13 Great 2011 Pinot Noirs

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The 2011 vintage was a tough one for wineries in Northern California. It was unseasonably cold and wet at inopportune times in the vines’ growing cycle, leading to fears about grapes not getting ripe enough or falling prey to rot.

Thankfully, declarations of inferior wines were premature, and now that a good number of wines has been released, I’ve been tasting great things from the 2011 vintage, especially the Pinot Noirs.

Never has it seemed truer that knowing one’s site trumps all. The wines that have really stood out confirm this again and again, coming from producers who farm their own longstanding estates, or wineries that have long-term relationships with vineyard owners or managers and will drop fruit when necessary.

There’s a vibrancy to the 2011 Pinots and a laser-­like sharpness to their fruit, bright red cherry, sprinkled with complex layers of exotic spice and herb. What I love most is the acidity and accompanying texture to these wines; they are incredibly alive and delicious to drink. That acidity is accompanied by slightly lower than average alcohol levels too, making them a pleasure to enjoy either with or without food.

The vintage really contrasts with the 2012s I’ve tasted, which generally are riper, more robust and structured wines. They largely still need time to integrate, while the 2011s, as a whole, are more readily accessible now.

—Virginie Boone

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13 Great 2011 Pinot Noirs

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