In praise of Pinot Noir

In praise of Pinot Noir

Producing Pinot Noir is said to be a labor of love, and the Cheers Wine Panel approached this assignment with enthusiasm and reverence. Many came away in awe of the rich and sometimes complex color, aroma and flavor they experienced in tasting Pinots from around the globe.

Brief tasting notes, ratings and suggested retail price are included for each wine. Prices may vary by market.


***** (97) Domaine Henri Rebourseau Gevrey Chambertin 2003 (France). Complex, deep and rich with dark and seductive red fruit flavors intertwined with strawberry jam and spices; wine for a true lover of Burgundy. ($75)

***** (96) Belle Glos Taylor Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 (California). If it were a painting, this would be a masterpiece portraying ultra-ripe cassis multi-layered with a spectrum of sumptuous mocha, brown sugar and allspice. ($59)

***** (95) Fred’s Hands Hansen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Aromas of mushroom and dried red cherry lead to rich, lingering flavors of cherry, blackberry, plum and spice, with herbal undertones; a superb wine that will cellar two to three more years. ($35)

***** (95) Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Full-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel, fine tannin structure, lush texture and lingering finish; complex aromas of cherry, earth, smoke, cedar and flowers; flavors of plum, blueberry, mushrooms and strawberry with a hint of black pepper on the finish. ($50)

***** (95) Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir 2002 (Oregon). This excellent example of a very well made Pinot shows how very fine tannins and a bit of acidity along with black cherries and deep black fruit creates a perfectly balanced wine; pair with roasted or smoked duck breast. ($50)

***** (94) Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros 2003 (California). Concentrated purple core with a rosy rim; crushed fresh raspberries presented alongside floral tones with hints of dusty cedar; rich and dark fleshy raspberry with a white pepper streak; a powerful wine with a softer, feminine side. ($54)

***** (94) Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny Les Fuees Premier Cru 2002 (France). An absolute knock-out from a stellar vintage and dedicated vintner; Mugnier produces wines of great character and class; exceedingly age worthy and worth every penny. ($85)

***** (94) Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2002 (Oregon). Rich, bold and complex with tons of fruit and concentration; not for the shy. ($50)

***** (94) Ponzi Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2002 (Oregon). Bright, vivid flavors of cherry, currant, huckleberry married beautifully with vanilla oak tones and spice; perfectly balanced wine with a lingering finish. ($30)

***** (93) Hartford Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Velvety texture with aromas of red berries and dark plums; hints of clove, cherry and sweet tobacco; a long, lingering finish. ($33)

***** (93) Fritz Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Scents of truffles, fennel, sage and spice are followed by rich flavors of black cherry, pomegranate and full-on berries; complex, elegant, very fruity and mouth-filling; will really blossom after five years in the bottle. ($26)

***** (93) Iron Horse Estate Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Typical bright fruit character of Russian River Pinot Noir, but showing deeper and earthier flavors; extraordinary depth, yet the weight and texture are light and silky on the palate. ($24)

***** (93) Konrad Pinot Noir 2004 (New Zealand). This New Zealand beauty fuses the best of new and old worlds; plenty of ripe cherry/berry fruit is deftly balanced by hints of smoke and spice, all within the framework of fine, fresh acidity. ($20)

***** (92) Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2002 (Oregon). A seductive nose which is the prelude to a wine that is quite plump and juicy in the mouth with spicy undertones and a texture reminiscent of a fine Burgundy; the finish that lingers on. ($17)


***** (92) Deloach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Aromas of cocoa, cola and blackberry; light spice, cherry and strawberry; smooth and supple; good with pasta with wild mushrooms. ($23)

***** (92) ZD Carneros Pinot Noir 2004 (California). This elegant wine has a spicy character with toasty notes, which is only enhanced by its fruit forwardness showing fresh cherry and ripe strawberries; pairs well with that freshly roasted turkey. ($28)


**** (91) Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Burgundystyle Pinot Noir, with aromas of red raspberry and black cherry; suggestions of coffee, clove and dried herbs. ($44)

**** (89) Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Supple and meaty with rose petal aromas followed by rich, strawberry fruit and toasty oak. ($24)


**** (91) Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2002 (France). Youthful in its expression of kirsch and mineral flavors; spice notes with vibrant acidity; an elegant wine that will require patience to fully enjoy. ($60)

**** (91) Cristom Jessie’s Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2003 (Oregon). Terrific aromas of the forest floor, dried leaves and earthy-musty moss followed by flowers, spice and clove; huge, juicy flavors of black fruits and cherries, gripping tannins and a good dose of wood. ($42)

