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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

A Charming Pinot for a Picnic at the Beach

Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands Weir Vineyard 2004

James Laube
Posted: November 17, 2009

The other day, I took a bottle of Williams Selyem’s 2004 Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir to the California coast for a picnic and hike along Stinson Beach. It was one of those fabulous sunny weekends in early November. The coast was crystal clear; the beach was busy with people and dogs of all shapes and sizes. The Weir Pinot tasted delicious—perhaps any wine would have on a day like that.

With its medium garnet color, supple texture and pure, complex plum and black cherry flavors seasoned with a dash of anise, the 2004 Weir reminded me of the old Williams Selyem Pinots of the 1980s and 1990s, with all their grace and charm. The vineyard is in California’s Yorkville Highlands appellation, which is in southern Mendocino County, shy of Anderson Valley and north of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. On that day, the Weir was a lovely, caressing wine, and I gave it 92 points non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands Weir Vineyard 2004 (88, $54).

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values in California Pinot Noir.

Tim Wilson
Raleigh, NC —  November 17, 2009 10:10am ET
Your article made me think of how I will take a wine outside to taste and how this makes a big difference on the aromas and taste that I am picking up compared to tasting the same wine inside. In North Carolina we have beautiful fall days and the leaves are so vibrant with the reds and yellows and every color in between. You can also smell fall in the air as well and the air is just that much fresher. Sometimes I think that the wine opens up and is more alive somehow but it could just be that I am more in tune to the "nature of wine".
Greg Flanagan
Bethel CT —  November 17, 2009 1:05pm ET
James (and/or fellow subscribers)...

What is your "ideal" tasting environment?

Sit-down with food? Machine-gun style of taste and spit numerous wines? With a large group of people? Alone? Dark/Light room? Warm/cold room? In a cellar? on a beach? etc....etc....

I can not argue that "place" plays a huge role in what/how we taste......so, I was just wondering where people like to taste.

For me...its a sit down with numerous bottles, numerous friends, and numerous foods....
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 17, 2009 2:14pm ET
Tim, there are times when tasting wines is the snapshot. Young wines offering their youthful berryness and older wines capturing the flavors of harvest 10 or 15 years ago.

Greg, I've written about this, but will try to take it up again this week. Much to be said about environment/setting, which is why we at WS typically all taste in a very controlled environment (that is an office) rather than at the beach or on a mountaintop.
Wayne Grout
Derry, NH —  November 17, 2009 5:22pm ET

I think the weather plays a big part in what type of wine I would enjoy. On a cool November day on Stinson Beach, to me if would have to be red of substance.

If I were at Black's Beach in San Diego, I guess I would be drinking more chardonnay... if I could focus on the wine.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 17, 2009 5:31pm ET
Wayne, as I recall, it was easy to be distracted at Black's Beach...not sure what the best wine is with nude sunbathing...
Greg Flanagan
Bethel CT —  November 17, 2009 7:42pm ET
I knew there were other reasons then your palate that I liked about you James!!!!

I would have to go with a German Riesling (clean and racy) or a Sauvignon Blanc from Cali (grassy but not too much grapefruit)...to go with nude sunbathing....

You cant walk around with purple stained teeth nor would a Chard go with the aroma of cocoa-butter sun lotion....
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 17, 2009 8:18pm ET
Greg, agreed. Well thought out...
David Floyd
Ft. Wayne, IN —  November 26, 2009 11:18am ET
Interesting to note the difference in ratings from the original blind tasting and this one. It may confirm my belief (as a WS mailing list customer since 2000) that these wines do not always show well at release, but with some age are consistently delicious. I rarely open mine until 3 or 4 years after release.

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