Anderson Valley is in the throes of America's Pinot Noir culture clash. Two-thirds of the wines tasted of freshly picked red fruit with both sweet and sour qualities, such as raspberries and cranberries. These wines were medium-bodied, well-balanced and made long-time valley vintners nod approvingly. The other dozen or so wines tasted of cooked black fruit laced heavily with dark baking spices and toasted oak flavors. They were big, brawny wines that the younger winemakers at the tasting understood and appreciated immediately.
All the wines were well-made, so it's not as if one style is superior to another. As with music, what you prefer is up to you. Just make sure you know which station you're tuning into when you pull out your wallet.
Here are seven wines from the tasting worth seeking out:
Harmonique Pinot Noir Anderson Valley "Delicacé" 2003: a complex, complete wine that made the most of its dark red fruit by layering in dark spices and assertive oak and bringing the ripe, fresh fruit back in the finish to round out the palate experience.
La Crema Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2003: offers a complex mix of plum, rhubarb, spice and savory flavors, fine structure and balance, and mirror images in its sweetly elegant entry and elegantly nuanced finish.
Littorai Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard 2003: the best of the new-clone wines, a plush, yet lovely concoction of plums, cherries, cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, with exemplary balance and elegance.
Londer Vineyards Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2003: aromas and flavors of red and black berries and cherries, bright acidity, good size and weight, and a finish that brings all the wine's good features into vibrant harmony.
Migration Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2003: a complete, balanced wine featureing cherry, plum and strawberry flavors, a touch of Burgundy-like earth, deft structure and balance, and enough grip on the palate to lend a seriousness to the sweetness of the red fruit.
Roessler Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard 2003: a sweet-natured wine with a dry personality, emphasizing very ripe cherry flavors and sweet oak influence balanced by abundant tannins.
Williams-Selyem Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyard 2003: has one foot in Burgundy (red fruit, vanilla oak, lively acidity and balance) and one foot in California (intensity extraction, size and weight). Age-worthy.