This posting considers an:
A to Z 2008 “Oregon” Pinot Noir ($20), a
Cloudline 2008 “Oregon” Pinot Noir ($20) and a
Louis Latour 2008 Pinot Noir (Vin de Bourgogne) ($15).
Here’s the quick bottom line: these three reasonably priced and widely available wines made from the pinot noir grape are all Worth Considering, but don’t expect anything particularly wonderful from any of them. The first two, as the designations indicate, are blended wines made from grapes grown in various vineyards in the state of Oregon, not all of which are necessarily located in the prime Willamette Valley region. The third is a wine made from pinot noir grapes grown in France that is specifically intended for the U.S. market. (The same or a similar wine marketed in France would not have the words “Pinot Noir” displayed on its label.)
As usual, two of us (in this instance) blind tasted these pinots over a two-day period, resealing the partially consumed wines between the first and second dinner. Here’s what my co-panelist, who did not know what they were or how much they cost, had to say after trying them the first time around:
“These are not the best wines that I’ve had. I don’t think that any of them are top rate.” But (the one that turned out to be the Louis Latour) was ‘more approachable’ and (the one that turned out to be the A to Z) was ‘more interesting, but not approachable.’” This individual went on to describe what was eventually revealed to be the Cloudline as “just kind of there.”
Both us agreed that the light, bright Louis Latour offering remained very consistent over the two-day period. It was red-fruit focused, a bit more acidic than the two Oregon pinots and its finish was just a touch sour, but not unpleasantly so. This is a very light-bodied pinot, hovering just above being so light as to be unpleasantly thin.
On the first night, I found the Cloudline to be nicely balanced, but not terribly interesting in terms of flavor. Like the Louis Latour, it leaned toward the red side of the pinot noir flavor spectrum, but it was noticeably heavier and a bit sweeter than the French wine. In contrast, the A to Z was a distinctly darker and less acidic wine than the Cloudline, but at the same time it also seemed a little dull.
On the second night, as mentioned above, the Louis Latour was basically unchanged. But the Cloudline, which I had liked best the first time around, had developed an unpleasant flavor almost to the point of being “off.” This was a big disappointment. The A to Z, on the other hand, had opened up, displaying more flavors and becoming more balanced in an overall sense. I was pleasantly surprised and happy to finish that bottle while disposing of what remained of the Cloudline.
My companion once again placed the Louis Latour, which was now very easy to identify, first.
All three of these wines, by the way, are listed as being 13% alcohol by volume.
If you purchase the Louis Latour pinot noir, drink it soon. Don’t let the fruit fade with time – there just isn’t enough there. This is an affordable pinot for informal consumption in circumstances where wine is not the main event. Serve it with relatively light fare, such as a dinner salad.
If you buy the A to Z, open it well before you intend to drink it and consider pouring it into a decanter and swirling it around before serving it. If it gets enough oxygen and is given time to open up, I think you’ll be pleased with this one -- if you like darker pinots that aren’t particularly acidic. This one can go with a meat-based main course.
I really don’t know what to say about the Cloudline. In most instances, wines in this price range are purchased for immediate consumption on one particular evening. If that’s your plan, it may be just fine, but it’s nothing special – a disappointment considering the fact that Oregon’s 2008 vintage has been rated one of the state’s best.