Retrospective: Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, 1993 to 2009 Vintages

handley 224x300 Retrospective: Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, 1993 to 2009 VintagesHere’s a rarity: One producer offering a vertical retrospective of 13 wines (same varietal and appellation) from 16 years’ worth of production. Handley recently brought its winemaking team from Mendocino’s Anderson Valley to San Francisco to show off its deep library and give a bunch of us a rare look at how Pinot Noir develops over time.

The results: A lot like you think. The fresh bottlings are youthful and a bit brash. The old ones are faded and not really enjoyable. In the middle is a sweet spot: At 7 to 10 years old, these wines are drinking absolutely beautifully. That was a surprise for me, as I’d always held, like most, that California Pinot was best consumed very young. But it turns out a little age helps take some of those fruit flavors develop more fully and integrate better with the earthy, Port-like characters in some of the younger wines.

Many thanks to Handley for opening up its library for us writers. Thoughts on all wines poured follow.

Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Retrospective

1993 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / C- / faded, minimum fruit remaining

1997 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / B- / fruit has passed, but tannin remains to give some life

1998 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Estate Reserve / B / touch of fruit here, some Port character

2000 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / B / leather notes, menthol; uncharacteristic of Pinot, curious

2002 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / A- / approaching the classic nose, fruit is mellowed but still rich

2003 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / A / similar to the ’02 but brighter, with silkier texture and cigar box notes

2004 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Estate Reserve / A- / some raisin notes, big body; black cherry and mint, massive

2005 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / A / lush and fresh, drinking perfectly now, big body with velvet touch

2005 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley RSM Vineyard / A / first bottle was badly off; replacement a knockout: light Port notes with lovely fruit to follow; could stand another year or two but wonderful now (blended with 6% Pinot Gris)

2006 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / B- / big tannins, green and unripe a bit; hints of coca

2007 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / B / lots of Port character here, tart finish

2009 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley / B+ / smoky, mushrooms, thinking of forest fires

2009 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley RSM Vineyard / B+ / distinct purple color, very young and jammy on the tongue; needs quite a bit of time

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