A Travelogue of Pinot Noirs

A pinot noir tour de force

Exploring the world, one bottle of pinot noir at a time.

Whether it’s the different terroirs, the types of vines used, irrigated or dry-farmed vineyards, the local winemaking culture, or the individualism of the winemaker, pinot noir seldom tastes the same from one region or country to the next.

Here we have 19 different wines that span four continents. Happy exploration!

2012 Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir ($34)

Smooth, easy drinking with flavors of creamy cherries and some rooty notes — straightforward and well-structured with mild tannins.

2012 Gary Farrell “Hallberg” Russian River pinot noir ($55)

A moody, more-concentrated wine with dark cherry and forest-floor savory flavors. Needs some time to fully develop.

2012 Three Sticks Russian River pinot noir ($60)

The somewhat high alcohol content highlights the flavors and adds a little zing. Lots of cola and bright cherry tastes with a tad of brown sugar in the finish. It’s a very nice wine, but will be too hot for some palates.

2012 Three Sticks “Gap’s Crown” Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($65)

Very sweet fruit — mainly spicy cherry — with good depth of flavors, although it doesn’t linger as long, or have as much texture, as the Russian River. But I think it will age well, blossoming in 10 years or so.

2012 Sojourn “Gap’s Crown” Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($60)

Rounded, generous, ripe-cherry notes, creamy, with good tannins and a nice pungency at the end.

2012 Sojourn “Sangiacomo” Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($53)

Not the well-known Carneros vineyard but another one from the same family, it has nice flavors with pleasant gamey notes, but is a tad short on the palate.

2013 Robert Mondavi Carneros Napa Valley pinot noir ($26)

Vibrant fruit with good depth of flavors — dark cherries, a little cola, a hint of balsamic. Firm structure and good balance.

2012 Gloria Ferrer Carneros pinot noir ($22)

Like a handful of freshly picked cherries with spicy rooty notes tossed in, it has a fair amount of tannins that take the finish toward some vegetal notes.

2012 Three Sticks “The James” Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir ($60)

Another big wine, but not as aromatic as the two Sonoma versions. More compact — still tightly wound — and more piquant with tart vegetal notes.

2012 Dolin Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir ($28)

Light and elegant with pop-out creamy red cherry tastes. Quite nice and uncomplicated.

2012 Dolin “Rincon” Arroyo Grande Valley pinot noir ($42)

Light and elegant in structure, a lot like a very good Chalonnaise, with muted cherry flavors. Not long on the palate, yet quite well-made, appealing for those who like the light Burgundy styles.

2012 Dolin “Bien Nacido” Santa Maria Valley pinot noir ($44)

A favorite vineyard for South Central Coast pinot lovers, this wine is also light and elegant with pleasant savory cherry flavors, long on the palate with a hint of brown sugar in the finish.

2012 Dolin “Solomon Hills” Santa Maria Valley pinot noir ($44)

The most aromatic of the four Dolins and the one with the most depth of flavors — ripe cherries, hint of balsamic, savory and earthy components in the finish.

2013 Austerity Santa Lucia Highlands pinot noir ($16)

A light wine, very floral with powdery pastel flavors and aromas of cherries and berries. Sometimes perfumed, light wines such as this can surprise with their aging potential, as the floral notes become more elegant.

2013 Redtree California pinot noir ($8)

Pleasant, easy drinking — bright red fruit with lots of fresh cherries, good acidity and a nice tanginess at the end.

2013 Kim Crawford South Island pinot noir ($19)

This New Zealander has ripe, rounded, rooty flavors but seems a bit sweet in the finish.

2013 Nobilo “Icon” Marlborough pinot noir ($19)

A good food wine — light-bodied, well-structured with tart, lean cherries across the palate and a powdery element like cracked grain that is commonly noted in spirits. Moderate tannins and a raspy finish, like a sangiovese.

2012 Luigi Bosca Mendoza pinot noir ($19)

Funky — but not bad funky — with notes of dried wood and dried stems. It is more savory than fruity with few of the characteristics we’ve come to expect from pinot. That said, it’s a nice table wine for those who prefer muted fruit singing backup to their food.

2012 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne pinot noir ($20)


Seductive, light-cherry fruit up front flips into a chalky-dry finish. Affordable, everyday drinking.