Not long after the Pinot Noir Tasting Highlights were posted online yesterday, my e-mail blinker began to light up with comments along the lines of this: "Well, I was happy to see you liked the 2005 vintage. But I wasn’t sure you’d like the style."
I do like the 2005s, and from what I've tasted so far (admittedly a small sampling), this is going to be a very good to outstanding year for many producers.
The 2005 Pinots achieved ripeness levels at lower sugar levels than in 2002, 2003 and 2004. That translates to more elegant wines with lower alcohol levels. While I'm sure some winemakers consciously wanted to make more graceful Pinots, the vintage usually dictates style.
So for all the hand-wringing about supersized, Syrah-styled Pinot Noirs of late, well, they have their place, and I find that many are utterly delicious, often flamboyant and ultimately fun to drink. They're also uniquely Californian. These kinds of wines aren't being produced anywhere else in the world.
Are they for everyone? No.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently took aim at this new style of Pinot, its pros and cons, and it's indeed a valid topic. Nothing divides Pinot Noir and Burgundy lovers like Pinot and Burgundy.
One of the wineries cited in the article as being at the head of the class for this riper, opulent style is Kosta Browne. I've liked all seven bottlings of these wines in 2004 as much as anyone—and maybe even more so than winery founders Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. Along with being big and rich, I find these wines elegant, balanced, deep and complex.
The article, however, didn't address the other 29 producers I chose in my list of the top 30 Pinot wineries, such as Merry Edwards, Williams Selyem, Failla and Littorai, who make sleeker, elegant wines. If you only looked at one winery and cited it for excessive ripeness, you might think every winemaker in California was producing that same style of wine.
But that's simply not the case.
As for the feedback I received yesterday, I'd like to set the record straight: I've always enjoyed a wide range of styles, irrespective of the wine, grape or region. Those of us who sit in critic's chairs best serve our readers by keeping an open mind about styles and vintages, appellations and trends.
That said, I love Pinot Noir, and I drink more of it than any other wine. Perhaps if I had the money, I'd drink more Burgundy. But I don't and Pinot from California has never been this good.
So cast aside the conspiracy theories that I only like one style of wine, or that I only like Cabernetish Pinots or that I'm trying to roil the wine market by shifting my allegiances from one wine to another.
Enjoy the 2005 Pinots. Taste 25 to 50 and once you do, you'll have a good idea of whether these wines are to your liking. If you do like them, then you will have successfully endorsed a slight shift in style with Pinot Noir, which is perfectly the way it should be.
Rebecca Root — Sonoma County — January 5, 2007 1:40pm ET
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — January 5, 2007 1:50pm ET
David A Zajac — January 5, 2007 4:16pm ET
Scott Oneil — UT — January 5, 2007 4:28pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — January 5, 2007 5:27pm ET
Timothy Perr — January 5, 2007 7:53pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — January 5, 2007 8:39pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 5, 2007 8:51pm ET
Don R Wagner — Illinois — January 5, 2007 9:25pm ET
Dan Kosta — January 6, 2007 12:01am ET
Berry Crawford — January 6, 2007 11:47pm ET
Douglas Baade — Milwaukee, WI — January 7, 2007 9:44pm ET
Joseph Trdinich — Mars, PA — January 7, 2007 11:19pm ET
Rebecca Root — Sonoma County — January 8, 2007 1:50pm ET
Dave Joyce — Winston-Salem, NC — January 8, 2007 1:53pm ET
Rebecca Root — Sonoma County — January 8, 2007 2:06pm ET
Scott Cheney — Michigan — January 9, 2007 10:05pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — January 16, 2007 7:57pm ET
Karen Steinwachs — Santa Ynez, CA — January 21, 2007 12:06pm ET
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