A few weeks ago, we wrote about inexpensive pinot noirs. Today, we offer readers more pinot noirs but at a higher price. Not everyone can afford these wines, but they are worthy of consideration for a special dinner or as a gift for a special friend.
Generally, the higher cost means greater concentration and depth that result from more exposure to expensive French oak. Winemakers also use only the best grapes from the best blocks of vineyards.
In California, the best cool regions for pinot noir are Carneros, Russian River Valley, Santa Barbara and Anderson Valley.
Here are some of the best California pinot noirs we recently have tasted:
* Wild Horse Cheval Sauvage Pinot Noir 2009 ($65). One of the many top-drawer pinot noirs on the market, this year-over-year success story exudes intense black cherry flavors with tantalizing hints of leather, tea and spice. The grapes hail from the Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. Wow, what a wine.
* Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($65). Using grapes from Carneros, this voluptuous pinot noir has good intensity and a nice elegance you want from the grape. Supple mouthfeel and refined cherry flavors. Patz & Hall recently opened its new tasting room just south of Sonoma's town square.
* Guarachi Family Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011 ($65). Our first tasting from this producer, the Guarachi Family pinot noir is incredibly dense and delicious. Complex strawberry and blueberry notes with an intense finish, a touch of mineral and a luscious mouthfeel.
* Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2010 ($55). Zach Rasmuson, a St. John's College graduate, has a hand in making this terrific pinot noir with consistent complexity and rich texture year after year. Cherry and raspberry notes and an earthy, mushroom flavor characterize a satisfying and delicious wine.
* Lost Canyon Morelli Lane Pinot Noir 2010 ($45). This was a discovery for us from the Russian River Valley. Bright and dense fruit with aromas of mushrooms and cherries. Luscious mouthfeel and long in the finish, it's a winner.
* Etude Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2011 ($42). Elegant pinot noir with a long, soft landing and excellent structure. Black cherry flavors with hints of cedar and cardamom.
* Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Pinot Noir 2010 ($42). Nicely textured and balanced pinot noir with forward blackberry fruit and hints of cola and anise on the nose.
Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column for newspapers for more than 20 years.
On a recent Sunday afternoon with friends, we pulled from our cellars nine bottles of Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage to see how they were coming along. Anyone who bought these wines in 2002 will be happy to have them in their cellar.
It's the second time we tasted these wines together, so it was interesting to see how much they have improved. None of the wines had passed their prime, which says a lot about Bordeaux and reaffirms our belief it still is the best overall wine to cellar. We're talking about 13-year-old wines.
But among the more telling observations was with this kind of age the differences between dominant grape varieties and regions was more obvious. That's hardly a new or even brilliant observation, but the difference between a St. Emilion and a Pomerol was more evident in these mature wines because their nuances once masked by tannins had emerged.
Not all of the five noble grapes grown in Bordeaux do well in every region. For instance, cabernet sauvignon doesn't ripen adequately in the cooler St. Emilion, which depends more on Merlot. The 2000 Clos Fourtet, a premier grand cru classé B, is 85 percent merlot and tastes considerably different than the 2000 Chateau Batailley made predominantly from cabernet sauvignon. However, just 5 percent cabernet franc was added to this wine with amazing influences on the flavor profile.
If you're in your 60s, it might not make a lot of sense to buy wines that will take another 15 years to mature. However, Bordeaux stands the test of time better than most regions, as proven in the consistent 2000 vintage.
And to put an exclamation point on that conclusion, our host, Nick Capousis, opened a 1982 Les Forts de Latour -- a second wine of first-growth Chateau Latour in Paulliac. Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot dominated this fat and unctuous Bordeaux. Although the fruit was fading and dried, it still was a complex and dense wine from one of the best vintages of the century