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A tasting of 2014 Loring Pinot Noirs




These Pinot Noirs are marked less by distinctions of terroir than by a similarity of winemaking style. All are quite ripe (and the 2014 drought vintage gave exceptionally concentrated fruit). Such qualitative differences as there are amongst them are more a matter of personal preference. Having said that, all are very good: my scores range between 92-96 points, except for one, as you’ll see. These are quintessential New World or Californian Pinot Noirs, lush, broad and delicious. I do wish that Brian Loring had held the wines back for another 12 months before releasing them: they all are extremely young and somewhat grapey. But you can age them yourself. All will be better by late 2017, and all the wines, by the way, are closed with screwtops. As a P.S., I will add that the official alcohol on all the wines is 14.3%, which I find bizarre. Draw your own conclusions.

Loring 2014 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands).  A very fine Rosella’s, which is to say, a very fine Pinot Noir! Great structure, with a mouthwatering hit of acidity highlighting deliciously complex flavors of raspberries, red cherries and persimmons. At the same time, there’s a grounding earthiness that reminds me of Portobello mushrooms, oiled and grilled: a savory umami thing. There’s a leatheriness that comes through the tannins but also a beef jerky note that brings additional umani-ness. The more I taste this wine, the more impressive it gets. Wildly tasty. As with the rest of Loring’s ‘14s, it’s super-young, but one of the few that is absolutely compelling now, although if I had a case, I’d drink a bottle or two a year through the early 2020s. Score: 96.

Loring 2014 Rasi / Three Barrels (Santa Rita Hills); $42. This wine was included in the samples Loring sent me, but I’m not sure if they mean for the brand to be Rasi or Loring; the labels don’t make it clear, so I’m calling it a Loring wine with a proprietary Rasi name. The winemaker is Rachel Silkowski, Loring’s assistant winemaker [Ra-Si: a contraction of her first and last names, pronounced “racy”]. At any rate, the wine is a small-production blend of the Kessler-Haak, Clos Pepe and Rancho La Viña vineyards. It is more powerful than Loring’s vineyard-designated bottlings, with concentrated raspberry preserve, chocolate and ultraripe plum flavors, and a caramelly, toasty coating of French oak. A big, intense wine, yet it remains delicate, pure and lilting. Scores high on the deliciousness scale, and benefits from real complexity. Score: 95.

Loring 2014 Rancho La Viña Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills). The vineyard is located on the far western edge of the appellation, on the south side, which is an exceptionally chilly area. Despite some intense raspberry and persimmon flavors, there’s a cut of Heirloom tomato, wild mushroom and leather, giving the wine an animal and earthy herbaceousness that is by no means unpleasant. There’s also a firm electric wire of acidity that brightens and heightens the flavors. With a jacket of smoky oak and firm but ultra-refined tannins, it’s a silky, beautifully complex wine for drinking now, and should develop bottle complexity over the next six years. Score: 94.

Loring 2014 Graham Family Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley).  The vineyard is in the Green Valley, north of Graton, a center of cool-climate Pinot Noir. It’s a young vineyard planted to Dijon clones and the Swan and Calera selections, and the wine tastes primary-fruity and juicy. Raspberries, cherries, pomegranates, you get the idea, with crisp, Lifesaver candy acidity and a gentle scour of tannins. There’s oak in there, not too much, and the alcohol is moderate. The result is a savory, delicious wine for drinking now and over the next five years. The smokiness suggests lamb chops, and you can throw in some roasted new potatoes with butter and rosemary. Score: 94.

Loring 2014 Aubaine Vineyard Pinot Noir (San Luis Obispo County). For those who drive along the 101 Freeway in this part of the Central Coast, the vineyard is south of flag-draped Laetitia, in the area of Arroyo Grande Valley. It is planted to the Dijon clones 667 and 777. The wine is exceptionally fruity, brimming with ripe raspberries, plums, cranberries and pomegranates, and is finished with a stimulating spiciness. The acidity is just fine. There is also a welcome animal-earthiness suggesting wild mushrooms and blood-rare steak. Like Loring’s other ’14s, it will benefit from additional time in the bottle. Drink after 2017. Score: 94.

Loring 2014 Keefer Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley). This long has been a coveted source of grapes for wineries lucky enough to buy them. The vineyard is in Sebastopol, in the Green Valley. It’s a cool region where the grapes don’t reliably ripen, subject to the chilling winds off the Petaluma Gap, but in a successful vintage, which 2014 was, the wines can be quite good. It was the earliest harvest ever due to warmth and the drought, yet the wine feels crisp and balanced. It’s juicy in cranberry, strawberry and persimmon fruit, with a nice coating of smoky oak and a long, dry, spicy finish. Drinks well now, and should hold in the bottle over the next six years. Score: 93.