**** (91) Bonaccorsi Fiddlestix Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Bright cherry fruit with well-balanced acidity and structure; Bonaccorsi continues to make consistently great Pinot, which has a nice earthy element, not too fruit forward. ($42)

**** (91) Philippe Collin Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenes 2003 (France). From a lieux-dits vineyard, this Cotes de Beaune shows full, bright cherries on the nose and palate but never seems overblown; a lingering finish; good partner for duck. ($30)

**** (91) Edna Valley Paragon Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Great flavors of black cherry with baking spices, vanilla and caramel nuances; soft and silky with a long and smoky finish; well-balanced and excellent with roasted whole chicken or smoked Virginia whole ham. ($18)

**** (91) Tolosa Edna Valley Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Crimson-tinted garnet color; striking aromas of strawberry and blueberry with hints of rose petal; flavors are nicely balanced; crisp and firm on the finish. ($25)

**** (88) Trinchero Family Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (California). A brilliant garnet in color; bright cherry/berry in the nose with exuberant fruit that bursts with freshness; silky and satiny with a very enjoyable finish. ($12)


**** (90) Benton Lane Pinot Noir 2004 (Oregon). Light red with a fruity berry aroma; raspberry and black cherry flavors; moderate tannins and a moderate, pleasing finish. ($20)

**** (90) Maysara Jamsheed 2004 (Oregon). Rich and opulent with bold deep cherry and plum flavors; nice leathery earth from this up-and-coming AVA of Oregon; drinks well now and will cellar well for several years to come. ($25)

**** (90) Coleman Estate Pinot Noir 2004 (Oregon). Bright fruit pushes this from the get-go; the nose is all Pinot, but not laden with only dark black fruits as were many of the 2003 wines from Oregon; the weight is temperate, and it will match up with a richer fish such as salmon or tuna with the greatest of ease but will stretch out to bird and pork as well; finishes clean, and sticks around on the palate. ($25)

**** (90) Sipino Pinot Noir 2004 (Oregon). Produced by Yamhill Valley Vineyards, this wine features bright and easy fruit that complements a meal of lamb and or salmon. ($15)

**** (90) Chalone Monterey County Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Clove, spice and red fruit aromas; raspberry and cherry flavors; serve with grilled salmon or tuna. ($17)

**** (90) Muirwood Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Easy, lush and filled with spicy red and black fruits; lightly toasted blackberry and plum are supported by soft tannin and a cedary finish; fine value. ($14)

**** (90) Louis Chavy Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2002 (France). A mouthwatering fruit bowl of cherry, cassis and raspberry balanced with fresh, lively acidity; a rich, supple palate supported by soft, elegant tannins, while the nose offers hints of earth, red fruits and spice; pair with poultry, bold seafood dishes, as well as elegant beef and pork dishes. ($15)

**** (89) Williams Selyem Russian River Pinot Noir 2002 (California). Very floral aromas of ripe cherry and berry; flavors of black cherry with touches of vanilla and spice; a polished wine with a silky and delicate finish. ($40)

**** (89) W.H. Smith Maritime Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2003 (California). Sweet raspberry aromas meddling in that classic forest-floor; mushroomy signature Pinot nose; smooth delivery of black raspberry; getting fleshier as it picks up a leather-cedar-tobacco medley on the long finish. ($39)

**** (89) Laetitia Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Estate grown wine featuring black cherry and plum flavors with truffle and subtle oak notes; an elegant style. ($27)

**** (89) Judd Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Dark purple, with a light bouquet of new wood and fruit that is a bit green; soft and full on the palate, it possesses a wonderful, velvety mouthfeel and subtle black fruit flavors; good acidity keeps everything well balanced, and the finish is long and flavorful. ($25)

**** (89) Gallo Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Aromas and flavors of bright red fruits, spice and sage; underlying nuances of mushroom and toasty oak; silky finish; good value. ($10)

**** (88) Bridgeview Vineyards “Blue Moon” Pinot Noir 2004 (Oregon). Dark ruby, with a moderate bouquet of red and black fruit aromas and some light oak notes lingering in the background; quite dry on the palate, it is medium bodied and displays bright cherry fruit flavors at the fore, with some blackberry and cassis emerging toward the long finish. ($15)

**** (88) Huber Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Dark ruby color; aromas of applewood-smoked bacon, tea, tobacco and black raspberry; extracted tastes of red licorice, black raspberry, pomegranate and cola; 15.1 percent alcohol doesn’t get in the way because it remains well balanced and with good wood integration. ($36)

