Biggio Hamina Pinot Noir 2009 ~ Duex Vert, Yamhill-Carlton District (located inside Willamette Valley)
I was lucky enough to magically acquire a bottle of this wine. Magic, I say. Thanks acquisition magic!
Here are the full tasting notes:
The wine has a screw top, which I have absolutely no problem with in a Pinot. You're not going to age it long, so there's no reason to waste cork and risk corking the vino. That's a big hill to die on to some people, so I'll let them fight about it. For me, it just meant it was really easy and fast to open.
I served it slightly chilled and planned my meal for a pinot. Just like a pinot should do...it changed greatly depending on the food pairing. So, pairing notes included!
Color was a brownish-red and a little thin – not atypical of a pinot noir. First whiff was – mmmmm...cherry. I could have guessed this wine a pinot noir just from the aroma. The bouquet stayed about the same the entire evening for both of us and was lovely. Even towards the end my S.O. said, “the smell of this wine is still really great.”
First Impressions (no food)
Me: Strong cherry, especially at the beginning. I get some of the earthiness that I love in a Willamette Valley pinot, but it doesn't last long and is a little overwhelmed by the red fruit. There's a sour note on the back end, making me think sour cherries. I enjoyed the flavor of this wine...but I think it would have been better with a little less of that sour at the end. First impression was good, but also that it is less complex than I like my Pinots to be.
The “heft” of this wine is a very classic Pinot Noir...that is to say there isn't a lot of heft. It's a thin red, just like it's supposed to be. I very much applaud this, as so often I stumble across things labeled Pinot Noir (I'm looking at you, CA) that are big, dark, fruit bombs...and while often enjoyable...not good showings of what I think a Pinor Noir should be.
SO: Good, but this isn't quite as balanced as I like my Pinots. The tobacco comes too early and disappears. Lots of cherry and strawberry in it.
With Some Maytag Blue Cheese
Me: Good. The cheese tones down some of that cherry/strawberry flavor. By muting the red fruit a little, I can taste the tobacco/earthiness a bit more. However, the blue cheese also toned down the flavor volume, over all. It's certainly not a bad pairing, but the wine fades into the background and just plays support.
SO: Nice pairing, but the lack of complexity is even more obvious. Less of that strawberry flavor.
With the Real Appetizer – Broiled fresh figs, stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in bacon
Me: This was the best pairing of the evening. The sweetness of the figs combined with the sharpness of the blue cheese perfectly tuned the red fruits in this wine. The cherry was there, but without the sour.
SO: This [the pairing] is really good. You know, this [the wine] isn't as complex and good as the [Roessler] Bluejay, but I would still drink the hell out of it.
Me (again): That quote “this isn't as complex and good as the Bluejay, but I would still drink the hell out of it,” is probably the perfect summary of our notes and opinions. (Note: Bluejay was Anderson Valley in CA...but I still thought it was a great example of a pinot noir and is one of my favorite woots, ever.)
With Dinner – Mushroom ravioli tossed with a few sun dried tomatoes and olive oil
Me: I had picked this dinner out thinking the chopped portabellas in the pasta would bring out the earthiness of a pinot. The lesson I (re)learned was how potent tomatoes are around wine tastings – even in small doses. The major flavor interaction here was the acidity of the sundried tomato bringing back out the cherry in the wine. It's amazing how different this wine tastes next to the pasta than it did next to the fig appetizer.
Not unpleasant, but not really value added, either. It just makes the wine into a one-dimensional, one trick pony – and that trick is bright cherry. Much like the blue cheese, I think the wine helps the food out, but also fades into the background while doing it. If I wasn't consciously taking tasting notes the entire time, I wouldn't have noticed the wine much (but I would have easily kept reaching for it).
SO: Yeah, I agree with the cherry assessment. Not bad. This wine will be a great deal if it's around the $15-$20 mark.
With Cheese Course Dessert – Smoked Gouda
Me: Nothing really new to add here. This pairing is similar to the plain blue cheese one. Tones down the red fruit just a bit. Both cheese and wine are tasty.
Summary: We both *really* like a classic Willamette Valley pinot noir and have spent some time in that Valley tasting. For me, a perfect one has complex layers of cherry, earthiness, tobacco...that unfold for you in an orchestrated symphony, while still staying a very delicate and thin wine. My SO really wants the leathery/tobacco to show up with some force. We have a high bar on Willamette pinot noirs, mostly because we love them so much. The wine maker nailed the varietal as far as body, color, and aroma. While it falls a little short of perfectly balanced (it's just not as complex as my ideal pinot would be), - it's still a really nice wine and a good example of a pinot noir with bright red fruits.
While it might fall a little short of hanging with the (expensive) upper end Willamette Pinot Noirs, it's still really good - much better than most things labeled Pinot Noir on the shelf. Truth of the matter is, I can't afford to drink upper end Willamette PNs...making this wine a good deal at this price point. I'm in for 1.