100 Amazing Wines 2022: 20 pinot noirs
A note on the 2020 vintage: Smoke from summer wildfires tainted red grapes in some Sonoma County vineyards in 2020, and thin-skinned pinot noir grapes were the most vulnerable. Depending on location, atmospheric height of the smoke, clearing winds and other factors, many growers and wineries dodged the smoke bullet. But others, particularly in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs, didn’t harvest damaged grapes or rejected them when they arrived at the cellar. No smokiness or ashtray character was sensorially detected in tastings of the 2020 red wines recommended here. Prudent, trustworthy producers did not release wines suspected of being smoke-tainted, assuring consumers there is very little chance any of these bottlings aren’t in healthy condition.
Blue Farm Wines
2020 Anne Katherina Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir ($75)
Viticulturist Anne Moller-Racke has planted and managed vineyards throughout Sonoma County and spent several years expanding Donum Estate’s Carneros winegrowing program. Blue Farm is her own Sonoma County pinot noir project, which includes vineyard- and block-designated wines and a scintillating Laceroni Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($75). The most delicious and accessible pinot, upon release, is the Anne Katherina from Moller-Racke’s home vineyard. Multilayered and refined, it shows vibrant red and blackberry flavors, streamlined tannins and palate-refreshing natural acidity.
2019 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($62)
Dan Kosta left his Kosta Browne and AldenAlli wine brands to reinvent, once again, with Convene by Dan Kosta. With Shane Finley as winemaker (they’ve worked together for more than 15 years), Kosta and Convene are dedicated to blended wines, plus lesser amounts of vineyard-designates. Longtime relationships with North Coast growers give Kosta a leg up in finding outstanding-quality grapes without paying single-vineyard prices. Blending from multiple sources allows Finley to keep wine styles consistent and gives him more flexibility in the cellar. One of the first shots out of the Dan Kosta cannon is this Russian River pinot, and it’s a bull’s-eye: silky tannins, ripe cherry and red plum fruit, pomegranate notes and a pleasingly tart, lengthy finish.
Donum Estate TK
2019 Estate Carneros Pinot Noir ($100)
Over time, the 95-acre Donum vineyard in Carneros has been subdivided into specific blocks, in winemaker Dan Fishman’s drive to determine how differing soil types, exposures and elevations impact how the wines taste and smell. Call it terroir exploration; it’s led to the bottling of commercially sold wines that demonstrate Fishman’s theories. These wines — among them East Slope, West Slope, Mikado Tree and Three Hills — are pricey and usually offered only to wine club members. For those not in the club, try the blended estate pinot noir; it’s not inexpensive, but it dismisses the notion some have that Carneros pinots are light-bodied and lack depth. The Donum is full-bodied and tightly structured, displaying black cherry and dark plum, with hints of mocha and graphite.
2020 MacIntyre Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($79)
2020 was the 25th vintage for DuMOL, and the Windsor winery was fortunate to have avoided smoke issues in its multiple owned and grape-sourced vineyards. The MacIntyre smells and tastes of super-juicy boysenberry and blackberry, with notes of Luxardo cherry liqueur and pie spice. It’s full-bodied and firm and should benefit from cellaring. There are as many chardonnays in the range as pinot noirs, and all of them are beautiful and in great demand. Plus there are three very distinctive departures: a Sonoma Coast chenin blanc, Montecillo Vineyard Moon Mountain District cabernet sauvignon and an estate mencia, a Spanish variety cross between pinot noir and syrah.
2019 Mount Eden Clone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($50)
Dominic Xie, born in 1962 in the wine country of Ningxie Province, China, and his daughter, April Xie, run this winery in Russian River Valley. They acquired the former Cahill Estate in 2012, renamed it Ektimo (“to appreciate” in Greek) and later brought in Aaron Piotter as winemaker. From a single clone, Piotter created a wine with tangy red-berry flavors and a generous, juicy finish.
2018 Graton Ridge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($55)
Graton Ridge is proprietors Bob Zeches’ and Chad Richard’s estate vineyard, and they also buy grapes for their mostly single-vineyard pinot noirs. A warm, toasty-oak aroma leads to succulent, vibrant red berry, pomegranate and rhubarb. The tannins are silky, the finish long and the balance perfect.