Pinot envy

Pinotfiles assembled in Chicago over the weekend to assess the state of the grape. We traced its social, economic, and viticutural history across three continents and then tasted that variation in the glass.

We compounded the highly variable nature of the grape with yet another factor: bottle age. I was able to source many older vintage wines for the tasting through a local retailer of fine and rare wines so it was with relish that we could taste pinots with more maturity than you can normally find on the shelves of a local shop.

Although this sample was small, I’m tempted to say that California/Oregon pinots tend not to age as well as Burgundy. The 1997 Landmark was just this side of falling into oblivion. The 1995 Williams-Selyem was still very good with supple elegance but I couldn’t help wondering if it would have been better last year. Or the year before. By contrast the 2002 Stoller Vineyards had excellent fruit and lively spice from the tannins. A year or two might bring more balance to the wine but might it also make it less fun? Should American pinot be consumed in its youth?

Of course as soon as I reach for a generalization more data emerge to trounce it. The day before the big pinot tasting I had a 1997 Ken Wright Cellars, Guadalupe Vineyard (find this wine) that had an excellent finesse and was joy to drink. And a couple of weeks ago, I had a 1998 Dehlinger Pinot Noir (find this wine) that tasted as fruit forward as it did on release.

What are you experiences with aged American pinot?

Joseph Perrier, Champagne, NV Cuvee royale (find this wine)
2004 Whitehaven, Marlborough (find this wine)
1999 Daniel Rion, Vosne-Romanee, Les Beaux-Monts, premier cru (find this wine)
1997 Landmark, Van der Kamp Vineyards, “Grand Detour” (find this wine)
2002 Serafin Pere et fils, Gevrey-Chambertin (find this wine)
2002 Stoller Vineyards, Oregon (find this wine)
2004 Loring, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterrey (find this wine)
1999 Maison Champy, Corton-Bressandes (find this wine)
1995 Williams-Selyem, Allen Vineyard (find this wine)
1990 Domaine Leroy, Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Narbantons, premier cru (find this wine)

The 1997 Landmark, Van der Kamp Vineyards, “Grand Detour,” which had Helen Turley as a consulting wine maker for that vintage, did remind me of a line in Steve Heimoff’s book about the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. Local lore says that producers can add $5 that they can charge for each word on the label. But, hey, that could often apply to Burgundy as well.

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6 Responses to “Pinot envy”

  1. I agree with your assessment of American Pinot Noir. I am on the mailing list W. Seylemn (I never can spell their name correctly) and I have some 99’s still around. I think even the 99 is not going to get better so I am drinking it all up before I get to my 2000, 2001, 2002, etc. I am very disappointed with “older” vintage wines. I had a number of LaGrange’s from St.. Julian from 89 and 90 and they are awful. Is it my collection or has anyone had a good experience.

  2. I agree. Pinot from US does not age. My W. Seleymn has not been aging welll. I am drinking my 99 before they die. I think older wines are not great. I have had LaGrange St. Julian from89 and 90. They are over the hill. Quite disappointing.

  3. I have to agree [partially] with the statement. I have had my share of disappointing older american pinots. However, some have shown to age well. About 9 months ago I had a 1998 Flowers Pinot Noir that was still good. Additionally, a Cakebread 1995 was actually quite good. Also, I have found a 1999 Kistler that was in fantastic shape as well.

  4. I agree many American Pinots do not age well.

    Some recent consumptions that I have felt are fantastic and HAVE aged well are as follows:
    – Flowers 1998 Pinot Noit
    – Cakebread 1995 Pinot Noir
    – Kistler 1999 Pinot Noir

    I know that the number of U.S. Pinots that age well is in the minority, but we are getting better.


  5. I tend to notice the above readers are speaking about the ageability of American Pinot’s and are talking about thier trophy wine from California being over the hill. No one mentioned Oregon Pinot which I have see age well. I have in the past year tasted ’86 from Amity, though not fresh the wine still had fruit and bright acidity. If we talk about wines from the late nineties till now I would say most of the good producers wines are still drinking quite well. If you want Pinots that age, get them from cool climates ( oregon, burgundy, part of New Zealand ).

  6. […] all know that red wine can cause pinot envy. So only four deadly sins to go! What will resveratrol create next? Humble pride? Gentle anger? […]


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