Wine Spectator – I gave it 8.7 saying it displays nice cherry and plum fruit flavors and aromas, quite concentrated and nicely balanced. Wine Spectator has much more to say about this wine: Amazing depth, purity of flavor, concentration and complexity. From the enticing aromas of black cherry, wild berry, blueberry and plum to their expansive mouthfeel, this is a wonderful Pinot that combines elegance with grace and persistence. Drink now through 2010. 195 cases made. –JL
There was a 4th Kosta Browne tossed in by Kent for good measure which I scored 7.9 points. It was the ’05 vintage from Amber Ridge which was a bit more tightly wound than the others, some alcohol on the nose and a slight bitterness on the mid-palate that wasn’t a bad bitter. Still a big wine with some tannins on the finish. I truly wish I could get KB wines as I don’t believe I’ve ever had one I didn’t enjoy.
The new addition to our group was Charles Clark who brought a wine I hadn’t heard of before from Gary Farrell ’05 from Rochioli Vineyard – this wine was probably the most true to its varietal in the Burgundian style, lighter bodied and elegantly made. A perfect food wine most of us truly enjoyed.
Overall, we didn’t have a bad wine in the bunch, although I wasn’t too keen on the Alesia ’04 from Sonoma – I scored this one the lowest at 4.0 points because to me, it resembled burning rubber which Steve called Brett. Others actually liked this, not for me.
Mark threw in a bonus wine at the end of the evening which I thought was going to be past its prime since it was a 2000 vintage, but surprisingly enough, this one from Kistler (Sonoma Coast) had a great nose as well as that great cherry cola flavor I love in Pinot. It was barely showing age whatsoever. A great wine.
That’s it for me.