Fleming’s Steakhouse Pinot Noir Smackdown

I was recently invited to taste some of the Pinot Noirs put on the new Fleming’s 100 wines by the glass list. Having gone through my Pinot Noir phase before it’s popularity skyrocketed in 2004 with the release of the movie “Sideways” it takes a lot to impress me specifically a well-balanced Pinot that is not to oaky and toasty and more fruit driven.

With 8 wines tasted 7 were from California and Oregon and 1 was from New Zealand and here is what I thought of them….

2009 Garnet from Monterey County is made from all estate grown fruit near the Santa Lucia Highlands this wine was medium in body with a hint of spice, good fruit and dry. It finished smooth and had a bit of hazelnuts and cedar.

2010 A to Z Wineworks sources their fruit from at least 16 different Oregon vineyards. It had a nice nose of berries, made like most Oregon wines in a Burgundian style emphasizing toasty oak and minerals it was drier and powerful.

The 2009 Three Saints from Santa Maria Valley was a favorite. Made from all estate grown fruit from vineyards not far from the Pacific, that leads to cool ocean breezes and a longer growing season adding complex flavors. This wine was a was big, with hints of strawberries on the nose and on the palate along with wildflower aromas.

2009 MacMurray Ranch in the Sonoma Coast area was once owned by actor Fred Macmurray of TVs “My 3 Sons”. This wine is aged in both American and European oak and has a ruby color. With easy current and berry flavors this wine was well-balanced.

The 2009 Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard” from Santa Maria Valley is a Cab drinkers Pinot as it’s full-bodied with big oak and toast is very obvious. It’s aromas of cherries and berries give way to vanilla and cinnamon ion the palate along with some earthy flavors before its long finish.

2009 Migration is made by Duckhorn Vineyards and the fruit comes from the cool climate of Anderson Valley. It’s another big Pinot and is both spicy and fruity. The acidity makes for good food pairing along with a smoky finish and dry finish this would also make a cab drinker happy.

The 2010 Belle Glos “Meiomi” sources fruit from up and down the coast in all Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties. Owned by Caymus Vineyards Wagner family, it’s made by 3rd generation winemaker and grandson of the founders Joe Wagner. This wine is medium in body, with a good fruit finish. It’s a good representation of the families traditional wine making along with 21st century innovation. Its long finish is worth savoring.

The 2010 Saint Clair “Vicar’s Choice” from Marlborough, New Zealand was the only imported Pinot and has a very old world nose and style. Known for their Sauvignon Blanc they are gaining a reputation for Pinot Noir as this wine has already garnered 2 Gold Medals. With well-balanced tannins and acidity it covers the palate with toasty oak and red cherries. A mellow finish offers up a hint of vanilla.

After tasting through these 8 Pinots I feel confident that each of their styles will pair well with any number of entrees that Fleming’s has to offer.

The Search for the Perfect Bottle of Wine

Whether your a consumer, restauranteur or wine retailer you’re always on the search for the perfect bottle of wine, well I’m here to tell you like Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny, it doesn’t exist. Whether I was selling wine to consumers or wine buyers I’ve come across many who spend way to much time looking, tasting & researching for that perfect bottle. What I find interesting is many are those who are looking in the under $10 price point. With wine being subjective, everybody has their opinion on what a wine should be and what perfection is. I remember working with one restauranteur who was looking for a Pinot Noir for his by the glass list for months and tasted him on almost every one in my portfolio, and after he tasted with me and other sales people he finally made a decision. Fortunately for me it was one I showed him. Another was still considering a $6.50 bottle of red for over 6 weeks, that they had already mentioned they liked. Searching for the perfect wine is the motivation for many consumers & buyers.

Nowadays there are is an ocean wine on the market from all over the globe, and more on the way, so it’s no wonder that people think that perfection is somewhere out there a drift. So for those of you that are on the search, just keep in mind it’s not the destination but the journey.

2008 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir


Started in 1989 by transplanted east coasters Walt & Joan Flowers fulfilling their dream, have made Flowers Winery into a staple on the northern California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir scene. From high a top their vineyards in Sonoma, Walt & Joan and their team, make wine from estate vineyards, Flowers Ranch and Camp Meeting Ridge and other vineyards from throughout the Sonoma Coast.

Using several different clones the 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is light in color, yet bold on the palate. Aged in French oak and coming mostly from Flowers estate vineyards it’s made in a Burgundian style, as it has good toasty oak and good fruit, along with mild tannins it offers balance and complexity. Leather and spice make for a nice finish. This wine will be at it’s best in the short term. Pairs well with roasted meats and salmon. 13.8% Retails about $45.

Wines for the Holiday Season



As the holiday season starts one of the hardest decisions people are going to make is “What wine should we drink with…..”. This post will give you a quick ides of what to look for at your favorite wine retailer.

Pinot Noirs is a versatile grape that will go well with turkey, ham and and all the fixings. Oregon, California or the Burgundy region of France are the ones to look for. You’ll want a well balanced Pinot that can stand up to all you will be enjoying them with. Expect to pay about $20 for a good, solid Pinot Noir.

Beaujolais is another red wine that works well with holiday meals. Made from the Gamay grape from the Burgundy region of France, Beaujolais is lighter and fruitier than Pinot Noir. Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the 3rd Thursday of November and is from the most recent harvest and is a celebration of the harvest. Beaujolais should run less than $20 and Nouveau should be less than $12.

For the white wine drinkers at the table a Riesling works well. A Riesling from Australia, California or Germany would drink well. The crisp acidity & the mild fruit offer a great combination and should compliment your meal. Again find one that is well balanced. You can find a good Riesling for less than $18

Batlle of the under $10 Pinot Noirs


As I was cruising the aisles at Trader Joe’s last weekend, I found myself looking at some wines and wondering “Russian River pinot noir for $8.99, really”. Yes, I know there’s a grape glut and the economy has gone south, so grapes and juice can be bought for less than a gallon of milk, but I had to wonder, is it any good? Under normal circumstances(good economy & balance of supply and demand for grapes) conventional wisdom says that pinots noirs under $12 usually aren’t very good. Why you ask, well pinot noir grapes are thin skinned and need to be handled w/ care and it’s a very finicky grape and a bit harder to turn into wine. Why that is I don’t know, ask a winemaker. So a friend and I doubled back and picked up a couple of bottles to see if it we could do a price to quality comparison.

1st wine we tasted was the 06 Mission Point from Central Coast. Probably one of, if not the oldest of pinots on the shelf this pinot seemed like the vines were to young or harvested to early. Stemy and green on the palate, the fruit component was dry and there was to much wood. This wine was out of balance and actually got returned for something else. 1 cork of out 5.

Then we tasted the 08 Hamilton -Stevens Russian River which had a good nose, soft & spicy on the palate, it had good fruit. A well balanced wine and hard to beat for $9.
3 1/2 corks out of 5.

Both wines cost is $8.99. So in the end it’s buyer beware, sometimes you do need to spend a bit more for certain quality expectations or if you’re looking for a easy drinking $9 they are possible to find, but you may have to taste a few to find them.