California Pinot Noir has been on a seriously impressive ascent for years now--since well before even Sideways solidified its place in the popular imagination. Earlier this week on WineSpectator.com, for example, a link to reviews of 11 Pinots from Kosta Browne was prominently displayed. Two weeks ago, Lettie Teague, in her wine column in The Wall Street Journal, urged houseguests to gift their hosts with, among other suggestions, California Pinot Noir, because “it’s popular, prestigious and immediately drinkable.” Every week, it seems, the virtues of California Pinot Noir are being extolled somewhere--and justifiably so.
I recently had the chance to taste the current-release single-vineyard bottlings from Belle Glos, the project by winemaker Joseph Wagner, named in honor of his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos, who co-founded the internationally respected Caymus Vineyards. I also tasted the Meiomi bottling, produced from fruit sourced from Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma Counties. All four of them offer a beautifully expressive snapshot of what Pinot Noir can do in California, and how clearly it can reflect varying terroirs. My notes are below.
Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Meiomi” 2010, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma Counties
Notably dark color, with pronounced aromas of cherries and cherry pie filling, joined by cola and a touch of macerated prune edged with cocoa powder. On the palate, sweet flavors of chocolate and caramel are added to the mix. Lush, and a fantastic sipper on its own or with food.
Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Taylor Lane Vineyard” 2010, Sonoma Coast
Rich in appearance, brooding yet pretty, like a crushed raspberry. On the nose, classic pinot aromas of popping-fresh cherries mingle with red licorice, mouthwatering hints of pomegranate, and violets. These turn to palate-coating flavors of warm vanilla and cinnamon toast, caramel, and hints of other barrel spices wrapping around a core of dark cherry, sweet plum cake, and Dr. Pepper-like flavors, as well as subtle hints of smoked Asian tea. Substantial and rich, this is a wine that, though it’s drinking well right now, will be even better 2015 - 2020.
Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Clark & Telephone Vineyard” 2010, Santa Maria Valley
Even darker and richer in appearance, with earthier aromas of sous bois, sauteed mushrooms, red and dark cherries, high-toned licorice and spice, and hints of floral peppercorn. On the palate, this is a supremely silky wine, lifted by beautifully calibrated acidity. Flavors of bright cherry, savory root beer, and sweet fresh figs are joined by the subtle aromatics of rose water. What a beautiful wine, confident and lush with structure to spare. Drink now - 2025.
Belle Glos Pinot Noir “Las Alturas Vineyard” 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands
Aromas of red fruit, high-toned and spine-y, are joined by hints of blueberries. Fascinating combination. The quality of the barrel regimen here is very clear, with lovely baking spice and pastry-shop aromas, like a cherry turnover in a bakery first thing in the morning. On the palate, this is deep and rich, with the fruits of the nose joined by black licorice, tea, and dried violets, combining to form a complex swirl of a wine. Drink now - 2020.