Top Ten Pinot Noirs of 2016

I tend to taste and drink a lot of wine over the course of a year.  I am in a few tasting groups, sometimes the wines are consumed at various local wine store tastings and a number drunk with friends and family.  Early on, it was evident that the best way to pay attention and also to remember what wines were consumed was to write a tasting note.  Over the years, I have written well over 10,000 tasting notes probably representing 70% of the wines I have tasted.  I make no pretense about the quality of the notes, but sip by sip and bottle by bottle, the notes have gotten a bit better.  It always interesting at the end of the year to go back and review what wines were consumed and which ones I liked the best – overall and in categories.  In 2016 I wrote 1,334 tasting notes.  Thanks to computers, I can sort and select them down into various lists.  I give you these to use as you wish – suggestions, comments, and reasons to laugh or disagree. 

Caveat - I have for the most part not repeated wines that were tasted multiple times or the same wine from a different but close vintage in an effort to list more wines for those looking for suggestions.  I drink, for the most part, what my wife and I like, so did I miss out on categories or specific wines?  You bet.  There is a lot of great wine out there and one can’t drink it all.  Part of the fun is seeing, over the years, how tastes change, finding new discoveries, following the development of vintages but most of all, just enjoying this special beverage. Cheers! - Loren Sonkin

1.  2012 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

My favorite of the line-up by a hair over the 2013. This is ripe. For all the talk about how Jamie is making lower alcohol Pinot's, and that may be true, this has a lot of ripe fruit as well. Cherries, dark cherries, spice and roasted herbs on the nose. The palate has a great slick texture. Cherries and dark cherries with slight oak showing. Long finish. Easy and accessible yet a lot of depth and complexity. It may get better but it is great right now. (95 pts.) 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

2.  2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains

I have long since drifted away from drinking much Pinot. My wife doesn't like it, and it’s not my favorite either. It would be different if they were all this good! Still young with some upside possible. Purple/ruby in color. The nose has dark cherries, some cranberries, some blueberries which is a fascinating mix. Some baking spices and some summer savory spice. On the palate, a seamless texture. Light tannins. Dark cherries and cherry fruit with slight moist tea/forest floor. Great acidity and balance. Long finish. And just delicious. As it sits in the glass it unwinds and shows some complexity. Saved a bit (it was hard) just to see where it is with some air on Day 2. Outstanding. (95 pts.) 

3.  2012 Sineann Pinot Noir Reserve Resonance Vineyard - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley

Ruby/purple in color. The nose has cherries and cherry juice. A bit tight but opens quickly. On the palate, it is the deepest, most complex wine on the table. It has a modern feel to it (not that the term makes much sense in an Oregon context). Big, juicy, cherry and dark cherry fruit. A hint of sour fruit. Slight tannins. Very clean. Long finish. Delicious. I think this wine has a twenty years left under its glass stopper. I say that based on how well the 02's are drinking now under cork, and the vineyard and the vintage. I only have a couple left so I doubt I will know. I will say, if you like the bigger side of Oregon Pinot, track down an older vintage of this. [i][b](94 pts.)[/b][/i] 

4.  2012 Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Noir Maresh Vineyard - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills

What a pretty wine. I have this vineyard from a few producers and it seems that everyone finds a way to express their view of Oregon Pinot from it. Ruby in color, slightly light. On the nose, this is very pretty and almost ethereal of that make sense. Wisps of cherries and floral notes with a slight tarragon note. On the palate, there is a lovely light cherry note with a lot of depth and complexity. With air, a sour cherry note emerges in an almost, but not quite candied way. It is quite energetic as it seems to hop from point to point in the glass. It is here and there at the same time. Great acidity. It still seems young, but if you have more than one, I would drink it now. Quite amazing how feminine but powerful this is. Very different from the Maresh Winery version. (94 pts.) 

5.  2010 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills

This took an hour or so to open after popping the cork (not decanted). Ruby in color. The nose is lovely with cherries and some raspberries. Soft texture. A lovely, pretty complexity with cherries, sherry juice and slight earthiness. Slight tannins. Really impressive that such a pretty wine stood out so well among some bigger Rhone wines. Long finish. Still quite young though, I would hold these. (94 pts.) 

6.  2002 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton

Hey, this wine has finally come around and is ready to drink. Seems like it has taken 15 years and its only really been around 13. This bottle anyway was drinking great. Everything I want from this vineyard and producer and region. Good cherry, some sour cherry fruit. An underlying clean earthiness. Great freshness and acidity. Showing layers of complexity. I would imaging it has a decade and more left in it. (94 pts.) 

7.  2002 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru

Drinking quite nicely right now as pop and pour. Hard to believe the 2002 is almost 15 years old. No hurry and it probably has some room for improvement. This bottle was bought on release. The nose is more about raspberries than cherries although with air some cherries emerge. The fruit is still fresh. Only the slightest merde note. A good amount of spice as well. On the more feminine side, it has a nice softness to it. While there is enough acidity, it is not strong. The palate is ripe cherries with depth and tight layering. Good finish. Lovely with my food. A sip about an hour later showed it was still building in strength. (93 pts.) 

8.  2013 Bevan Cellars Pinot Noir Petaluma Gap - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast

This would not a Pinot for Burgundy lovers, that's for sure. The nose has black raspberries, black cherries and sandalwood. The flavors on the palate match. Some tannins. This is big and fruit filled and one of the more open and accessible 2013's I have had so far. Bevan's always seem to drink great early and this is true here as well. I liked it very much but it is a different take on Pinot, even for CA. (93 pts.) 

9.  2005 Serafin Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin

Serafin is always a favorite around here. This wine did again not disappoint. Ruby/purple in color. Nice black cherry and cherry fruit on the nose with a bit of soy. On the palate, some tannins, plenty of cherry and dark cherry fruit. Good acidity. Tightly layered. Nice finish. Drinking good now, but should improve. (92 pts.) 

10.  2005 Gérard Raphet Chambolle-Musigny - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny

Really great showing for this wine. Seems like it is just about ready to drink. Such a pretty wine. Light ruby in color. The nose has cherries, slight powdered cherry drink, a touch of floral notes (cherry blossoms?) and a hint of earthiness. On the palate, that feminine cherry quality comes thru. A perfumed cherry quality on the palate that is both delicate and yet persistent. Nice balance. Nice finish. This was $48 bought on release and between the vintage and cellaring outperformed my expectations. (92 pts.)