**** (88) Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Rich and intense flavors of plum and cherry with robust acidity. ($21)

**** (88) Sticks Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (Australia). Dark cherry and strawberry flavors; spicy, lingering finish; a fruit-driven style with good complexity. ($20)

**** (89) Mark West Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Nice nose of strawberry, raspberry, with a hint of smoke; bursts onto the palate with strawberry juicy watermelon and cherries. ($9)

**** (87) Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir 2003 (California). A bit tight to start with; as it opens up rich and velvety fruit followed by a clean finish; great with rack of lamb. ($22)

**** (87) Esser Pinot Noir 2004 (California). A lighter style Pinot Noir; dry and varietally correct; a good value. ($13)

**** (91) Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Bright and fun is the best description of this classic Pinot Noir; great nose, taste and finish; a great sip and enjoy wine. ($23)


*** (84) Echelon Central Coast Pinot Noir 2004 (California). Aromas of strawberry and kirsch with an earthy element; simple and quaffable with strawberry and cherry flavors. ($9)


**** (86) Lulu B. Pinot Noir 2004 (France). From the Vin de Pays D’oc in southern France; floral and round mouthfeel with hints of black fruit and plums; soft and subtle with a balanced finish; a good value. ($10)

**** (86) Clos Pegase Mitsuko Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2003 (California). Unfiltered Pinot benefits from nearly half new French oak; straightforward with notes of cinnamon cocoa, vanilla, Christmas spices and anise that float over a fresh, fruity, smooth effort; try with grilled Italian sausage or pork tenderloin. ($27)

RELATED ARTICLE: Cheers National Wine Panel

The Cheers National Wine Panel is comprised of beverage experts from restaurants and retail wine stores around the country. If you would like to participate in the Cheers Wine Panel, please contact Donna Hood Crecca at (631) 265-3839 or via email at

David Alphonse Back Bay Restaurants Boston, MA

Ron Balter Italian Village Chicago, IL

Stacey Blacker Sayers Liquors Florence, NJ

Ralph J. Bondon Berbiglia Wine & Spirits Kansas City, MO

Thomas Burke Sommelier Carter House Inns/Restaurant 301 Eureka, CA

Steve Burnell Washington State Liquor Control Board

Chip Cassidy Crown Wine Merchant Coral Gables, FL

Ken Collura Wine Director/Sommelier Andina Restaurant/Pearl Wine Shop Portland, OR

Gary Franklin Brown Derby Stores Springfield, MO

John Foy Consultant Hoboken, NJ

Maggie Gephard Liquorama Wine Cellar Hyde Park, NY

Jerry Martellero Stew Leonard’s Wines Farmingdale, NY

Josh Haugh Food & Beverage Director Hyatt Regency Bethesda Bethesda, MD

Jim Hightower Sam’s Wine & Spirits Chicago, IL

Todd Jacobson Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop Grand Forks, ND

Jackie Kantrowitz The Wine List Hyannis, MA

Louis Koppel Wine Host Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops Salt Lake City Utah

Walter Kotrba Gary’s Wine Marketplace Madison/Livingston, NJ

Larry LaScola Bottle King Liquors Livingston, NJ

Brad Lewis ABC Fine Wines & Spirits Orlando, FL

Daniel A. Manning Haskell’s Minnetonka, MN

Jack Mantle Frugal MacDoogal’s Nashville, TN

Rick McLeod Prime Wines & Spirits Kenmore, NY

James Moll Centennial Fine Wine & Spirits Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX

Michael Mulderig Total Wine & More Claymont, DE

William O’Brien The Liquor Store Jackson Hole, WY

Phil Perry Terra Nova Wine & Spirits Madison, MS

Robin Riddell Martin Wine Cellar New Orleans, LA

Herve Rousseau Owner, Flute New York, NY

Ralph Rosenberg Red Sage Washington D.C.

Richard R. Schneider Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City, NJ

Charles Scicolone Vino Italian Wines and Spirits New York, NY

Michael Sorg Liquor Barn Louisville, KY

Jeff Sukowski Sal’s Beverage World Elmhurst, IL

Matt Swingos Swingos on the Lake Lakewood, OH

W. Edwin True Sherlock’s Beer & Wine Warehouse Marietta, GA

Jeff Vignaux Premium Wine & Spirits Amherst, NY

John Wabeck Chef, Firefly Washington, DC

Wilfred Wong Beverages & more! Concord, CA

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