Our Wine Panel Rates Bottles of Pinot Noir

For our latest round of National Retailer Wine Panel reviews, we asked panelists to rate pinot noir.

As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store to store and market to market). Unless noted otherwise, the price reflects a 750-ml. bottle.

If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact managing editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 203-855-8499 x2225.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines:

(96) Fable Pinot Meunier 2016 (California). There’s not much of this grape produced as a varietal and this one is quite a treat! In Russian River Valley, the grapes are grown on the Dommen Vineyard, which is composed of deep, dusty red earth; the terroir shows nicely. The wine is vinified in a “Burgundian” fashion, with partial whole-cluster fermentation and indigenous yeasts. It is then left on its lees in neutral French oak barrels for 11 months. The color is a lovely bluish purple. There are intriguing aromas of dark fruit, sweet spice, mocha and a hint of orange zest. Flavors of baked cherry, cinnamon/ginger, coffee and mocha harmonize beautifully with supple tannins and bright acidity. This is very interesting and delightful wine that will complement lamb, game, duck or mild curries. It’s also nicely priced. ($19.99)

(96) Soter Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir 2015 (Oregon). Serious, intensely structured pinot that needs some time in the bottle. Full bodied, balanced acidity. Layers and layers of spice, herbs, cedar and blueberries. Decant first or cellar for a year or two. ($80)


(95) Calista “The Coast Range” Pinot Noir 2013 (California). The grapes are sourced from Sonoma, Mendocino and Monterey Counties, three great AVAs for pinot noir. The wine is fermented in small open-top fermenters and the cap is punched down twice daily. The wine is then aged in French barriques, 30% new, for 14 months. Stylistically, it’s quite Burgundian, with a pretty ruby color. Floral and red fruit aromas harmonize with hints of yeast and lightly toasted oak. Lovely flavors of cherry, strawberry and sweet spice gently coat the palate and finish with nuances of coffee and terroir that balance and linger with soft tannins and bright acidity. This is a very classy, complex wine that is approachable now and will pair with many cuisines. ($22.99)

(95) Twomey Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2015 (California). Absolutely stellar, elegant and seductive pinot noir from the Silver Oak people. Silky, smooth, aromatic ripe berries and a long, luscious finish. ($50)

(95) Miro Pinot Noir 2014 (California). In Anderson Valley, the cool-climate Conzelman Vineyard yields great pinot noir from three different clones. Winemaker Miro Tcholakov selected this vineyard to produce a big, rich style. Whole clusters are fermented with whole individual berries and inoculated for malolactic richness. The wine is then aged in 20% new French barriques for 14 months. Aromas of ripe red fruit, lilac, toasty oak and spices abound. On the palate, you’ll taste ripe cherry, raspberry, allspice and a hint of Mandarin along with a hint of vanilla. The finish is long with a perfect balance of supple tannins and sweet/tart acidity. ($29.99)

(95) Gary Farrell Russian River Selection 2015 (California). Deep and bright ruby in the glass. The nose is complex, with notes of bright red fruit, and a touch of herbs. In the mouth, this exceptional wine possesses lots of complexity, with more bright fruit, herbs and a touch of floral notes. The balancing acidity adds to the complexity and quality. ($45)

(95) Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir  2015 (France). An excellent example of real Burgundy that dispels the myth that Bourgogne is always expensive. The light ruby color is eye-catching. There is a bouquet of rose petal, wild red fruit, and “la garrigue.” Flavors of not-quite-ripe cherry and raspberry balance with subtle hints of allspice and minerality. The finish is lengthy with supple tannins and sweet/tart acidity. The wine is nice now, but will develop for two-to-three more years. ($19.99)

(95) EnRoute “Les Pommiers” 2015 (California). Deep ruby throughout the glass. The nose is comprised of dark berry, with a touch of sour cherry, and spice. The palate has good weight and wonderful balance. ($67)

(94) Brancott Estate Letter Series Pinot Noir 2016 (New Zealand). Intense ruby red, with purple notes. Lots of spicy black fruit on the nose, followed by a palate dominated by more of the same spice notes, and dark fruit. Great texture and a balanced finish make for a complete and well-produced wine. ($32)

(94) TULI Sonoma Pinot Noir 2015 (California). A beautiful wine that strikes you with plenty of black cherry, black currant fruit and a light-to-moderate tannin. This rich Sonoma pinot noir is packed with incredible power while being deep, full-bodied and spicy. ($29.99)

(94) Résonance 2015 (Oregon). French winemaking and excellent Oregon terroir (Willamette Valley) come together with this delicious wine. Bright, medium ruby, edge-to-edge. The nose is dominated by bright fruit, with elegant notes of floral and spice components. This profile follows through on the palate with balance and length. ($45)

(94) Martinborough Vineyards Home Block Pinot Noir 2014 (New Zealand). Bright, medium-dark ruby in the glass. The nose and palate exhibit great intensity, with complexity and balance. A wonderful example of New Zealand winemaking. ($65)