Loring 2014 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands). An impressive Pinot Noir, clearly New World in style, showing its California roots in sunshiny ripeness, yet with a crisp bite of acidity. Is it particularly Santa Lucia-ey? Not really, but it is definitely coastal. You’ll find upfront sour red cherry candy and bitter cranberry flavors, but also a tannic edge of black tea. The finish is wonderful: dry, long, rich and spicy. It’s a wine that grows more complex as it breathes and warms in the glass, offering ever more earthiness, mushroominess, minerality. I wish Loring had held it back from release for another one or two years, but it does show the pedigree of this fine vineyard, located in the tenderloin of the appellation. Score: 93.

Loring 2014 Clos Pepe Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills). The vineyard is, of course, one of the best known in the appellation, originally planted in the 1990s, only the ninth vineyard in that area. It’s in the northern part, just west of Babcock and Melville, in other words a cooler section in the tenderloin of Pinot country. In addition to wines from the Clos Pepe brand, many wineries, including Siduri and Loring, have sourced its grapes. The vineyard was bought last year by Napa Valley’s Hall; we’ll have to wait and see what happens. This ’14 is young, for sure. It’s all about primary fruits: cherries, cranberries and plums, and firm tannins, as well as mouthwatering acidity. The finish is thoroughly dry, and shows a spiceiness of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, anise and black pepper. It’s very good, but, as with the rest of Loring’s ‘14s, rather young. Give it a few years in your cellar, then twist that screwtop off. Score: 93.

Loring 2014 Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast). This famous vineyard is located a few miles southwest of the town of Sonoma, in the flatlands on the border of Carneros, yet within the greater Sonoma Coast appellation. The wine is young and grapey-sappy, almost like grape juice. It would have benefited from more time in the bottle, but you can age it yourself. It’s a fine wine. Bone dry, with adequate acidity and a scour of tannins, it has layers of sour cherry candy, persimmons and orange rind, just enough to satisfy fans of overt fruit. The wine is complexed with an earthiness suggesting tannic black tea and mushrooms. The overall impression is impressive, but too young. If you drink it now, give it a decanting of several hours. Score: 92.

Loring 2014 Russell Family Vineyard (Paso Robles). Your first impression is of power. The fruit kicks in, all baked cherry pie and chocolate-covered raisins, with a nice coating of oak. There’s something candied about it, with soft, just-in-time acidity and broad, furry tannins. The vineyard is in the Willow Creek District, on the cooler western side of the gigantic Paso Robles appellation. Tasty, but it’s the least of Loring’s 2014s. Score: 88.

  1. Beautiful tour, Steve, thanks. If I had to pick one variety as a favorite, it would be -down Pinot Noir; and you’ve covered all of my favorite California regions and some of my very favorite vineyards. Sweet!

  2. I’ve known Brian for 15-plus years, dating back to our patronizing the same San Fernando Valley wine store wine bar on Friday nights.

    Everyone who knows him attests to his generosity of spirit and conviviality.

    One of my favorite Loring Pinots was the Brosseau Vineyard (Chalone AVA) bottling. A wine of restraint on the fruit extraction and perceived alcohol level. Highlighted by a pleasing mushroom-y character.

    (Not sure who bottles Pinot from the Brosseau vineyard these days . . .)

    I have kidded him that one of these days, he will sell his winery to Bob Foley.

    So imagine my surprise when I say Steve’s post reviewing Brian’s wines.

    My immediate reaction was: “Oh, Brian has followed the lead of his buddy Adam Lee and sold his winery to Jackson Family Wines. And this is Steve’s round-up tasting for JFW.”

  3. Steve,

    Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to taste and post such detailed notes about our 2014 Pinots. We’re glad you liked them!

    Sorry for the confusion on RASI. That is our assistant winemaker Rachel Silkowski’s wine, but due to the very limited production it is currently technically a proprietary wine under Loring. That will change when Rachel increases production and gets her own licensing.

    As for the alcohols, we do list all the wines at 14.3% every year. Without getting into the whole label alcohol discussion…. the main reason is due to licensing and label approval for both the federal gov’t and all the states we sell wine in. It’s too cumbersome and expensive to update alcohols each year.

    Here are actual alcohols – along with pHs (which I think are actually more important) :

    Graham Family Vineyard 14.7% 3.75
    Keefer Ranch Vineyard 14.6% 3.64
    Durell Vineyard 14.2% 3.66
    Rosella’s Vineyard 14.8% 3.71
    Garys’ Vineyard 14.8% 3.73
    Russell Family Vineyard 14.2% 3.55
    Aubaine Vineyard 14.2% 3.58
    Clos Pepe Vineyard 14.5% 3.59
    Rancho La Vina Vineyard 14.6% 3.70
    RASI 14.6% 3.65


    — Brian Loring
    — Loring Wine Company

  4. Bob Henry, No, Brian Loring has NOT sold his winery!!! So please disabuse yourself of that notion. From time to time, I review wines on my blog, if people care to send them to me.

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