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Tasting Notes: George Heritier

Flowers labels

Friday Night Flowers

(I asked Alan Kerr AKA Canadian Zinfan to stick close by while we tasted these, since I knew that his experience was rather limited with Flowers, and I wanted to record his impressions.)

"I've never had so many Pinots that are so high-acid; a totally different experience. They're all vibrant; nothing flabby about these." - Alan Kerr

1997 Flowers Porter Bass Chardonnay, 13.8% alc.: Medium straw; matchstick over yeasty/oak/pear nose; big rich pear/chard fruit and some sea air (?!) on the palate, with just enough acidity to make it work; still tastes really young. "Banana/vanilla/huge wood." - Alan

1998 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14% alc.: Medium straw; tropical fruit flavors and aromas; less oak than the previous selection, but still quite apparent. "Nice pineapple/acid/pear; more banana/vanilla here too; good juice." - Alan

1994 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir, 13.3% alc.: Pretty ruby dark garnet; bouquet is the best feature of this wine, eliciting a wow or two with sea air/yeasty/spicy/black cherry/smoky/toasty oak that follows through in the flavors, only to dissipate in transition from the mid-palate into the finish, leaving heat and dryness. Good acidity; just hinting at a note of maturity. "Still pretty dense, it IS Floral." - Larry "A ton of cherry, and that's about it." - Alan "Something medicinal." - Sam. "Port-like." - Andy

1995 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet; floral spicy/yeast/sea air/black cherry flavors and aromas; not quite as acidic as the '94, but still more than enough to keep it lively; some tannins to resolve, yet quite approachable. "Big difference, fruit! Anise/stewed strawberry/ rhubarb; dense concentration." - Alan

1995 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir Moon Select, 13.5% alc.: Dark garnet; big rich black cherry/smoke with little hints of chocolate on the nose and palate; considerable tannins give this an earthy quality, and keep this from showing much complexity. "More fruit in this than the last few tastings." - Larry (2nd taste from an unfinished bottle two days later: Darkest Pinot I've ever seen. Nose has a hint of iodine to it, but flavors are more friendly, with rich black cherry/plum and hints of yeasty iodine and chocolate. Unlike some naysayers, I'm not worried about sitting on my stash of this for another five years.)

1996 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir, 13.5% alc.: Ruby dark garnet; beautiful smoky yeasty black cherry/plum flavors and aromas; like velvet on the palate. This was my Pinot of the night, because the following selection was sucked dry before I got any. "Huge smoke; beautifully balanced; a little chocolate and raspberry acid." Alan

1996 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir Moon Select, 13.5% alc.: I didn't get any of this, but we had it last September, courtesy of Walt and Joan Flowers, and it was lovely. Larry's note -- chocolate covered cherry and Dr. Pepper on the nose…just a touch more richness and depth than the 96 CMR…seamless black cherry fruit melds well with the lively yet housebroken acids -- nice balance and depth/ tannins are well integrated -- my fave of the bunch.

1997 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir, 13.8% alc.: Ruby dark garnet; yeasty quality dominates the oak and black cherry. "The acid stays, the alcohol stays, but the fruit diminishes towards the finish; a slight bit of bitterness like a bitter anise candy we had as kids." - Alan (This was also re-sampled two days later, and had filled out and developed considerably more charm.)

1997 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir Moon Select, 14.2% alc.: Ruby dark garnet; big yeasty rhubarb/black cherry nose with some milk chocolate; flavors echo with good balance. Alan opines that this is showing the best of the three Moon Selects he and I tasted here, and while I agree, I suspect the '96 beat it out, especially after hearing others' accounts.

1997 Flowers Hirsch Pinot Noir, 14.2% alc.: Ruby dark garnet; less ebullient bouquet than the others so far, but no less pretty; add a hint of chocolate/ cinnamon to the smoky black cherry/hint of yeast flavors and aromas; tannins mostly toned down, but LOTS of acidity to take it down the road a while. Nice stuff. "Chewy." - Alan

1997 Flowers Carneros Pinot Noir, 14.2% alc.: Ruby garnet; smoky matchstick aromas with plenty of rich black cherry underneath; flavors echo; rather different than any of the others. "Butterscotch/licorice; a little more herbaceous; huge bread character." - Alan (Another one that was tasted again after being open for two days, and it was quite enjoyable.)

"Overall, I didn't care for the '97s; maybe they just need time." - Alan Kerr

1998 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir, 13.2% alc.: Ruby dark garnet; yeasty black cherry flavors and aromas with a little smoke; moderate tannins and good acidity. "Tobacco leaf/solid black cherry/a little bit of raspberry; loses it on the finish; the worst of the bunch." - Alan

1998 Flowers Pisoni Pinot Noir, 13.6% alc.: Ruby garnet; matchstick right away, then sea air/black cherry; not as dense as expected from Pisoni. "Licorice cough candy; I like the nose." - Alan "Mid-palate seems to be firming up" - Larry

1998 Flowers Van der Kamp Pinot Noir, 13.9% alc.: Ruby garnet; more matchstick over smoky black cherry; more high acidity; another one that shows the character of the vintage; not as dense as one would expect. "Strange nose, but I like it" - Mary

1998 Flowers Talmage Bench Zinfandel; 14.8% alc.: Dark garnet; huge spicy, extracted raspberry/plum/pomegranate flavors and aromas with zippy acidity. Drinking wonderfully right now. Alan liked this better than any of the Pinots (and he wasn't alone in that regard), adding impressions of "Yukon gold potato peel; mushroom; very fleshy."

(For the record: There were two Rochioli Sodini Vineyard Zinfandels plunked down on the counter and Alan took the following brief notes: '97 - "Melba sauce/creamy black currant/solid acid/solid sweet caramel." '98 - "Fruit is sweeter and more confined; pop-like; blah; hollow on mid-palate; so-so Zin.")

There was a rather mixed reaction to these. Some expressed a sense of being “under whelmed;” others found them to be quite tasty. Kim offered an interesting theory as to why the wines may not have shown as well as they have in the past. She said they were too warm, and she had a point. Add that to the fact that most of these have not reached full maturity, and perhaps the reaction isn’t all that surprising. As noted, we re-tasted some of what was left two days later, and they were quite good. And the ’96 CMR and Moon Select impressed as being among the best California Pinots around. It is this taster’s opinion that most of these wines will continue to improve over the next few years (some for the next several), and offer ever increasing pleasure to those with the patience to hold them.

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