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Fifth Pittsburgh Tasting - Blind Pinot Noir

Updated January 24, 2010

The fifth Pittsburgh-area PAWineTalk tasting, held on Friday January 22nd, was quite educational. As a group we learned three things:

Building on the success of the last blind tasting, our host bigred chose a blind Pinot Noir tasting. Seventeen people tasted seventeen bottles, the largest turnout to date. As before, corks and foils were removed and bottles bagged in advance. Some wines were also decanted.


In an effort to avoid multiple bottles of the same wine, various people declared in the PAWineTalk Forum what they were intending to bring. Despite best efforts, one pair of identical bottles still did manage to slip though. However, that didn’t stop our crew of experienced tasters from forming differing opinions of those two! More on that later.

As the tasting got underway, several folks threw caution to the wind and boldly predicted that various wines were, in fact, Pinot Noir. There was some debate however as to whether one wine was actually a Merlot or Meritage.

The restaurant, Pizzutti, in Shadyside, provided wonderful food and excellent service in a nice if somewhat crowded dining room, right up to the point when the owner informed us that we had been there for 3 1/2 hours and they needed the tables. Some uncomfortable dialog ensued and most folks left while six stragglers agreed to move to the bar that had neither chairs nor wine glasses (although a few of the latter were eventually produced). Only after leaving and looking at a clock did we realized that we had only been there 2 1/2 hours at the time when we were evicted. So despite the truly excellent three-cheese ravioli, a return visit seems rather unlikely.


The wines were:


There was one additional wine tasted, Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley 2006. It was not tasted blind, rather, some clown brought it along for comparison and opened it after all the wines had been revealed. It was not included in any of the voting.

Several wines received one or two votes for wine of the night but couldn’t muster a majority, including “G” Casa Marin Cartagena, “D” Erath Estate Selection, and “F” Freeman Vineyard & Winery. The popular choice for wine of the night was “P” Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast 2007. Whether it justified the PLCB’s $78 asking price, however, remained an individual decision. Many people felt redeemed however, that even in a blind tasting their favorite was among - if not the - most expensive and highly rated wines. But perhaps more revealing was that some of the other favorite wines were considerably cheaper, while other expensive wines didn’t fare as well.

Undoubtedly, the bottle of the night was “D” Erath Estate Selection. The empty bottle weighed almost as much as some of the others when full!

The burgundies as a group had a poor showing. While there were no Grand Crus, there were four 1er Crus with the remaining a Villages, and the two most recent noteworthy vintages were represented, 2002 and 2005. None received any votes for wine of the night, and a couple were simply not enjoyed. Some people commented that burgundies often fare better with food, while others said they had a hard time getting past the prices.

As mentioned earlier, the “A” and “F” bottles were identical, with the "F" receiving one vote for wine of the night while “A” did not get any. One taster scored "A" an 85 and "F" 89. There's always the possibility that "F" could have been stored in a wine cellar and "A" on top of a radiator, but it is also entirely possible that peoples' tastebuds simply got tired through the course of the evening. It should be noted that the wines were not tasted in the order above. With so many people and so many wines, it was more of a free-for-all.

Overall it was a fun and enlightening event. Rumblings about the next tasting seemed to be leaning towards Cabernets. Stay tuned!

NOTE: Once you submit a comment, it cannot be edited or deleted!


1. tonypoli - January 23, 2010 11:19PM

Great fun. My first PAWineTalk tasting, but will definitely not be my last. I will step out on a limb and predict that, if the next tasting is of Cabernets, there will be those who boldly throw caution to the wind, and guess "Cab." (Reading the recap was almost as much fun as being there. Bravo.)

2. jonradus - January 23, 2010 11:33PM

It truly was a spectacle. I'd like to throw out a special thanks to Big Red - props on putting this show on. I'm really looking forward to the cab tasting. Hopefully we (by "we", of course I mean Big Red) can put it together relatively soon. I've got some worthy cabs in my cellar waiting to be opened...

3. J2K - January 24, 2010 12:07AM

Had a great time last night! It's not often you get to taste so many wines from different regions in a wide price range with other wine geeks. Whose turn is it to organize the next one?? I'm down with the Cabs, we could call the gathering Cab(in) Fever!! You know because of the snow, cold weather, and cabernets....uh....yea. small correction, the Casa Marin Chilean Pinot (G) was a 2005 not 2008 plcb#10508

4. admin - January 24, 2010 9:38AM

> the Casa Marin Chilean Pinot (G) was a 2005 not 2008 plcb#10508

Corrected, thanks for the update J2K.

5. dontime - January 24, 2010 10:20AM

Much fun other than being asked to leave too early. Funny how my notes got less and less detailed (and harder to read) as the night wore on. I'm up for organizing the next and suggested a blind Cab - Cab(in) Fever I can't take credit for - at a location down by Meadowlands. If that sounds okay to most, I'll start the planning.

6. jonradus - January 24, 2010 12:22PM

That sounds good to me. I'm fine with doing another blind tasting since it was so much fun, however, I thought I'd throw out another cab tasting idea to get everyone thinking. We could do a Napa cab horizontal/vertical tasting, comparing different makers and vintages. We could choose three successive years and bring five different Napa cabs from each year. Each participant would be assigned one year to bring. Or, we could even mix in new world v. old world, using California cab v. French Bordeaux. I'm game for anything. Any other ideas?

7. bigred - January 24, 2010 2:11PM

Hey all -
First, great article/recap of the night's event.

Second, my apologies for the "early eviction". Despite my best efforts in attempting to reason with the owner moments before everyone arrived, I was not confident that we would have our 'section' of the room for as long as we needed, although thought I had secured in my previous conversations with the restaurant. Just disappointing customer service. Of course, the fact that the party next to us was grossly overbooked did not help our situation.

I am glad to hear some found refuge later on at the bar. Don't believe we will patronize Pizzutti's again; but I believe all in all it seemed everyone had a good time. Look forward to the next outing.

8. Hawk - January 24, 2010 2:41PM

Great night and company. Learned a lot about Pinot. Really not a bad wine in the group- just some I enjoyed more than others. My favorite was the Selyem (P), closely followed by Montinore (C), DeLoach (H), Casa Marin (G) and Baileyana (O). I thought a couple of the burgundies would have benefitted from more time in the cellar. Look forward to our next event.

9. Mark - January 24, 2010 6:59PM

Bigred, no apologies necessary it was a great event. And to think, my own Nuts-Saint-George was my least favorite of the evening. Dontime I think you're elected for Cab(in) Fever, why don't you start a new Forum topic. Jonradus, a vertical sounds fun as well, maybe for #7?

10. jlburd - January 24, 2010 9:49PM

I second Mark's emotion, no apology necessary. By this time I've told no less than a dozen people to steer clear. I'm still not sure I get all the Pinot mystique, but what an interesting grape! Following on jonradus' idea - maybe choose a couple of Napa Cab blends instead of Bordeaux. Many will blend the same 5 grapes but don't require your hitting the lottery before buying.

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