We all know cost has almost nothing to do with the quality of wine, right?
Yeah, well, meet the Domaine Serene Pinot Noir product line, which progresses from price point to price point with an almost engineered precision. No confusion here, and no one is going to come away surprised to find that one of the cheaper wines was better than the flagship.
I tasted three, from the lowest price point to the highest. All three were terrific, but every step up brought what TV marketers used to call “more of what you’re looking for.”
Yamhill Cuvee 2008 ($35 – $40) — Subtle, without a lot of nose and a flavor that is almost ghostly. Very clean with fruit that gives the impression of sweetness. A very nice, sitting-on-the-porch Pinot, simple and undemanding.
Evanstad Reserve 2007 ($50 – $60) — You know that button on your old stereo: “loudness.” It amped-up the bass and midrange to give a fuller, denser sound. Going from the Yamhill to the Evanstad is like pushing the loudness button. Suddenly, everything is more vivid. The nose is dark and funky with a smack of oak. The wine is fuller in the mouth, vivid without being vulgar. The tannins are bold for a Pinot, a bit of a challenge that takes something away from the experience. I’d counsel giving it a year or two in the basement to teach it a lesson.
Winery Hill 2008 ($75 – $85) – The flavors have changed, moving into the shadowland of pipe tobacco and dark fruit. The acidity is brighter, the tannins better behaved, and the fruit unapologetic. But what’s striking is that the character of the wine has changed. Take the Evanstad and paint-in a little grey at the temples. The Winery Hill is overlaid with depth and gravitas. It’s an “I am what I am” wine for grown-ups in a thoughtful mood, a good example of why Pinot Noir inspires an almost mystical fanaticism.
I tasted the wines at the Vanguard Wines LLC portfolio tasting, so paid nothing for them. To avoid being corrupted, I stayed away from the buffet. There wasn’t any shrimp anyway, so what the hell.
More notes from that tasting to follow.