I'm a lucky, lucky girl. I have a lovely friend, Melanie, who is sitting for her MW exam this June. And Mel is a generous person, with both her wine AND her knowledge.
So, when she sent out an invite asking some folks to pull together and sample wines with her a few times between now and exam day, I was honored and thrilled.
Ten of us convened last night at Tablespoon on Polk Street in Russian Hill to open 11 bottles of pinot noir from all over the world, and from various vintages (1995 - 2002). The food write up is posted here (on Chowhound). I'm commenting here ONLY on the wines.
2002 Bauer, Alsace
If I didn't know that we were tasting pinot, I would have though this was a rosé. Very pale in color, very crisp & fresh. Not my favorite wine on the table, but I would give it another try come summer.
2002 Domaine Pavelot, Les Peuillets
This Savigny Les Beaune was my contribution. I still love this wine, though it definitely has much more fruit than some of the other Bourgognes we tried. A little bit spicy, this wine is full of black fruit flavors (Melanie noted that this is due in part to the region's proximity to Côte de Nuits).
2002 Morgan 12 Clones, Santa Lucia
My immediate impression of this wine was that it had a mushroomy character... as I kept sniffing, I felt like I narrowed it down to morel mushrooms - that sweet, heady, almost "gamy" aroma.
2002 Akarua, Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand
This wine was super-extracted, almost inky, with a distinctly leathery nose. Strangely enough, the first sip was completely effervescent - then we noticed the screwtop. Mel mentioned that some vintners still haven't quite figured out the right way to cap these bottles, and there may have been a bit too much inert gas in the bottle, or possibly that it was bottled cold (the restaurant was fairly warm). As this sat, it softened a bit, and I really came to enjoy the little bit of smoke under all that inky fruit - until I learned that it was $40. I would buy this if I found it for $20, but not at the current retail pricepoint.
2001 Claiborne & Churchill, Edna Valley
I didn't take many notes on this wine - though I remember it had a very tomatoey character (again, Mel mentioned that this is typical of the Pinots grown in the warmer southern areas of CA).
2001 WillaKenzie Estate, Pierre Leon, Willamette Valley
This wine had a distinctly candy-like nose - almost like the plastic wrapper from a roll of Smarties. This, apparently, is a result of the cold-soak skin contact before primary fermentation. Interesting. Also notable is that this vineyard is planted with 100% Dijon clones.
2000 Domaine Henri Pellé Les Cris, Menetou-Salon Morogues, Loire Valley
This wine has that sort of Burgundy-stink of barnyard, along with some sulfur - what Melanie described perfectly as the smell of set-off firecrackers. I didn't expect this wine to be as "thin" as it was - after some of the other wines we'd had, I felt like this wine lost much of its character.
2000 Russian Hill, Russian River Valley
This wine was purchased originally two years ago at the barrel tasting. Bright red fruit, very long finish... this was a nice wine, but I couldn't really get past how "hot" it was.
2000 Kooyong, Australia
This was another super-extracted wine, with lots of big tannins, and fairly hot. Inky-black color, and rubber on the nose. Melanie noted that this can be indicative of pinot noir grown in too hot a climate. I kind of liked this one, but it didn't taste at ALL like a pinot to me.
1996 Louis Jadot, Chambolle-Musigny
This wine was just slightly past its prime. It seemed a bit flabby, with much of the fruit character having dissipated. A shame.
1995 Hubert de Montille, Volnay, 1er Cru
Beautiful. Elegant, very silky tannins. M. Montille does not add sugar during fermentation which results in a fairly low-alcohol (12%) wine. I love this - I couldn't associate any individual aromas, but I just remember thinking, "this is a sensual wine".
A thousand thank you's to Melanie for including me, and to Tablespoon for playing host to nearly a dozen people on their "First Monday" corkage-free night.