(93) Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune 2014 (France). The areas around the town of Beaune are justly famous for their elegance and sense of terroir. This is a prime example of Beaune character. Medium-bright ruby throughout the glass. Plenty of dark-berry fruit are exhibited on the nose and palate. Good acidity keeps everything in balance. Lovely now, with lots of potential for aging. ($29)

(93) Bouchard Père & Fils, Côte de Beaune Villages 2014 (France). Wonderfully Burgundian. Lighter in color in the glass, with bright ruby through and through. Elegance and delicacy are the perfect descriptors for both the nose and palate. A lovely example of why many people feel that Burgundy is the home of pinot noir. ($30)

(93) Coelho Atracao Willamette Pinot Noir (Oregon). Lively and tangy, with raspberry overtones to the strawberry and spice flavors. The fruit-forward palate and bold acidity meld together to create a long finish. ($24.99)

(93) Domaine Loubejac Barriques Willamette Pinot Noir 2016 (Oregon). Attractive nose with lively scents of wild raspberry, black cherry and herbal notes. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, crisp acidity. While restrained at first, it is very intense toward the finish. ($27.99)

(92) Errazuriz Pinot Noir Max, Aconcagua 2015 (Chile). Bright and clean. Ruby red in appearance, to the edge. Cherry, and other red fruits on the nose are echoed on the palate, with its good acidity and subtle textures. At this price, a real bargain. ($14)

(92) River Road Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir (California). This pinot noir has impressive flavors of black raspberries, and cherries. This is medium-bodied, dense, and a wonderfully textured pinot noir with a long finish. ($22.99)

(92) Siegel Special Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 (Chile). Bright ruby, a touch on the lighter side, in the glass. The nose and palate share a common theme of bright red fruit, with floral hints. The finish is bright, and very well balanced. An excellent Chilean pinot noir. ($18.99)

(92) Straight Shooter 2015 (Oregon). The aromas of raspberry, strawberry and ripe plum lead into a mouth full of the same, supported by supple tannins and a strong mineral backbone. This is real crowd pleaser that works with loads of dishes, including Asian cuisine. ($22) 

(92) Samuel Roberts Willamette Pinot Noir 2016 (Oregon). Bright and focused, showing lovely subtlety but not lacking in structure and flavor. A layer of light tannins underlies powerful notes of cherry and raspberry flavors; slight spice notes linger with the fruit on the finish. ($17.99)

Four Star Wines:

(91) Precipice Pinot Noir 2016 (California). On the nose and palate, the wine is soft and rich with plum, strawberry and a bright acidity. This pinot noir is medium-to-full bodied and has fine tannins and a lengthy finish. ($18.99)

(91) Verada Tri-County Pinot Noir (California). Rich, deep and complex, with notes of cherry, blackberry and a range of spices on a lush texture. Excellent integration of oak with notes of vanilla lingering on the finish. ($17.99)

(91) Fire Road Pinot Noir 2016 (New Zealand). Dark and bright ruby red, across the glass. The nose and palate share a common thread of cherry and bright berry fruit. The finish is balanced, with elements of spice, texture and balancing acidity. Excellent for the price! ($15)

(91) Kudos Willamette Pinot Nori 2016 (Oregon). Sprightly and elegantly structured, with expressive dark cherry and red berry aromas. Matching the nose, the flavors of cherry pick up depth and energy toward a spicy finish. ($19.99)

(91) Grove Pinot Noir 2016 (Oregon). This pinot noir offers an impressive nose and matching palate of floral notes, black cherry and black raspberry. Medium-bodied, fine and fresh on the palate, this is a refreshing balanced wine. ($18.99)

(91) Domaine Loubejac Willamette Pinot Noir 2016 (Oregon). Opening with an outstanding bouquet of rose petal, cherry and raspberry. Zesty and medium-bodied on the palate, it displays a savory flavor and long finish. ($19.99)

(90) A to Z Pinot Noir 2014 (Oregon). Complex flavors of cherry, cranberry and currant with ripe, juicy spice and tannins. Nice long finish. ($20)

(90) Beringer Founders Pinot Noir 2016 (California). Affordable introduction to pinot noir. Well balanced — lots of ripe, juicy fruit — easy to sip. Great with grilled salmon or your favorite meatloaf. ($10) 

(90) Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva 2014 (Chile). Sourced from some of the highest elevations in Casablanca, this cool, austere pinot overdelivers. Much like a pommard, it is driven by minerals and dark fruit. Try it with grilled salmon. ($17.95)

 (89) Mas La Cheveliere 2015 (France). Made by the LaRoche folks of Chablis, their ultra-modern winery in Beziers, France, is light, fragrant and delicious pinot. High marks for the cost. An every-day winner. ($12.95)

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of StateWays magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Meet Jaiker Soto, Who’s Innovating Rum For Modern Palates.


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