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.

Rhys 2021 Pinot Noir, Bearwallow Vineyard

Vintage: 
2021
Score: 
93
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$105.00USD

With vineyards in both Santa Cruz and Mendocino counties, Rhys can pull from a variety of sources to make a variety of Pinot Noir. With Bearwallow, their vineyard in the Anderson Valley, there is a delicate and quite lovely feel to this – something as smooth as silk. The softness texturally belies its layered complexity. Yes there is the requisite black cherry, boysenberry, loganberry and light strawberry, but there is also black tea leaf, light resin and sandalwood.

Whitehall Lane 2020 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Stage Vineyard, Petaluma Gap

Vintage: 
2020
Score: 
93
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$45.00USD

As Pinot Noir goes, this is quite simply a very pretty wine. Sure, that’s not the sort of descriptor that most reviews use, but it is accurate. Subtle, soft, almost subversive, this is a Pinot that doesn’t announce itself, it doesn’t brag, it simply waits in the glass for you to try it. There is noticeable but subdued fruit; black cherry, pomegranate, Rainer cherry, light strawberry, pomegranate but they are wonderfully melded together so that nothing stands out – except for the quality of the wine in your glass at that moment.

2021 Forge Cellars Pinot Noir Classique, USA, New York, Finger Lakes, Wine Review

Vintage: 
2021
Score: 
87
Grade: 
B
Current Price: 
$35.00USD

As temperatures rise, the Finger Lakes is positioned well to make very good Pinot Noir's on a more consistent basis.  The biggest challenge is having to deal with late spring frosts and early autumn hail.  This one is good if not great.  From what I have been told, this  was a cool, wet vintage in the Finger Lakes.  Light ruby in color, clear and bright.  It looks to already have some bricking.  The nose has cherries and a curious dandelion note.  Light to medium bodied.  Light tannins.  On the palate, a bit of cherry fruit with a fresh plantlike green streak.  It would undoubtedly work bet

2022 J. K. Carriere Pinot Noir Vespidae, USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Wine Review

Vintage: 
2022
Score: 
92
Grade: 
A-
Current Price: 
$50.00USD

This is the flagship wine, 100% Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.    Deep garnet in color, mostly opaque and night.  The  nose is dusty with black cherries.  Light tannins.  Good balance.  On the palate, black cherries and cherries with a musky quality that is interesting.  Good finish.  This is an earthy, musky Pinot that Burgundy lovers might really enjoy.  It is nice on its own but would be better with food.  It would work well with some soft, stinky cheese.  Drink over the next ten years.  

2022 Cristom Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvée, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola-Amity Hills, Wine Review

Vintage: 
2022
Score: 
93
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$39.00USD

This is a nice, middle-of-the-road in style, Pinot Noir.  Cristom's flagship Pinot is generally a good value and high quality.  Purple/ruby in color, mostly opaque and bright.  The nose has cherries, sandalwood and slight baking spices.  Firm tannins.  Soft texture.  Good balance.  On the palate, great cherry fruit with some spice and just a hint of forest floor.  This is very young and needs air or more cellaring.  That said, it is very enjoyable and drinks well on its own.  It will also work well with many foods from grilled salmon to roasted fowl.  Drink over the next eight to fifteen ye

Sea Smoke 2021 Pinot Noir, Southing

Vintage: 
2021
Score: 
92
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$95.00USD

This Pinot Noir drinks like Santa Barbara with a little bit of Oregon. The cool climate of the Santa Rita Hills allows for the development of pomegranate, rhubarb, black cherry, and green and black tea leaves, while its earthiness and minerality are the best attributes of Oregon Pinot Noir. Here the Southing, which has matured greatly over the years, stands apart of the run of the mill Pinot Noir. If you’ve ever been to Santa Barbara you can see the layer of clouds that hug the mountains like a blanket. Underneath that blanket are the Sea Smoke vineyards that were planted 25 years ago.

Argyle 2019 Brut Sparkling Wine, Knudsen Vineyard

Vintage: 
2019
Score: 
92
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$60.00USD

Founded in 1987, Argyle wanted to make sparkling wines that could hold their own with Champagne. Comprised of mainly Pinot Noir, there is 4% Chardonnay blended in with this 2019. What at first seems a mild sparkler, with notes of brioche bread, soft lemon and mild apricot, reveals a different side. The stone fruits and minerality come out mid palate and finish strong. Acidity is the real story here revealed with this wine, making this ideal with a variety of foods.

Lucas and Lewellen 2021 Pinot Noir

Vintage: 
2021
Score: 
91
Grade: 
A
Current Price: 
$25.00USD

Santa Barbara is Pinot Noir country, and the range of expressions in this county are varied. One of the stalwarts, having first started in 1975, is Lucas & Lewellen. For an inexpensive Pinot Noir, L&L does an admirable job of crafting a tightly wound Pinot with excellent fruit, good acidity, and oak influence (a mere 10 months in oak, only a small portion of which was new French) which doesn’t break the bank.

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