Monday, January 11, 2010

Lane Tanner "Block 4" Pinot Noir 2008

 For some reason this weekend I ended up drinking wines recommended by other people. This particular wine was recommended by the Cab Franco Files. It's always nice to have a guinea pig for the 20$ Trader Joe's wines, which are normally not that great. I still have a bad taste over the 2007 Cellier du Rhone Chateauneuf du Pape--probably in the running for worst wine that I have had in a long while. Anyways, decided to check this one out because the Cab Franco File said this was the best wine he'd ever gotten from Trader Joes--period--and I wouldn't really put him in the "gushing praise" camp about most wines. He seems to take a very moderate, reasoned approach about wine in general, and rarely seems to be so enthusiastic. Anyways, it seemed like something worth a try.

Under 20$ Pinot seems like a dicey proposistion to me, just in general. However, I was certainly pleased with the Cambria "Julia's Vienyard" Pinot that I had about a year ago. It was from Santa Maria County, just like this wine. Lane Tanner doesn't own any vineyards, and makes her wine in a wine co-op, although she has been affiliated with Ken Brown and Hitching Post. She seems like a character. You don't see many 40ish year old women sticking pictures of themselves naked in a bathtub front and center on their websites. I seem to recall Jay McInerney talking about Lane Tanners' nudity in a Hedonist in the Cellar...but my memory is foggy of it. (Just as an aside, this wine has to be going more after women than men from a marketing perspective because pretty much all that is on the back is the statement "This is a wine to cuddle with," which elicted an "Oh, cute!" from Sarah.) 13.2 ABV, so definitely on the more reserved side of that spectrum--a good thing. Sarah says this smells like pomegranates and flowers, which I think is pretty accurate. I get a lot of cherries and earthy "pinot-funk." Really, we're smelling the same thing, just describing it differently. Good amount of acidity on this wine, and a lot of sour cherry character going on in the mouth. Sarah thinks that the finish is a little short, and I concur. It's just not that persistent. When I think of wines that ring my bell, I think of them as having a beginning, a middle, and an end, all seamless and flowing  in a logical progression. A good wine is the same as a good piece of music or literature, at least conceptually. It takes you on a journey. This wine doens't have that. Tasty wine, but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as the Cab Franco File. For the same price I could have had another bottle of the Baudry "Les Grezeuax," which honestly, smokes the shit out of this wine (at least to me). But that isn't a fair comparison, becuase this is under 20$ Pinot, which is a landmine wine category if there ever was one. If you had no budget, you could drink great Pinot every day. DRC (well, I'm assuming since I've never had it) or  Dehlinger (yes, it's pretty fucking good--had it twice now), hell, the sky is the limit, right? But under 20$? I'm thinking that you don't find a whole heck of a lot. From what I can recall, I liked the Cambria "Julia's Vineyard" more and geographically, it's in the same neighborhood, but this is a solid effort, especially if you like lower alcohol wines and cheap(er) Pinot. B+/A-  


CabFrancoPhile said...

Baudry Grezeaux smokes it all right. That was one of the first wines I had in '10, but will probably be one of the best of the year. Where Block 4 is a Good QPR for me, Grezeaux will definitely be Excellent QPR.

I think what was most compelling was the nose of the Block 4--it had everything you and Sara smelled, but all at once for me. Most TJ's offerings smell of chemicals and wet dogs, so it made me very happy. There was a Baudry-like transparency, albeit not the same depth/completeness.

Jeff said...

The only reason I brought the Baudry up really is that I thought the fruit component of both wines was similar in a lot of ways, plus, I think it's probably the wine that I've been most excited about in a long while.

I use the term "Pinot funk" as a loose way of saying spice, floral, earth, mushroom, soy sauce, and all those umami related smells all wrapped together. I completely agree that the nose made the wine. I get that a lot with wine actually, where I think that the nose smells better than the wine ends up tasting, or the palette kind of is a let-down vs. the nose. Wet dogs and chemicals--ouch--but so true. I don't know that I've had a TJ's wine north of 7 or 8 dollars that I didn't want to dump out--except for this one. Thanks for the tip!

Kevin said...

Thanks for the tasting note. I've tasted the Block 2 and the Block 4 (TJs has both still) and they're distinctly different.

Block 4 has, for me, more clean pinot fruit, higher acidity, and some earthiness but it's all about the red berries (pomegrantes, cherries, whatever). It's more Burgundy and less California in style with the higher acidity. For my taste, I would expect to enjoy this more than the Block 2, but it turns out I don't. Oh, and the block 4 tastes like newer vines (I've no idea); this might be one of the reasons it doesn't have so much complexity.

The block 2 is almost a completely different style. Very Cal pinot, all about the velvety texture, smoky aromas from the oak. It's a much more sensual wine, and I expect will please more people. It has some depth and complexity, but the fruit is a little in the background. Less acidity, more generous mouthfeel.

So, they're both $20. The block 4 is a solid, well-made California pinot with interest and some complexity and a good QPR. But the block 2 makes you feel like you're drinking a much more expensive wine. If you'd paid $30-$40 for it, you'd still probably think it was a decent wine. At $20, it's a steal, and a pleasure to drink.

Jeff said...

Thanks for the tip. I've seen the Block 2 at my TJ's, just haven't sprung for it. The thing is, I'm mostly more interested in other stuff...I don't really know why, but when I think about what to drink for 20$, I almost never think domestic Pinot...anyways, you've at least made me think about trying the Block 2. I don't know that I will, but I might give it a whirl, just to check it out.

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