By Kim Marcus
“Pinot Noir continues its expansion across the Golden State, with rising quality and increased production driven by a surge of single-vineyard wines flowing from key winegrowing regions up and down the California coast, where the cooler, maritime-influenced climate proves ideal for the grape’s cultivation.
This past year has been a banner tasting season as I reviewed more than 600 wines since my previous report (“Coastal Conquest,” Oct. 15, 2019), with the vast majority of the action centered on the 2017 and 2018 vintages. Overall, more than 375 wines reached 90 points or higher, making for a remarkably high level of quality, with three dozen wines scoring in the 94- to 95-point range.
Perhaps even more impressive is the diversity of the appellations where Pinot Noir excels. Classic-rated wines are being made all the way from Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, one of the state’s northernmost appellations, to Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills, 400 miles to the south. In between, districts in Sonoma, Napa and Monterey also chime in with stellar wines.
In Sonoma’s historic heartland of Pinot Noir, the Russian River Valley, stalwart producers such as Arista, Dehlinger, Ferren, Hartford Court, Paul Hobbs and Williams-Selyem continue to prime the quality pump with both single-vineyard bottlings and appellation blends. Indeed, the high quality of many appellation blends make them a good buying strategy if you are looking for value. These versions tap multiple vineyard sources within an appellation and are made in significantly higher quantities. They offer solid varietal flavors and structure, with just a bit less concentration and finesse compared with single-vineyard offerings.
From the Russian River Valley, look for the EnRoute Les Pommiers 2018 (93, $60), MacMurray Ranch 2017 (92, $38) and Sojourn 2018 (92, $45). From the Sonoma Coast, there’s the 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (91, $34), RouteStock 116 2018 (91, $23), Au Contraire 2017 (90, $27), La Crema 2017 (90, $25) and Sean Minor 2018 (90, $22). And from Carneros, seek out the Artesa 2017 (91, $25) and Acacia 2017 (90, $27).”