Top 10 wines of the week
The interesting thing about this week’s list is that all six Pinot Noirs are under 14% alcohol. I think we can safely say that the worm has turned: vintners are restoring balance to this variety, which ought to be delicate, not heavy. The days of 15% Pinot Noir are numbered. Why this is so is hard to say. It’s probably a number of factors: cooler vintages (just wait until the 2010s come out!), winemaker sensitivity to the bashing they’ve taken for years from critics for Rhône-style Pinot, and–often overlooked–the maturing of the grapevines. Older vines with deeper roots make more balanced and complex wines. At the same time, I see no evidence that California’s other great red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, is lightening up. Many of the best still hover at 15% or higher, as witness the Meander Morisoli on the list. I think the critics of high alcohol are going to have to accept a split decision: they won with Pinot Noir and lost with Cabernet.
Copain 2009 Wentzel Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley). 13.7%, $50. Also their ‘09 Monument Tree Pinot Noir, 13.7%.
Tyler 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley); 13.9%, $65. Also their ‘08 Clos Pepe, 13.5%, and ‘08 La Encantada, 13.7%.
Littorai 2008 The Pivot Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); 13.9%, $65.
Meander 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); 15.2%, $120.
Yates Family 2006 Flower Red Blend (Mount Veeder); 14.5%, $50.
Volker Eisele 2009 Gemini Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley); 14.5%, $25.
Morgan 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands); 13.8%, $48.
Trefethen 2009 Dry Riesling (Oak Knoll); 12.5%, $22.
Tyler 2008 Presidio Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County); 13.9%, $52.
Dutton-Goldfield 2009 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); 13.5%, $38.