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California’s 2009 Pinot Noirs Might Be Best Ever, Wine Spectator Says

July 6, 2011

Wine Spectator is completing its work on rating California’s 2009 Pinot Noirs, and Senior Editor and lead California taster James Laube says more than 50 percent of the Pinots reviewed thus far have been ranked outstanding or better (90 points and above)—an unprecedented number. In a typical vintage, Wine Spectator tastes more than 600 wines in its rating process, though it tasted nearly 700 in the highly acclaimed 2007 vintage. “Out of the gate, based on the 2009 California Pinots I’ve tasted so far, it’s clearly one of the state’s most successful vintages to date,” Laube said. “The off-the-chart numbers don’t lie.”

Laube credits a near-perfect 2009 growing season as the main reason for such high quality. “It was an easier year than 2008, where uneven ripening, spring frosts and summer wild fires contributed to the challenge of making great wines, though a surprising number of 2008s offset those that lacked balance,” Laube added.

Will 2009 be the best-ever vintage for California Pinot Noir? Enthusiasm is high, though some vintners are withholding judgment. Ted Lemon, owner of Sonoma County-based Littorai wines, touted the “extraordinary” 2001, 2002 and 2003 vintages and noted that “the discussion boils down to whether we define ‘great’ as how they taste upon release, or at full maturity.” While that verdict may take years, the outlook for 2009 is excellent.

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