Sunday, November 04, 2007

Impressive Pinots For A Dinner Party

If you write a wine blog and you invite people over for dinner, you'd better be able to put something memorable on the table.

Here are two pinots -- one from California and one from Oregon -- that fit the bill at different price points. They are:

Fiddlehead Cellars 2003 "Seven Twenty Eight" Pinot Noir ($38), California, and

Lazy River Vineyard 2003 "Famille Neuville Reserve" Pinot Noir ($28), Oregon.

There were five of us in all and the guests graciously agreed to participate in a blind tasting of these two wines over dinner. Once again, this panel (including me) was composed of people who like to drink wine, but are not experts. What follows then are the views of ordinary consumers.

First, we all thought these were both excellent pinots. As such, the Lazy River is particularly noteworthy because it is significantly less expensive.

The panel split as to which one participants liked the best, in part because stylistically, these wines are a little different.

Three panel members liked the Fiddlehead Cellars offering best. In line with the price differential, this is a somewhat "bigger" wine -- lots of soft, round, rich, dark fruit balanced by mild tannins and an appropriate degree of acidity. But, because of all that fruit, the wine has a touch of sweetness and the alcohol content is a little high at 14.1% The finish, which definitely lingers, has a peppery quality to it, which appealed to some participants more than others.

Consumers should expect a notable degree of complexity in a pinot noir costing nearly $40 a bottle and on that score, the Fiddlehead offering definitely delivers the goods.

The Lazy River pinot, which was favored by the other two panel members, is slightly lighter in body and, at only 13% alcohol, a more versatile food wine. On the palate, this one features a very satisfying blend of red and dark fruit flavors. As is the case with the Fiddlehead, the Lazy River's tannins are soft, the degree of acidity is good and the finish is long and satisfying.

While it is possible that these wines would continue to improve with more time in the cellar, both are ready to drink right now.

The Fiddlehead offering is made by Kathy Joseph from grapes grown entirely in her estate's renowned "Fiddlestix" vineyard, which is located at milepost 7.28 of the Santa Rosa Road -- hence the name of the wine. The vineyard is situated in Central California's Santa Rita Hills appellation.

Oregon winemaker Eric Hamacher made the Lazy River offering from "reserve" grapes grown on the vineyard of the same name. Owned by the Lumpkin family, the vineyard is located near Yamhill in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Grapes grown in the Lazy River vineyard are used by several Oregon winemakers.

Both of these wines are probably difficult to find in retail outlets. If you are interested in trying one, it might be best to contact the winery.

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