While the quality of West Coast pinot noir has increased dramatically in recent years, so has the price. This column features amazing wines that justify their high prices.
Each wine reflects the grape’s signature characteristics of red berry fruit, though dark fruits peek in occasionally. Earthy, mushroom, herbal and even floral, mint or anise notes also appear. Creaminess and baking spices from oak add complexity. Buy one from each region and make your own comparisons!
Oregon’s Willamette Valley, whose Coast Range moderates the cooling Pacific Ocean and Cascade Mountains chill the desert heat of Eastern Oregon, has become pinot noir nirvana.
• 2018 Archery Summit Dundee Hills ($65), vibrant, generous, tea, cocoa, solid.
• 2019 Argyle Nuthouse ($55), bright, supple, refined, elegant, silky finish, fine tannins.
• 2015 Fiddlehead Oldsville ($60), round, firm, rich, complex.
Mendocino County’s remote Anderson Valley, heavily influenced by the nearby Pacific Coast, is becoming known for wines of power, focus and nuance.
• 2018 Goldeneye Gowan Creek ($88), ripe, precise, mineral, spiced, rich.
• 2019 FEL Savoy Vineyard ($75), elegant, concentrated, focused toasty oak, spice.
The Sonoma Coast is too large to generalize attributes, except to say most vineyards experience extremely cool Pacific winds and fog.
• 2018 Emeritus Pinot Hill East ($75), fresh, ripe, peppery, seamless, elegant.
The Russian River Valley area winds through Sonoma, cooling temperatures ensuring long ripening seasons.
• 2019 Ladera Pillow Road Vineyard ($66), bright, savory, cola, silky.
• 2019 Davis Bynum Dutton Ranches ($58), juicy, mildly smoky, solid structure.
• 2019 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard ($58), bursting with fruit, aromatic, firm.
Straddling southern Napa and Sonoma, Carneros is mostly distinguished by the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay and Pacific Ocean.
2019 Ram’s Gate Estate Vineyard ($85), lively, mineral notes, concentrated, lingering.
• 2019 Cuvaison Mariafeld ($60), juicy, cocoa, anise, luscious, lively, richly structured.
• 2019 Cuvaison Adda ($80), powerful, bold, bright, concentrated, rich.
California’s Central Coast has several areas producing fine pinot noir. But most people wouldn’t know that San Benito County sources some of the state’s finest pinots, namely the age-worthy pinots of Calera.
• 2018 Reed Vineyard ($80), intense, earthy, woodsy, smoky, polished, silky.
• 2018 Mills Vineyard ($80), rich, complex, bracing, savory, seamless.
The Santa Maria Valley also is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean. In northern Santa Barbara County, its transverse (east-west) orientation funnels cooling breezes and fog.
• 2018 Migration Bien Nacido Vineyard ($77), exuberant, bright, briary, sleek.
The Sta. Rita Hills, another transverse valley in southern Santa Barbara increasingly is highly prized for pinot noir.
• 2019 Alma Rosa Rancho La Viña ($68), deep, juicy, lush, complex, rich, savory.
• 2019 Alma Rosa Radian ($68), bracing, succulent, complex, toasty, mineral, seamless.
• 2014 Fiddlehead Lollapalooza ($80), ripe, floral, sturdy toasty, cinnamon, elegant.