2017 California Pinot Noir All-Americans


“In the final issue of the PinotFile each year, I name my All-Americans, my favorite domestic Pinot Noirs reviewed this past year. In 2017, nearly 850 domestic Pinot Noir were reviewed, with 15% of the wines receiving a score of 94 or above. These extraordinary wines have what wine writer Hugh Johnson calls “numinous,” that is defined by Webster as “the higher emotions or the aesthetic sense.” In other words, truly extraordinary, spellbinding wines that elicit emotion. 79 wines were scored 94, 29 wines 95, 13 wines 96, 8 wines 97 and 3 wines 98. The prices of Pinot Noir scoring 90 or above ranged from $18 to $125 with an average of $55.

I score all the wines using the 100-point scoring system with guidelines as follows: 94-99 Extraordinary, 90-93 Outstanding, 86-89, Very Good, and 82-85 Good. Wines scoring less than 82 do not merit publication in the PinotFile and there are very few of these in the current marketplace.

In choosing the All-American Pinot Noirs, I follow several dictums and these have been outlined in the In essence, the All-Americans are the highest scoring wines. This year I have included multiple wines from the same producer if qualified. The 2017 All-Americans were judged independent of price, case production, vintage or wine region of origin. Most of the wines tasted in 2017 were from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages. It is somewhat unfair to compare wines from disparate vintages, but the evaluation of each wine is taken on its own merit in the context of the vintage.

Only finished bottled wines that are formerly reviewed in controlled, and therefore comparable circumstances are candidates for All-American consideration. Almost all wines are culled from unsolicited winery submissions while a few wines that are rarely sent for review came from personal purchases.” – Rusty Gaffney

“Very good stem lignification allowed 100% whole clusters. Tremendous color and flavor at low sugar levels. 16-year-old vines planted to Mt. Eden, 115 and 667. Soils are sandy loam over sedimentary base rock. Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. This is a glorious wine in all respects. The whole cluster dimension is perfectly complimentary in this wine. Soaring aromas of cherry, rose petal and spice are harmonious. Silky in the mouth, with a deep spice-enhanced cherry and raspberry fruit flavor. Vibrant and refreshing, this wine soothes rather than attacks the palate. Very comforting with impeccable balance and a bombastic cherry finish. Even better when tasted two days later from a previously opened and recorked bottle. In one word, Wow! This wine really emotes.”