Binny's Blind Tasting Panel: Flying Blind with the Women of Binny’s

Blind Wine Tasting with the Women of Binny’s

It’s time for another addition of our ongoing series of blind tastings. Tastings in which we strip away the extraneous and focus purely on the wine in the glass, freeing us from preconceptions.  

Today The Women of Binny’s, our internal organization dedicated to welcoming, mentoring and empowering the next generation of female wine, beer and spirits professionals, and their powerful, profound and precise palates were in the pilot’s seat. There was much debate and discussion, and a bit of turbulence was encountered until, in the end, a list of a dozen wines reached cruising altitude high above the competition. 

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The focus- Great values in pinot noir, from around the world. This is a notoriously difficult category given the specific needs of pinot vines themselves and their propensity to underwhelm when grown under conditions that do not suit their cool climate loving nature.  

Nevertheless, we found some real gems that the group was enthusiastic to endorse and highly recommend for their deliciously complex profiles of red fruits, baking spices, and earthy, savory notions, all brought together by thrillingly focused acidity.  

Many can be had, remarkably, for under twenty dollars and all of the wines tasted cost less than thirty. Given the quality and true varietal character the group sniffed out, the winners constitute a list of undeniably outstanding pinot noirs that should be on your shopping list, now and throughout the impending holidays. These are real values in a category that skews to the rare and, frankly, relatively expensive rather quickly.  

Here are our top value recommendations for pinot noir, expertly vetted by the Women of Binny’s.

Clos des Fous Pour Ma Gueule Pinot Noir 2020


Grown in the cool presence of the South Pacific in Chile’s Aconcagua Costa area, where the Humbolt Current flows along the coast from Antarctica toward the equator. Everyone agreed that this value pinot should really open some eyes to the potential for Chile to produce fine pinot noir. 

The group loved the aromatic qualities, that spoke clearly of pinot, with an emphasis on fresh strawberries, spring flowers, a whiff of smoke and the clean earthy aroma of freshly sliced button mushrooms. The flavors follow with bright cherry and strawberry, in balance with savory earth and herbs leading to a spicy finish with fine chalky tannins. An earthy, savory sensation for a song.  

Ritual Pinot Noir 2019


More evidence that a stroll down the Chile aisle of your local Binny’s can be a fruitful endeavor for pinotfiles. Organically grown grapes from the coolest part of the Casablanca Valley are hand harvested and expertly transformed into a wine of quality that belies its modest price, thanks in no small part to the guidance of California all-star and consulting winemaker, Paul Hobbs. Tasters deemed this a steal. 

2019 was an excellent vintage here and it shows in the pleasing nose of fresh raspberries and cherries accented by forest floor, dried herbs and meaty mushrooms. The entry is soft and fruity, the texture remarkably silky, the fruit bright, fresh and supported by vibrant acidity, the finish long and velvety. A no brainer for Thanksgiving or, at this price, next Tuesday. Talk about overdelivering!

Cloudline Pinot Noir 2021


A stellar value wine from under the umbrella of Domaine Drouhin, the excellent French owned, Willamette Valley winery. Cloudline is a light bodied, elegant expression that floats across your palate with the weightless beauty of cirrocumulus clouds on a moonlit night. 

Tasters found it to be soft, seductive and elegant, showing slightly candied red fruit, delicate floral notes, and hints of mint, vanilla and dark chocolate in the nose. A sip reveals juicy red fruits gliding on a supple easy drinking frame. Light and elegant indeed but not lacking in flavor concentration. Willamette Valley fruit combined with French finesse. A real crowd pleaser. 

J Hofstatter Pinot Nero Meczan 2020


Hailing from the mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige region of Northeast Italy, the Hoffstatter pinot nero displays classic pinot attributes, from its transparent garnet color to its lifted nose and elegant balance of fruity and earthy notes. The group noted that it ably straddles old and new world styles with savory, earthy notions and red berries delivered in a round, approachable package. 

A subtle nose entices with redcurrant, lingonberry, and tart cherry intertwined with piney forest floor and a pleasing toastiness. The palate is a balancing act between wild berries, earthy beetroot, anise and mint, all riding on a finely textured light body. The group decided this was exactly the kind of wine to cover a broad range of foods, making it an excellent choice for dinner parties or a gift for the host. 

Peter Zemmer Pinot Noir Rolhut Vineyard 2021


What’s this? Another winner from Alto Adige, albeit a fruitier, less earth driven style. This Italian single vineyard pinot leans into fruity aromatics but still has subtle hints of the savory. Some tasters called this a Goldilocks pinot for its “just right” balance of acid, tannin, fruit and forest. 

