Clash of the 2007s: Kosta Browne, Chasseur, Papapietro Perry, Cobb, Capiaux and Radio-Coteau

With the afterglow of last Tuesday night finally starting to fade, I still need to acknowledge the preamble to the evening, which was a blind tasting of 2007 California Pinot Noir. I had been anticipating this tasting for quite some time, and I had also exhibited tremendous patience in the process: Back in March 2009, I had eagerly purchased Pinot Noir allocations from Kosta Browne and Chasseur, having finally earned a coveted spot on their respective mailing lists (these unclaimed allocations were the function of a sputtering U.S. economy, no doubt). At the time, slipping behind the velvet rope was extremely fortuitous, with California’ s 2007 Pinot Noir vintage earning considerable praise for its exceptional quality. Even in a bad economy, with these 2007s finally hitting the market in 2009, last year was certainly not the time to forfeit any allocations (unless, of course, you were actually facing foreclosure).

• • •

Now that the 2007 vintage was finally approaching its third year, my goal was to pit some of the most lauded producers head-to-head in a blind tasting (my rule of thumb for California Pinot is to drink them between three and seven years from the vintage date). For me, the wait was finally over, and I was interested in unveiling the best of the best, to see if these mailing-list wines could rise above some of my more “accessible” favorites. With that agenda in mind, I pulled three selections from my own personal stash: the 2007 Kosta Browne Russian River, the 2007 Chasseur Joyce Vineyard, and the 2007 Papapietro Perry Leras Vineyard (the latter selection is not a mailing-list Pinot, yet). Alongside these three wines, my friend Geoff Harner of Mosher Imports added the 2007 Cobb Coastlands, the 2007 Radio-Coteau Savoy, and the 2007 Capiaux Widdoes.

We invited a few other people to evaluate these wines, including a sommelier (Jean-Marie), an enologist (Dianne), and a veteran of the Napa Valley restaurant industry (Andrew). My strategy was to assemble a panel of folks who each offered various wine-related backgrounds, but who might also evaluate the wines through different criteria. Rather than having just one critic hand down an edict, I like the idea of tasting by committee, as I feel it provides much more insight than a single person’s opinion. The task at hand was simple: Each member of the tasting panel ranked the wines in their order of preference, with a “1” representing the favorite and a “6” representing the least favorite. Just as in golf, low scores are good scores. I’ve circled the top choices for each individual in red, along with the lowest aggregate score. I’ve only put my own scores (“Yours Truly”) on record, and I’ve left the other four opinions (“The Field”) anonymous. Here’s how it all shook down (click the chart for a larger view):

Depending on how you slice and dice the statistics, two wines emerged as the favorites: The 2007 Chasseur “Joyce” (which claimed the lowest aggregate total) and the 2007 Papapietro Perry “Leras” (which scored the second-lowest aggregate, but which also received three first-place votes). The “Leras” proved quite divisive, in fact, scoring near the very bottom among the folks who did not choose it as their overall favorite. One aspect that is revealing, however, is that all five first-place votes were awarded to the same three wines with the lowest aggregate scores. These three — the Papapietro, the Kosta Brown, and the Chasseur — should boast the broadest appeal. Frankly, I was a bit relieved to discover that the mailing-list selections (the Chasseur and the Kosta Browne) held their own among the flight, although I also suspected that the Papapietro Perry would prove formidable. I have raved about that wine for the last couple years. No surprise that it was also my personal favorite last week. CKGRX29EXX84

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