World Class Pinot Noir
at the 8th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout

Peay Vineyards

In late February of this year, the International Wine Review (IWR) joined the Affairs of the Vine (AOTV) in sponsoring the 8th Annual Pinot Noir Summit, the culmination of the Pinot Noir Shootout, a three month long competitive wine tasting.

The Summit has become one of the world’s premier venues for showcasing Pinot Noir from around the world, putting it in league with Oregon’s International Pinot Noir Celebration, the Oregon Pinot Camp and Switzerland’s Mondial du Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir Shootout not only provides an opportunity to taste new releases, it also sponsors technical workshops with winemakers and viticulturalists. We (Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler) convened two of those workshops at this year’s Summit.

This year almost 300 Pinot Noir wines from around the world (California, Oregon, New Zealand, Chile, Michigan, New York, France) were submitted for evaluation by 40 professional judges, including ourselves. We’ve tasted a lot of Pinot Noir the past couple of years, with in-depth reports and articles on New Zealand, Oregon, California, and France. Given that extensive tasting, we were very favorably impressed with the quality of the wines submitted to the 8th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout and eventually shared at the Summit. Not only is the average quality of the wines high, but most wines showed fresh fruit and are cleanly made with good acidity, judicious oaking and moderate tannins. The California wines, in particular, seem distinctly better than ones we’ve tasted in the past.

The top wines and their average scores are reported at the end of this report. The top five wines as evaluated by the judges were:

  • Claiborne and Churchill 2007 Pinot Noir Edna Valley
  • Dierberg Vineyards 2006 Estate Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
  • Left Edge 2008 Timberline Block Sea Ridge Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
  • Russian Hill 2007 Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
  • Sonoma Coast Vineyard 2007 Freestone Hills Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Democracy in Action.

One thing that sets the Pinot Noir Shootout and Summit apart from other wine contests is its focus on the consumer. Professional judges select the top 40 Pinot Noirs from all those submitted, and on the day of the Shootout consumers taste all 40 wines and submit their own assessments, which are then tabulated. The top four wines as evaluated by the consumers were:

  • Claiborne and Churchill 2007 Pinot Noir Edna Valley
  • Hahn SLH Estate 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
  • Nicholson Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
  • Pacific Coast 2007 Babcock Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills

Tasting TableMen vs. Women.

It’s well known that women have more tastebuds than men, and they are more sensitive than men to a number of aromas and tastes. Hence, assessments of wine may vary by gender. While men and women by and large agree about the top wines in the Shootout, they disagree on their evaluations of specific wines. For evaluations disaggregated by gender, go to http://affairsofthevine.com/8th-pinot-noir-summit-results.php. Everyone—judges, consumers, men and women—agree on one wine as belonging among the best four of the shootout, and that wine is the Claiborne and Churchill 2007 Pinot Noir from Edna Valley. This wine clearly deserves a Shootout Gold Medal.

Sparkling Wines.

While consumers and judges and men and women expressed somewhat different preferences for Pinot Noir table wine, they have amazingly similar tastes when it comes to sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir. The top three sparklers in order of preference with prices and average judges’ scores were:

  • Pommery Wintertime Blanc de Noirs Champagne ($60) 94
  • Gloria Ferrer 2006 Brut Rose Carneros ($20) 93
  • Windsor Vineyards 2006 Blanc de Noirs Carneros.($25) 93

Viticultural and Winemaking Practices.

We had the opportunity to convene two technical workshops at the Summit. Don Winkler chaired a panel that looked at organic, biodynamic and sustainable practices in the vineyard. Rachel Ormes of Vinehill Winery, Paul Clifton of Hahn Family Wines, and Ramona Nicholson of Nicholson Ranch Winery showed their wines and discussed the virtues and challenges of organic and sustainable viticulture. Mike Potashnik chaired a panel looking at the special challenges involved in making Pinot Noir. John Clark of Brophy Clark, Eric Ross of Russian Hill Winery, and Michael Brughelli of Kenneth Volk Vineyards showed their wines and discussed the challenges making Pinot Noir.

Thank You.

