I've been working with senior editor James Laube and our team on a big package featuring California's 2009 Pinot Noirs. Jim calls it a great vintage, so I've been eager to try a few. I'm in Charleston, S.C., on vacation and picked up two bottles at the Wine Shop, an excellent local retailer. I served the wines with a casserole of chicken breasts, mushrooms, carrots, shallots and bacon, cooked with a velouté flavored with homemade chicken stock and dry vermouth (my mother-in-law, Nancy, made the sauce, of course).
The wines were very different in style, weight and flavor profile. (Also, the Copaín label listed 13.3 percent alcohol, compared with 14.7 percent for the Santa Barbara.) The Copaín ($42) was vibrant yet graceful, light and racy, with bright red fruit, smoke and herbal flavors, very refreshing; I rated it 92 points, non-blind. The Santa Barbara Winery ($24) was fuller, smoother, deeper, with black fruit and dark cocoa notes; I rated it 90 points, non-blind. However, some of my guests scored them the other way around. We all agreed both were excellent with the dish.
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for other recently rated 2009 California Pinot Noirs.
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