Robb Report Vices

Pinot Noir that Can Stand Up to Your Steak

  • Shaun Tolson

We’ve never much enjoyed traditional tasting notes. Sure, they have their place, and when done right, they can be helpful. Too often, however, they feel as if the writer is simply showing off, using the page—or in this case, the screen—as a medium to broadcast his or her advanced palate to the world. Furthermore, those tasting notes can squash the prospect of discovery. We’re certain that after reading through a long list of dominant and underlying notes for a particular vintage, you’ll pour yourself a glass and wind up searching for those flavors. What you should do—and what makes wine tasting fun—is approach a bottle with a clear mind and let the wine speak to you. So as we step down from our soapbox, we will simply say that what follows is a resounding recommendation for two divergent Pinot Noirs crafted by La Follette in Healdsburg, Calif. We’ve included some basic descriptions of each, to help guide you to wine styles that you enjoy, but we’ve kept those tasting notes brief, we promise!

The winery’s Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir is as soft as a baby’s bottom (in a palate-pleasing way), but it remains well balanced and delivers the typical characteristics of the varietal. The 2011 vintage offers up dominant notes of sweet berries, which blend with moderate tannins for a structured wine from first sip to final reflection. Sangiacomo is a delicate Pinot—one that reflects the cool growing season that defined the Sonoma Coast three years ago. After 10 months in French oak barrels and three years in the bottle, this wine is ready to drink, though it certainly has the body to support a longer cellar life.

By contrast, the 2010 vintage of La Follette’s Van der Kamp Pinot Noir is anything but subtle. This layered and savory expression smacks you in the face with bold Zinfandel-like characteristics—a hint of smoke and a healthy dose of pepper—which left us begging for more. Unlike in a Zinfandel, though, those aggressive flavors quickly soften and transition to earthy notes paired with hints of currant. The Sonoma Mountain tannins at the finish suggest that this wine offers considerable aging potential, but harnessing such restraint won’t be easy. If you’d rather enjoy this wine now (and we can’t fault you for that), a 2-hour decanting period does wonders. Ten years of cellaring time is a lot to ask, but 2 hours? We think you can handle that.

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