Private Tasting: California Pinot Noir

By Kori ~ January 5th, 2010.

2007 Lionheart Wines Pinot Noir and 2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot NoirRecently, we had what turned out to be a California Pinot Noir showdown in one of our private tasting dinners pitting the 2007 Lionheart Wines Pinot Noir against the 2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. We liked both of these wines, but all four of us preferred the Lionheart. In fact, we thought it was excellent, one of the best Pinots we’ve ever had! Both wines paired well with Mom’s dinner of spicy chicken casserole and braised kale. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.

Mom (LaGayle) and Dad (John) discovered Cambria Estate Winery on their road trip through the Central Coast of California in 2008. They thought that Cambria was one of the most scenic stops on their trip and enjoyed a number of their wines. Cambria produces about 250,000 cases per year. Owner Barbara Banke founded Cambria Estate Winery in 1986. Julia’s Vineyard, named after Barbara’s youngest daughter, is located on the cooler, western end of the Cambria Estate.

Later in 2008, Dad and I discovered Lionheart Wines when we attended the first-ever North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma, California. Lionheart Wines, located in Half Moon Bay, California, was founded in 2005 by owner/winemaker Leon C. Glover III. Leon taught himself about winemaking through reading books on the subject, taking the WSET Diploma course, and being a cellar rat for two harvests at Crushpad, a custom crush facility in San Francisco. Leon is making some excellent wines, including this Pinot. A small boutique winery, Lionheart produces about 300 cases each year.

2007 Lionheart Wines Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California): Very aromatic with cherry, raspberry, and cotton candy coming through on the nose; cranberry, raspberry, and spice on the palate. Medium-bodied and medium tannins with lively acidity. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish. One of the best Pinots I’ve ever had.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $40; K&L Wine Merchants (California), $34.99

2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley, California): Aromatic with lots of strawberries on both the nose and palate, a bit of earth on the back end as well. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, lively acidity, and a long finish. Simple, yet pleasant.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $20; Available elsewhere, $15 to $26

Filed under: American Wine, California Wine, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $25

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