Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Tales of Two Pinot Noirs
A few years back, I was in the Russian River Valley, and decided to pick up a few famous pinot noirs that I knew I wouldn't be able to get my hands on in stores in New York: Among them a Martinelli and a Merry Edwards, both 2004 vintage.
I sat on them for three years. But then, recently, faced with a special occasion that called for a nice bottle, something told me to called Merry Edwards and see if it wasn't time to open that pinot. "Funny you should call," said the woman at the winery. "We just opened some 2004s, and they were drinking very well." That settled it. I opened the bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2004 "Klopp Ranch."
Since I bought the Edwards, I've become less enamored of the fuller, high-alcohol style of pinot found in California. And this bottle was 14.4%. Still, there was no arguing about it—this made for wonderful, elegant drinking. I enjoyed every sip. The color was a beautiful, mature, ruby-purple, and the full, very fragrant nose was perfumed and floral, with rose, violet, blackberry, blueberry, heather, brush and plum all in there.
The body was not as big as I feared. I'd call it medium-full. It had a silky fell, with soft fruit and very little (or extremely well integrated) tannin. Red cherry and sweet beach plum sang throughout, the only roughness (and I could have used more) being a little tinge of tobacco in the mid-palate. There was a medium-long finish. Something told me the wine was just beginning to fade, but overall the whole affair was refined and lovely. If you have any 2004 Edwards pinots, drink them now.
This made me a little too excited. And cocky. The next weekend I decided it was time to break out the Martinelli Water Trouch Vineyards. Also a 2004, I reasoned it was ready, too. Really, I just wanted to drink some more good pinot noir. I didn't even call the vineyard this time.
Maybe I should have. I'm not saying the Martinelli was bad. It wasn't. My wife certainly thought it was out of this world. But this wine is what a feared the Edwards would be: elephantine and over-saturated. The alcohol was a bruising 15.5%. The powerful dark-fruit nose hit you back against your chair. It was big and smooth in the mouth. Super ridiculously juicy. It tasted like cherry and plum juice that had been cooked down to make the mix more intense. A pinot on steroids. There was a lot of good fruit involved, you could tell. But it had been pimped out too much. I sure this sort of pinot is prized by many. Just not me.