We’re heading down the homestretch with our Pinot Noir tastings for our annual report, due in September. Nearly 500 wines have been reviewed, with another 100 to 150 still in bags. Most of the best wines will be featured on WineSpectator.com, either in Tasting Highlights or our weekly Insider report.
It’s been a mix of vintages, mostly 2005 and 2006, and the range in quality has extended from excellent to mediocre. Three recent tastings offered a glimpse of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The recent 2006 highlights came from the Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs, which will be reviewed here soon. These wines showed the success of the vintage, where the grapes taste ripe and complex and the flavors are well-proportioned.
Winemaker Michael Browne was the most candid about the challenges 2006 provided, from a wet spring, to excessive vine vigor, a large crop and a long, cool, damp growing year, ending with mysterious battles with botrytis.
A trace of botrytis might work in a Chardonnay, imparting a honey or nectar nuance. But it’s a disaster for a more delicate wine such as Pinot Noir, where even the faintest hint of mold is a glaring flaw.
Winemakers and growers said botrytis was tricky to detect in many vineyards and clusters in 2006, since this so-called noble rot can at times be evident, with obvious mold on grapes and in clusters, as well as in more subtle doses within the grapes. That means that grapes with undetected botrytis might get picked, and even vinified, as evidenced by some of the wines I’ve tasted; Monday’s tasting was one of the worst of 2006 Pinots that I’ve had. Nearly 30 wines and nothing close to outstanding; many were poor examples of wine, period.
As I tasted, wrote notes and unbagged the wines, and looked at the prices, it seemed to me that there were many wines that should have been declassified, or discarded, since the quality hardly justifies the prices charged for many.
I remain more convinced than ever of this year’s uneven quality. Some will interpret this as a blanket condemnation of the year. But of course it’s not. It’s just a critique of the year’s soft spots. You’ll just have to shop a little more carefully to find the gems from 2006.
I’ve received many communiqués from readers saying they’re happy the 2006 wines are not as ripe as wines from 2005 or 2004. But the problem isn’t just ripeness. It’s the lack of flavor and depth. And these same Pinot lovers are sure that if I don’t like many of the 2006s, they’ll love them. Maybe. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — May 6, 2008 4:57pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — May 6, 2008 5:04pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — May 6, 2008 6:06pm ET
Russell Mccandless — Minnesota USA — May 7, 2008 12:12am ET
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — May 7, 2008 12:45am ET
Steve Shelton — Yuba City, Ca. — May 7, 2008 1:33am ET
Bill Norrish — Groton, MA — May 7, 2008 9:35am ET
John Hannon — May 7, 2008 11:39am ET
David A Zajac — May 7, 2008 12:21pm ET
Dan Murphy — Tampa, FL — May 7, 2008 1:04pm ET
Loren Lingerfelter — Danville, CA — May 7, 2008 1:41pm ET
Darnell Moore — Chicago,IL — May 7, 2008 4:28pm ET
Matthew Slywka — Seymour, CT — May 7, 2008 4:31pm ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — May 8, 2008 10:05am ET
Sean Fox — Chicago, IL — May 8, 2008 3:18pm ET
Dennis Solin — Eugene, Oregon — May 15, 2008 1:08am ET
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