Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

Tasting Note – 2 Lads Pinot Noir

Got a wine club shipment today, and am cracking one of the two bottles of 2016 Pinot Noir in the box. I’m really looking forward to this, and I have grilled pork chops and pesto baby potatoes to have with it in a little bit.

2 Lads Pinot Noir (2016) Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan – $29

Color: bright, clear garnet red – you can tell this is a young, fresh wine from the way the color extends without any change in hue as you tip the glass.

Aroma: intriguing – there’s cranberry and red currant in here, along with cherry, kirsch, and some bramble notes.

Taste: tart up front, with candied and fresh fruit notes. The mid-palate exhibits more of the brambles and kirsch than straight fruit, and it’s a little weak there. It has a medium-length finish that’s soft and warm.

Pairs decently with the pork & potatoes.

Nice – but just a little too thin to merit a recommended tag.


Tasting Note – Black Star Farms Pinot Noir

One of my first purchases in Traverse City.  Black Star is a large operation – they have several production facilities and tasting rooms, several different product lines, and a number of distilled products (similar to eau-de-vie).

The Black Star Farms product line is their mid-range tier (Arcturos is the labelling they use for higher-end wines).

Black Star Farms Pinot Noir (2013) Leelanau Peninsula – $19

Color: very light, classic Pinot Noir.

Aroma: somewhat closed, mostly cherry and earth

Taste: soft up front, then more acidity and a touch of tannin on the finish.  Cherry and kirsch predominate on the tongue.  I’d be more likely to have this as an aperitif than with food, as it’s easily overwhelmed.


Grape Varieties in Michigan

After hitting approximately 30 wineries in Michigan – both in the south-central part of the state, and up north in Traverse City, I have a few observations on varieties.

I’m glad to see some plantings of Austrian grapes – Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankisch (aka Lemburger).  When you consider the embayments and lakes around Traverse City, these seem like obvious choices, given their similarity in latitude, weather, and mesoclimate. I hope to see a lot more plantings of these grapes in this part of the US in the future. They provide something different from the same-old Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, etc. There’s also a nice heritage connection – many of the Europeans who settled the Great Lakes area came from the same stomping grounds as those grapes: Mitteleuropa aka Central Europe aka the old Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire. I grew up surrounded by Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans, and Poles, and their cuisine is perfectly suited for these grapes.

There’s much more Pinot Noir in the fields than I was expecting, even given its popularity in the last 10-15 years, and its suitability for a harsher continental climate.  I don’t see a particular style emerging just yet; many of the vintages are somewhere in the middle between the light, delicate, fruit & cream style, and the meaty, mushroomy, darker and spicier style of Pinot.

I continue to see Cabernet Franc planted in good quantities; most, if not all, of the Bordeaux-style red blends are heavy on the Cab Franc. As with the Austrian grapes, I think this is a particularly well-suited variety for this part of the US – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of my favorite grapes.

It’s also pleasing to see more than just Riesling and Chardonnay in whites: there are plentiful choices in Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Chenin Blanc.


Back from hiatus – new location, new bottle of Pinot Noir

Greetings, all.

I apologize for being absent from the blog for a few months.  A new job, moving, the usual excuses.  But I’m back and tasting again – I have a few notes from over the summer that I’ll dust off and type in sometime soon, as well.

Today I have a new California Pinot Noir from Trader Joe’s, Bear Boat. I’m hoping this fits into the CBG (cheap but good) category.

Bear Boat Pinot Noir (2010) Russian River Valley, California – $10

20140806_203937Color: nice translucent Pinot nature with reddish-purple tones throughout.

Aroma: a heady, strawberry-and-cream nose, with other red fruit notes and a little spiciness underneath.

Taste: Comes on gently, then fuller in the mid-palate and towards the finish. But true Pinot character throughout – I highly doubt there’s Zin or Syrah blended into this. There is some noticeable heat (13.5% alcohol), but a little chill takes care of that nicely.  If you drink this on the deck in August heat, make sure you have a bucket of cool water to keep it in.

Overall, not stunning, but a respectable Pinot for under $15. Recommended.

Fadeaway Pinot Noir

I’m hoping this falls into the cheap-but-good category! Let’s see how this goes down with a simple onion & pepper pizza.

Fadeaway Pinot Noir (2012) Monterey County, California – $8

20140423_075404(0)Color: on the purplish side, but it’s not dense or opaque – which probably means it really is 100% Pinot, and hasn’t been stretched with Zin or Syrah.

Aroma: raspberry and strawberry fruit – just a little hint of cherry as well.

Taste: more fruit – it’s light and lively on the tongue, and the finish is very soft and easy with a little floral and forest-floor character.

Recommended – this is an eminently drinkable true Pinot for under $15, which is a rare find these days.


Wine Tasting Report – Frei Brothers at Kroger Austin Landing

The mega-Kroger has been open in Austin Landing for about a year, but this was my first chance to attend one of their wine tastings. They really go all-out on Friday, with some very impressive hot appetizers and dinner options from the kitchen. And they have a full on-premise license, so you can open any bottle on the shelf if the tasting flight doesn’t appeal to you!

This week they sample Frei Brothers wine from California, and I had the roast vegetable flatbread and the Tuscan-style poached corvina.  The wines were a mixed bag, but the Merlot stood out positively.

Frei Brothers Chardonnay (2012) Russian River Valley – $17

Color: very bright yellow,

Aroma: predominately apple, with some toast and vanilla underneath.

Taste: high acid for a Chardonnay; the apple carries into the midpalate, but then oak dominates from there to the finish.  Decent enough, but not really noteworthy.

Frei Brothers Pinot Noir (2011) Russian River Valley – $23

Color: quite dark for Pinot; I suspect there may be something else blended in.

Aroma: cherry and oak, with some forest-floor and earth.

Taste: quite full-bodied and almost jammy. This is not really varietally correct, so I’m almost certain they threw in 15% or so of Zin or Syrah to plump it up. Disappointing, actually.

Frei Brothers Merlot (2012) Sonoma County – $20

Color: garnet red

Aroma: very inviting spiciness.

Taste: round, dark, full, with a big dollop of fruit throughout. This is nice stuff, darker and heavier than a typical California Merlot. On the finish, the acidity you expect finally makes its appearance. I think this is the star of the tasting.

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) Alexander Valley – $20

Color: very dark purple.

Aroma: mostly earth notes, with some cassis and blueberry.

Taste: this is thinner in the mouth than what you expect. The Merlot is actually bigger than the Cab – this bottle is disappointing.

Blue Fin Pinot Noir

One more of the Blue Fin label from Trader Joe’s – along with Chardonnay, this is one of their two original varietal wines. It was a great bargain back in 2006-2008, and our allotments sold out very quickly.

Blue Fin Pinot Noir (2012) California – $5

Photo0338Color: good Pinot color – ruby red and limpid.

Aroma: a feminine, fruity nose, but with some depth and darkness. Blackberry and black cherry with some bramble notes as well.

Taste: A little heavier up front than a Pinot should be; I suspect this has been stretched by 10% or 15% with some Syrah or Zin. Good fruit front to back, but the finish is too brambly and tough to be a good example of Pinot Noir.

This is fine for a big cocktail party, but I wouldn’t serve it with an elegant dinner. $5 is a ridiculously low price for Pinot Noir, since the grape is finicky and subject to a lot of damage in the fields, but even the private label buyers for TJ’s have their limits. If your budget for an event restricts you to $5 a bottle, you should resign yourself to skipping Pinot Noir and choosing a wine with better typicity.