I have been in Napa for a couple of days now, visiting the magazine’s office, and I have a strange déjà vu sort of feeling when I walk the streets of downtown, which is a rare enough activity for car-crazed Californians who seem to drive everywhere. But walking down the sidewalk in Napa reminds me of bright and brisk days in the winter in France’s Beaune, visiting négociants and just hanging out. Both cities run on wine. Day and night, it’s all about what goes in the bottle. That’s cool.
James Laube and I have walked to lunch each day to a local restaurant called Pearl that serves up hearty, simple dishes with glasses of fresh Zinfandels from Seghesio. I also had a glass, the other day, of 2005 Saintsbury Pinot Noir Carneros Garnet that was balanced, fruity and refined. Good price, too, at about $8 a glass. I would score it in the mid-80s, non-blind.
I have tasted, and drunk, a number of Pinot Noirs with Laube and I really have enjoyed them. I don’t understand the recent public discussion of California Pinot Noirs being overly alcoholic. I am sure a number of them are, but I found the ones I have tasted this week to be in balance for the most part. It seems to me that two styles are prevalent at the moment: One is refined and elegant, almost Burgundian, while the other is fuller, more opulent, almost flamboyant.
A 2003 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard was certainly the latter. It showed amazing aromas of wild berries and spices with loads of chocolate. It was full, silky and superfruity. It was hard to put down. 94 points for me over dinner at Laube’s house. A 2003 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Klopp Ranch Méthode à l'Ancienne had an elegant, subtly fruity style, with pretty strawberry, raspberry and light vanilla aromas that followed through to a soft and supple palate. Lovely wine. 93 points.
Funny that I was thinking of Beaune. Maybe it’s because of the impressive quality of the Pinot Noirs I have been having over the last couple of days? And many of the best ones sell at relatively affordable prices. It’s good to be back in California wine country.