Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Pinot That Walks Like a Cab

In a few days, I'll be flying out to Sonoma County to visit my brother. In preparation for our visit to wine country, I thought I'd spend a few nights drinking wines from the area. I decided to focus on the Pinot Noirs of the Sonoma Coast, since it's not an area I spend a lot of time thinking about. I picked up a Chasseur Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2005 at Acker, Merrall & Condit on the Upper West Side and a Flowers Andreen-Gale Cuvee Pinot Noir 2004 at Beacon Wine & Spirits a couple blocks away. (That was my limit, since those two bottles put me in the hole to the tune of $90.) The unsmiling owner at Beacon always seems confident in his inventory. "You like this?" I said, holding up the Flowers. "I always like it," he monotoned, not looking up from his paperwork.

I drank them over the course of a few days and, while I admired them in the way a commoner admires a king, I can't say I loved them. Why? Well, let's just say they came on too strong. The Chasseur had an alcohol level of 14.5%, the Flowers 14.1% (though that seemed like a fib to me). They had all kinds of fruit, were majestic and balanced. Bright cherry, plum, perfume, all that jazz. A bit more spice and tobacco on the Chasseur, while the Flowers came off more polished and elegant.

But, in the end, as I enjoyed my glass with some approving nods, I felt I had been more bullied than seduced into a good opinion. To me, pinots this strong just seem out of whack with the varietal's inate character. The Flowers was so muscular, it had many of the characteristics of a California Cab. Both wineries brag of Burgundian methods, but their wines of Cali all over.

Once again I proved to myself, I'm just not a California boy.

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