Last night I decided to take a break from compiling over 40 entries for Wine Blogging Wednesday and do a quick blind tasting of two pinot noirs...one from Long Island and the other from the Russian River Valley.
Going in, I knew they'd most likely be quite different...most any Long Island winemaker who tries to make California-style wines is doomed to fail. Grapes simply don't ripen the same here and those who try to make warm-climate wines here usually end up with flabby, lifeless plonk. Yes, I know that not every California wine is made in the "California style" but stick with me here.
So, I grabbed these bottles from the 'cellar,' popped the corks, removed the foils, slapped paper bags on them, closed my eyes and moved them around...then wrote numbers on them. You need to close your eyes at some point if it's blind, right?
Regardless of process, I didn't have any way of knowing which was which...a situation aided by the fact that the same bottle shape/color was used for each.
Eyes: Medium-to-light ruby red and definitely the darker of the two wines
Nose: The nose offers raspberry, black cherry and some earthy notes. As the tasting wore on, I began to get aromas that I can only describe as garden and tomato leave-like.
Tongue: Velvety and somewhat lush with a little more tannin than I expected, it's spicy, cherry-filled and layerd with burnt toast flavors. Nena noted a hint of tar as well.
Guess: We both agreed that we thought this was the California bottling, 2003 Freeman Vineyard and Winery Pinot Noir
Lenn's Grade: B+
Nena's Grade: N/A
Eyes: Lighter brick/ruby red and slightly more translucent
Nose: Quite different, with cherry aromas accented by wet stone/mineral character and sweet baking spices
Tongue: Much more refined, and very smooth with well-integrated tannins. Flavors match the nose, with hints of cocoa and mocha sprinkled in as well.
Guess: Definitely the Castello di Borghese 2002 Reserve Pinot Noir, which is made with grapes from Hargrave Vineyard, Long Island's first commercial vineyard, planted in 1973.
Lenn's Grade: B+/A-
Nena's Grade: N/A
I was pretty confident in my guesses. While I've not tasted anywhere near as many California Pinot Noirs as I have Long Island wines...I thought I recognized a difference in style correctly. Nevertheless, I was a bit nervous as we unveiled the wines.
But, as you can see here, Nena and I picked them out...rather easily I might add. We were proud to have done so, but agreed that we liked both wines. We did like the CdB with the pork chops Nena made for dinner (sorry, no pics this time) but both are well-made, delicious wines.
It never ceases to amaze me how different two varietal wines can be depending on region, winemaking processes and terroir. The CdB pinot is as close to "old vines" as Long Island gets...and I think it's quite expressive of the region.