Two hours and 21 bottles of Pinot Noir later, we found our winners, seven good and interesting wines to offer our yacht club.
As chairs of our yacht club wine committee we have a mighty job, tasting wine and finding vino for our members. After your snickering subsides, think about tasting this many bottles of wine, keeping your palate clean and your head clear (think spitting, a lot of spitting.)
Nine of us faced this wall of wine while pondering the fate of our club’s Pinot Noir offering. Over salad and pizza we sampled our current Pinot Noir by Metairie, creating a baseline. By tasting this single wine we defined the quality of our current offering, and bravely set forth to find a better wine, something more interesting.
Here in the state of California (and probably throughout the United States) bars are required to purchase alcohol through state monitored distributors so the state can collect taxes. After all, the legislature needs their money. As a yacht club, we’re in the same boat as your local bar.
While everyone on the committee has a favorite Pinot Noir from California’s wine country, many of these are unavailable, because our distributors do not carry them.
We requested each distributor (Southern Wine & Spirits, Kiwi Distributing & Wine Warehouse) offer up 5 to 6 value priced Pinot Noir bottles of California wine. We ended up with six out of state wines, one of them from New Zealand & another from South Africa. Along with these, we requested one or two higher priced Pinot Noirs to spend the evening sipping a horizontal flight of a single varietal. It is a perfect way to compare wine making regions, terrior and the palates of winemakers producing Pinot Noir.
The only catch is, how do you keep a clear head with that much wine?
We cautioned everybody to spit. We know this is not normal behavior, but there’s no way you can taste this quantity of wine and keep a clear head unless you spit. We also provided a palate cleanser (a blend of absorbic acid (vitamin c), salt, polyethylene glycol (MiraLax) into water) to rinse and restore our palate. Everybody did well, we all drove home without impairment.
As we began our tasting, it was strangely quiet as we savored the first samples and people became comfortable with spitting wine. Eventually everyone fell into a groove and we were emptying buckets of discarded wine by the gallon, comparing notes and chatting up the wines. Everybody was on their game, taking notes savoring 15 liters of wine.
What Pinot Noir did we taste? Here goes:
Erath, Red Diamond, Cable Bay, 12 Signs, Okanagan, NZED, Robertson, Château St. Jean, Beringer, Mark West, Coppola Director’s, Wild Horse, Coppola Director’s Cut, Estancia, Redwood Creek, Poppy, Barefoot, Cloud Line, Bridlewood, Canyon Road and of course the Metairie with which we started.
After spitting our way through gallons of wine and making initial cuts, we ended up with 10 wines to revisit.
So back to sipping, spitting and taking notes. From ten, we cut it down to seven value priced wines, and here’s how we ranked them.
#1-Wild Horse Pinot Noir (Paso Robles)
#2 Red Diamond Pinot Noir (Califonia)
#3 Mark West Pinot Noir (Central Valley)
#4 Coppola Director’s Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)
#5 Coppola Director’s Cut Pinot Noir (Russian River)
Cable Bay (New Zealand) and 12 Signs (Santa Maria) also made the top cut, but received no points during our final voting.
Back at the club we’ll be offering up a new bottle of wine, either Wild Horse or Red Diamond up as our new Pinot Noir. Of course, a committee made these decisions, and you know what committees can do sometimes. Take our advice to the store and sample these wines to find your favorite. The top three bottles of wine are available at Total Wine and BevMo.
Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Bakersfield.