A few amazing Pinots have crossed my path of late from all points on the compass, some for drinking, some for burying, we begin:
By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir 2015, Moorabool Valley, Victoria. Proof that colour intensity is not an indication of power, this unassuming, transparent Pinot from just south of Melbourne can repel bullets whilst smelling like a corsage. Taking over from his dad Gary Farr, son Nick Farr (Winemaker of the Year 2020, Gourmet Traveller) worked at Au Bon Climat, Cristom and Dujac before taking the reins back home, and the south facing (north for normal people) Farrside vineyard allows him the kind of late-harvest hang-time he experienced abroad, giving full phenolic ripeness without all the extra booze (pretty rare down under). Handsomely structured, this 2015 shows predominant violets over black cherries, soil and gravel, with a beautiful, red-fruited lift on the firm finish. Delicious now, this Pinot has the legs to cellar 5+ further years, although I’ve never let one live long enough to observe what it tuns into because me thirsty and it yummy. 94 points Robert Parker, 94 points James Suckling, 18 bottles available, $94.98 +tax
Jean-Claude Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru Morgeot 2018, Burgundy. A rare Pinot from Chassagne, although historically this village grew much more Pinot than Chardonnay, replanting only last century when the whites from the adjacent Montrachet Grand Crus started commanding bonkers prices. The Pinot that remains – like this gorgeous 2018 from Ramonet – trends more supple and savoury, and less aggressively structured than the limestone-rooted Pinots from the Côtes de Nuits further north. The warmer 2018 vintage gives us lots of blue and red fruits to balance the flowers and herbs, with a hint of blood orange lurking beneath, and the medium-full body coasts lithely until the tight finish closes the store. Needs time, but not as much as the 2017. Ready in 3 years, singing in 5. Not yet rated, 6 bottles available, $145.98 +tax
Rudolf Fürst Spatburgunder Centgrafenberg GG 2018, Franken. Perhaps in an effort to dispel the stereotypes of stern Germans barking instructions at you, the German Pinots I’ve presented here thus far (from Rheinhessen and Ahr, largely) have been gentle, generous beasts that could easily be mistaken for bearded, surfing Russian River Pinots. Not today, Fraulein. Not only does Herr Fürst shout orders at you, he does it with leather and chains on, showing no trace of empathy behind the rigid structure, but the hard truth is that if you show patience and, yes, follow the orders, life is better. The red berries will emerge with grace and power. The frame that currently has a stepdad-turned-down-for-a-bank-loan vibe will soften and integrate, and this stoic Pinot from one of Franken’s top Grand Crus will sing like a mature Vougeot. A statuesque wine, a true future cellar star. 96 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $153.98 +tax
Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2017, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago. Sourced from the oldest plots of the postcard-from-Asgard picturesque Rippon Vineyard, this is the cuvee that winemaker Nick Mills calls the “voice of the vineyard”. If that’s the case, this voice is both irresistibly seductive and singing in an alien tongue, because it’s going to take a little time to understand it. The cooler 2017 vintage dialed up the jasmine, rose and sage notes but dialed down the fruit beneath a stony, schist-influenced minerality; when the fruit wakes back up in a couple years the bouquet will be simply stunning. A silky, understated palate and medium body precede a peppery finish – this is probably the best vintage so far – if this were Burgundy it’d have the same cellaring window but cost 4 times as much. 99 points James Suckling, 2 cases available, $78.98 +tax
Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2020, Hemel-en Aarde Valley, Walker Bay. Although widely known for Chardonnay, Hamilton Russell’s Pinot is an understated, elegant affair with both feet planted firmly in Burgundy. Although more austere than the Chard, there is abundant fresh red fruit everywhere you look – in fact “fresh” is the operating principle here, lifting everything up from front to back. A fairly rich palate flows into a mineral, saline finish with a baking spice and a fair grip: unlike the accessible Chard, the Pinot needs a nap to fully develop, but 2 years should integrate the back end nicely. More Burgundian that the Ramonet Chassagne. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $81.98
Lingua Franca AVNI Pinot Noir 2016, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Although it boasts the lowest price on the towering Lingua Franca totem, it’s misleading to call AVNI an “entry-level” offering. Meaning “mother earth”, AVNI is a geologically based bottling of only hillside, volcanic soil fruit, both from the Lingua Franca estate and their neighbor. David Honig, Larry Stone MW and Burgundy’s Dominique Lafond continue to cement Lingua Franca’s position as Essential Oregon, and I was lucky to pick up a few cases of this slightly older vintage: lovely blueberries and plums laced with cinnamon, a silky, medium body, and a citrus-infused finish that is only now coming into balance. This is singing now, guys, grab it while you can ‘cuz we won’t see this vintage again. 4 cases available, $68.98 +tax
Bergstrom “Cumberland Reserve” Pinot Noir 2018, Willamette Valley, Oregon. In the rush to express Willamette terroir, the “House Style” blend of crus is becoming a rare animal in Oregon, but the Bergstrom family’s “Cumberland” cuvée (named after the street they grew up on) remains one of the best examples. Ripe and substantial while leaving a light footprint, bright red fruits beam out around spicy blasts of matcha and tobacco, and the good intensity follows from front to back. Drinking now, quite deliciously. 94 points Robert Parker, 94 points Wine Spectator, #37 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 12 bottles available, $83.98 +tax
Piro Pinot Noir Presqu’ile Vineyard 2017, Santa Maria Valley, California. This guy is going to be huge. Called “one of the most promising young American winemakers” by Vinous, Marc Piro still works at Au Bon Climat and Qupé but began using those connections to buy his own premium fruit from the valley’s best sites, and judging by how quickly it sold out in Vancouver (I think I have the last 3 6-packs of this), the reaction is electric. Marc’s Pinots balance an almost overwhelming amount of fruit weight on the head of a pin: the generous nose and palate, full of roses, forest floor, sage and lavender, lift waaay up on the juicy, rustic finish. Quite a fresh, airborne vibe on the tail end, like Californian opulence on an Oregonian structure, pretty but serious. Don’t take your eyes off this dude. 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $79.98 +tax
Three Sticks Pinot Noir 2019, Sonoma Coast, California. Pretty easy to craft an amazing Sonoma Pinot when you own a lot of the best vineyards. Bill Price owns Classic Wines LLC, the proprietor of iconic Sonoma terroirs such as Durell, Wilson, Dupont, One Sky and Gap’s Crown (he also owns pieces of Kosta Browne, Buccella and Kistler, but probably just to collect Air Miles), and all of those vineyards contribute to this whizz-bang 2019 cuvée that shows high tones of pink grapefruit and violets atop low tones of dry chocolate and oregano. Light-bodied but high-intensity, fresh and clean. First time in BC. 97 points Decanter, 95 points Wine Spectator, 4 6-packs available, $78.98 +tax
NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS
What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.
Au Bon Climat “La Bauge Au-Dessus” Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Barbara, California. 93 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $63.98 +tax
Hartford Court Land’s Edge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Sonoma, California. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 12 bottles available, $71.98 +tax
Penner Ash Pinot Noir 2017, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 3 cases available, $59.99 +tax
WALT “La Brisa” Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast, California. 2 cases available, $64.98 +tax
Blank Canvas Pinot Noir 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand. 95 points Vinous, 95 points Bob Campbell, $48.98 +tax
Hermit Ram “Zealandia” Pinot Noir 2019, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 12 bottles available, $46.98 +tax
Stay tuned for BIG Spanish, Tuscan and Burgundy offerings in the coming weeks!!
Until next time, Happy Drinking!!