April 22, 2006

W.H. Smith - Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2003

On the nose: This wine is a lesson on why it’s important to use the proper glass for the wine you are tasting. This wine has a high alcohol content—14.5%. I made the mistake of using a Bordeaux glass for this wine (hey, we all cut corners on occasion). The narrower opening of the Bordeaux glass apparently stove-piped the alcohol and all I smelled at first without any swirl was nail polish remover. I take full blame for this; this was my fault, not the wine's fault. After this wine was placed in the proper glass, a gentle swirl exposed a wonderful aroma of warm plum, cherry and slightly peppery notes. Respect your wine; put it in the proper glass and give it a swirl.

On the palate: This is a well-made, mid to full-bodied wine. You’re greeted with a huge, creamy mouthful of plum, cherry, a bit of raspberry. A small hint of licorice echoes in the background as the wine decants. The wine has a welcomingly dry and somewhat short finish. Toward the end, the back of your tongue will be tickled by its refreshingly crisp acidity. But the long-lasting tannins are slightly harsh for a pinot noir, which distances this wine from the sensual experience you expect from this delicate variety. Under California law, a producer can add up to 25 percent of another variety to a pinot noir without revealing it’s a blend. So, it’s possible that this may be a blend (possibly with cabernet sauvignon, if I had to guess), which would explain the strong tannins. But I could be wrong.

On the wallet: W.H. Smith is a small California winery. I have read that this particular wine is both W.B. Smith’s largest production (fueling my suspicion that it’s a blend) and its least expensive offering ($23.99), which appears to be the type of wine the PLCB concentrates on in its specialty stores. Truthfully, this wine is a great deal; I’ve seen it listed on the Internet for as high as $37.99. But the bargain only serves to remind you that the Sonoma Coast pinot noir is the only W.H. Smith wine the PLCB will allow you to sample.

On the table: This wine is not fruity enough for lighter fare. And although it’s tannic structure is not delicate enough for salmon, pork or veal, this wine should stand nicely with beef and game.


~Kevin said...

Oddly enough, WH Smith's is a British bookstore chain, as immortalized in Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album in the sketch entitled "Book Shop." I believe some airports in the US have these booksellers about, including the Pittsburgh airport.


PhilaFoodie said...

Cool. I remember the bookstore name, but didn't know it was a lyric in a Monty Python song. Monty Python also has a song called "Cannibalism," I believe. I just hope I don't write about anything that reminds you of that song. ;-)