.Review: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Extended Mix

Followup to "wine pairing for the vital wheat gluten gobbler," from Swirl's cellar o' samples.

In this week’s Swirl we looked at wine pairings for meatless wonders. Turns out, the familiar Burgundian dyad of Pinot and Chard hits most of the right notes with Turtle Island Foods Tofurky and Field Roast brand Celebration Roast, with all the trimmings. Here’s a longer list of samples from 2011 and 2012, rated up to five stars (asterisks).

Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir

“It’s a perfectly good crop, and they’re screwing it up!” a winemaker complained to me in the fall of 2012. He was talking about the overabundant grapes some growers were hanging on their vines to make up for the skimpy, supposedly poor 2011 harvest. Here is no apples-to-apples comparison, to be sure, but let’s see how the years compare:

2011 Francis Ford Coppola “Director’s” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($17) Chilled lemon cheesecake aroma with muted butterscotch and oak, peppermint candy cane. Golden Delicious apple, bit of a sweet palate, plus tangy citrus zip. Nice. ***1/2

2011 La Crema Monterey Chardonnay ($20) Nutty, peanut brittle. Or musty? Soft, billowy palate, lemon-apple. ***

2012 Murphy-Goode California Chardonnay ($14) Concession stand “butter,” a little toasty oak; drinking a tub of kettle corn. If you like this flavor, this is the ticket. **1/2

2011 “Director’s Cut” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($21) Muted sulfur, hamper aroma. Cidery flavor, but hot. Recommend the “Director’s.” **1/2

2012 Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay ($34.75) Floral, toasty oak and buttery pie crust, green apple skin; thick, lemon-custard palate, trending bitter. **1/2

Jordan 2011 RRV Chardonnay ($30) Touted as a top restaurant wine, the smoky, oaky, burnt butter-soaked Jordan was frankly unpleasant on its own. But this was also tasted with the faux fowl products, and we agreed that it was better with food. Pretty good, actually—guess they know what they’re doing. **1/2

2012 KJ “Vintner’s Reserve” California Chardonnay ($17) Ye olde ever-popular Chard seems to have ceded the signature style to others. Murky, old barrel smell with slightly tingly-sweet palate and hard, bitter edge. **

2012 KJ “Avant” Unoaked Chardonnay ($17) I smell oak, buttered oak. Nutty, soggy cashew, too, going down with cloying, butterscotch candy. What, why? **

2012 Martin Ray Unoaked RRV Chardonnay ($16.99) Nice lemon blossom notes, but nowhere near the zippy style implied by the “unoaked” label, this also flops all over. **

2012 Balverne RRV Estate Reserve Pinot Noir ($50) Translucent cherry glaze color with aroma to match, fennel spice, and sweet cherry lollipop flavor. It’s a nice quaff. ***

2012 Murphy-Goode California Pinot Noir ($15) Quite similar to the Balverne, but smokier, with vanilla and cherry, and an odd plummy gummy candy note in there. Easy to like. ***

2011 La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir ($23) Dark strawberry jam, vanilla, cinnamon. Inviting; darkly tannic. ***

2011 Cambria “Bench Break” Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($34) Rosemary, pine sap aromas, with currants, turn to licorice after a day. For prime rib, not lentil loaf. ***

2011 Martin Ray Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($NA) Kinda closed; cool red fruit smelled through charcoal and horse blanket. Pure palate, though, promising; start your “cellar” with this one. **1/2

2011 Pedroncelli RRV Pinot Noir ($NA) Light-bodied, not awful. **


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