On behalf of Affairs of the Vine and the International Wine Review, we would like to thank the judges, the tasters, the volunteers, and especially the wineries for participating in the 8th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout. We look forward with great expectations to seeing you again at the 9th Shootout next year.

Top Scoring Pinot Noirs of the AOTV/IWR Pinot Noir Shootout

The following wines all scored an average 90 points or more on a 100 point scale. They were tasted blind by forty male and female judges in San Francisco on January 11, 2010.

Amisfield 2007 Pinot Noir Lowburn New Zealand ($35) 90
Ampelos Cellars 2006
Lambda Ampelos Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($35) 90
Artesa 2007 Pinot Noir Carneros ($24) 92+
Balletto Vineyards 2007 Winery Block Pinot Noir Russian River ($34) 91+
Big Basin Vineyards 2007 Alfaro Family Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Cruz ($42) 91
Bjornstad Cellars 2007 Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($40) 90+
Brophy Clark 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($30) 90+
Claiborne & Churchill 2007 Pinot Noir Edna Valley ($25) 93
CRU 2007 Vineyard Montage Pinot Noir Central Coast ($24) 92
Cumbre of Vine Hill 2007 Barrel 31 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($59) 92
David Bruce Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($42) 90+
David Bruce Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($30) 90
Deaver Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Sierra Foothills ($25) 90
Dierberg Vineyards 2006 Estate Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($42) 93+
Elk Cove Vineyards 2008
Mount Richmond Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Yamhill-Carlton District ($48) 90
Eric Ross 2008 Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($40) 90
Exuberance 2007 Exuberance Reserve
Canihan Family Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros Sonoma Valley ($60) 90
Fulcrum 2007 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($52) 90
Hahn SLH Estate 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($29) 91
Heart O’The Mountain 2007
100% Pommard Clone Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($58) 90+
Kendric Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Marin County ($35) 90
Kenneth Volk Vineyards
2006 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($48) 91
Kenneth Volk Vineyards
2006 Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($48) 90
La Fenetre 2007 Le Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($55) 90
La Fenetre 2007 Calmant Creek Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($50) 90
Left Edge 2008
Timberline Block Sea Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($40) 93+
Lionheart Wines 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($40) 91
Lucienne 2007 Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($38) 91+
MacMurray Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($24) 90
Nicholson Ranch 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($42) 91+
Nicholson Ranch
2007 Estate Reserve Cactus Hill Pinot Noir Sonoma Valley ($50) 90
Pacific Coast Vineyards
2007 Babcock Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($62) 90
Pegasus Bay 2007 Pinot Noir Waipara Valley New Zealand ($43) 90+
Perception 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($42) 91+
River Road Vineyards
2007 Estate Stephanies Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($26) 90
Robledo 2006 Estate Rancho Rincon Pinot Noir Los Carneros ($40) 90+
Row Eleven 2006 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($36) 90+
Russian Hill 2007 Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($36) 93
Russian Hill 2006 Leras Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($45) 90
Scott Cellars 2008 First Mesa Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot Noir ($36) 91
Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard
2007 Estate Grown Pinot Noir Mendocino County ($40) 91+
Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2007 Freestone Hills Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($40) 93+
Sonoma Coast Vineyards
2006 Petersen Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($55) 90+
Stephen & Walker 2006 Pinot Noir Monterey ($39) 90
TR Elliott 2007 Three Plumes Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($40) 91
Vine Hill 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains ($30) 92
Wedell Cellars 2006 Hillside Vineyard Pinot Noir Edna Valley ($125) 90
Wild Earth 2008 Pinot Noir Central Otago ($30) 91+

Who’s Who? The annual Pinot Noir Shootout is jointly sponsored by Affairs of the Vine and the International Wine Review. Affairs of the Vine is the creation of Barbara Drady, who also conducts the highly successful Wine Boot Camp. See affairsofthevine.com for more information. The International Wine Review is owned and managed by Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler. See their their Facebook page at facebook.com/iwinereview. Subscribers can download in depth reports on the Pinot Noir of New Zealand, Oregon, and the Santa Lucia Highlands from the website.