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Fantastic pinot noir from the Golden State

Last week we featured Oregon pinots with the thought of Thanksgiving and appropriate American wine.

I confess that cabernet sauvignon takes first place in our home, but many would argue that, as the crown jewel of Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, averages $15,000 a bottle on release, pinot noir must be the top drop.

Please do not think that I do not highly enjoy pinot noir though, and today we feature a few fine examples from the “Golden State”, the official nickname bestowed on California in 1968. We are advised not to have large family gatherings, so what better opportunity to share fine wine from folks that love our island and who many of us know, as they lived here for 25-plus years. I refer to Huw and Dale Morris and their 2012 Wild Hogge Paso Robles Pinot Noir.

This is not just about thinking of good friends in wine, as their pinot noir, with the lovely Winslow Homer watercolour label of wild hogs on our South Shore, rated a fine 93/100 from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It is a blend of the French 115 clone and one of my favourite, the University of California at Davis clone 777. If you are unfamiliar with Davis, it is one of our world’s top seats of learning for oenology and viticulture. Potential wine makers worldwide travel there to study.

So many of us drink pinot noir in its youth as the velvety tannins and softness allow for this. I have Californian pinot noir from the early 1990s in our cellar and am a firm believer that a vast majority of red wine improves with age. As I am officially a year older today, I look forward to immediate and further vinous improvements. (I am allowed to tell that overused joke on my birthday!) Enjoy this nine-year-old pinot for $39.95. (Stock #5966)

If you need another label to attract attention, then let us travel north to Sonoma where we can find the duct tape and cardboard adorned bottle of 2018 Orin Swift Slander Pinot Noir. It is abundantly aromatic and opens with ripe cranberry, marmalade, white pepper, fresh brioche, dried sage, camphor and Mediterranean coastal trail. The entry is silky with a flood of Bing cherry galette, Madagascar vanilla and ripe red fruits. Seamless, integrated and elegantly opulent, the wine finishes gracefully with trace amounts of soft, oak tannin.

Here is what Parker’s Wine Advocate has to say: “Aged for ten months in French oak barrels (42 per cent new), the 2018 pinot noir Slander has a pale to medium ruby-purple colour. It springs from the glass with notes of raspberry tart, cranberry sauce and rhubarb pie plus hints of Provence herbs and forest floor. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is softly spoken with a nice suggestion of chewiness to the texture and an earthy lift on the finish.” $78 (Stock #6645)

This is what the Pisoni Family has to say about their 2017 Lucia Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: "A beautifully pure expression of this varietal, the 2017 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir sings with the greatest notes of each vineyard from which it was born (47 per cent Pisoni, 29 per cent Garys’, and 24 per cent Soberanes). Shielded amongst a brilliant youthful ruby hue, waves of Bing cherry, violet, and sandalwood spice escape into the glass as this wine takes its first breath. On the palate, this wine stuns with the complexity and focus of one of its single vineyard siblings. The main act showcases bright notes of raspberry and strawberry cream paired with more elegant flavours of sage and baking spice, which open the curtain one last time for an encore of focused acidity and a layered, lingering finish." It rates 94/100 with Wine Enthusiast and Jeb Dunnuck. $60.45 (Stock #6124)

The 2018 J. Lohr Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir gets its name from a lone bird that made its home in a singular pine tree among the vines and safeguarded them from vertebrate pests while preserving the ecosystem’s natural balance. This area of the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands has earned a well-deserved reputation for world-class pinot noir.

Wilfred Wong of wine.com rates this wine 89/100 and comments: “Shows excellent balance and persistence. This wine offers aromas and flavours of intense savoury spices and black fruit.” $25.90 (Stock #7999)

I have such fond memories of a day that my wife and I spent with the winemaker at the Rodney Strong Winery in Sonoma. They have such regard for their land and, I am not sure if this is still true, but they did have the largest solar power generating plant of any winery in the world.

The Russian River Valley, where Russian fur traders roamed in the 1800s, is considered the “Burgundy of the west”. The 2016 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir gives us lovely aromas of red fruits, flowers and earth along with a soft and silky texture. Dark cherries, cranberry and baking spice all shine through.

Wine Spectator gives it 91/100 along with this review: “Refined, featuring lithe flavours of cherry tart and raspberry, with hints of nutmeg, all supported by medium-grained tannins and fresh acidity. Chocolate, spice and cream details emerge on the rich finish. Drink now through 2024.”

Wine Enthusiast rated it the same and wrote: “Bright in acidity and cradled moderate oak, this wine shows a crunchiness to the tannins and bright bursts of cranberry, pomegranate and orange peel flavours. Elements of baking spice dot the finish, contrasting well against the rich fruit.” $31.55 (Stock #6501)

As November 20 is a special day for me I am considering an almost perfect Californian “bordeaux blend” of red grapes from the year that two people met and decided rather quickly that they should journey for the rest of their lives together – 1977.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Former Bermuda residents Huw and Dale Morris are owners of Wild Hogge, a winery in Paso Robles, California

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Published November 20, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 17, 2020 at 11:38 am)

Fantastic pinot noir from the Golden State

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