A nicely crafted wine featuring a subtle nose of tart cherries, mountain strawberries, turned earth and an attractively nutty note. The wine sings with bright, tart cherry, carried by a refreshing citrusy acidity that will make this an excellent choice for the dinner table. The finish is fine, supple and lingers with fresh red fruit. Sleek Italian fashion in a bottle. 

Roots Wines Klee Pinot Noir 2021


Tasters loved the warm spicy notes of this Willamette pinot named for artist Paul Klee. However, there is nothing surreal or abstract about this straight up delicious expression of New World pinot. It’s liquid comfort, perfect for cool fall evenings and cozying up around the hearth. 

Sweet spices, black cherry and plums fill the nose. Clear notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom enhance the sweet cherry fruit giving the impression of a freshly baked pie while deeper notes of sassafras and sarsaparilla add considerable interest to the lengthy, comforting finish. If sweater weather could be a wine- this is it.  

Nikkal Pinot Noir 2018


Winemaker Kate Goodman named this line of wines for the Phoenician harvest goddess, Nikkal, telegraphing the goal of bringing in beautifully ripe, fresh and vibrant fruit. Those who think of Australia as the source for big bruising Barossa shiraz may be surprised by the wines from the Yarra Valley in the cool southern region of Victoria. The focus here is largely on cool climate loving chardonnay and pinot noir and the wines can have remarkably fresh acidity, excellent concentration and finesse to burn.  

A beautiful, pale, translucent ruby color and a complex yet delicate nose that presented fruity, floral and savory attributes in turn, had the panel enamored. Scents of freshly baked cherry tart mingle with earthy whisps of forest floor, black truffle, savory cumin and mint. Deep red cherry and strawberry flavors are driven by super fresh acidity and offset in the mouth by a hint of salinity and complex layers of earth, mushrooms and savory herbs. Classic pinot. This is Australia really showing off its cool climate chops. 

Maison L'Envoye Bourgogne Rouge 2020


Mark Tarlov’s wines basked in critical acclaim when he launched his first wine label, Oregon’s Evening Land, in 2007. A few years down the line he debuted Maison L'Envoye, a project with outposts in both the Willamette Valley and Burgundy. The Women of Binny’s loved the well-judged balance of fruit, acid and tannin calling it an excellent example for those who are seeking Burgundy on a budget. 

Floral, herbaceous and sweetly spiced. Notes of purple flowers, sage, basil, tomato leaf, nutmeg, clove and freshly baked cinnamon rolls wrap around crisp cranberry and a rich layer of black cherry. The texture is velvety and an excellent depth to the intense, spiced strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit allow this wine to linger pleasantly on the palate long after it is swallowed. Lifted and lively! 


Lange Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2022


Family owned and operated since the 1980s, Lange is firing on all cylinders these days, turning out enviable pinot and chardonnay. This wine is from Lange’s three estate vineyards in Dundee Hills, flying the flag of quality for Lange and the Willamette Valley at a very reasonable price. The panel found it to be irresitably alluring; a compelling and seductive wine. 

The nose mesmerizes with delicate notes of sun warmed strawberries, cherries, sage and spice. The palate bursts with an unexpected intensity of fruit. This sexily textured wine is loaded to the hilt with slightly jammy strawberry and cherry flavors accented by subtle cinnamon and nutmeg spice. It finishes with a lively zesty flourish that had everyone going back for another sip. 

Böen Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2021


True to the Wagner family style, winemaker Joseph Wagner really lets it rip in this full bodied, full throttle, hedonistic and velvety pinot. It’s an explosive mouthful of concentrated Russian River fruit and toasty oak that the panel found impossible to resist. 

Brimming with scents of boysenberry cobbler, Damson plum jam, flambéed cherries and toasty, vanilla scented oak. In the mouth this is rich, round and softly textured featuring both moderate acidity and supple tannic structure. So bold, luscious and layered with black cherry, blueberry, plum, pomegranate, chocolate and sweet vanilla that tasters dubbed this the cabernet drinkers pinot. 

Clos de la George Grand Cru Pinot Noir 2021


Hailing from a high elevation Grand Cru vineyard in Yvorne, Switzerland, this wine was described by the Women of Binny’s as anything but neutral. Many commented that this was elegant, understated, earthy and herbal, making it very versatile with food. A Swiss surprise and a real treat at a remarkable price. 

Redolent of mountain oregano and thyme, cinnamon, clove and black truffle. Very earthy in the mouth with hints of soil, truffle, dark chocolate, bouquet garni and spice adding complexity to the bright and flavorsome marasca cherry fruit. Well done from a region that largely flies under the radar in the States. 

Chasing Harvest Pinot Noir 2019


From our friends Michael Kush and Jennifer Kingen Kush at Chasing harvest comes this textbook example of Central Otago pinot noir. Tasters were impressed by the exemplary balance of ripe fruit, spice and savory gaminess this southern New Zealand beauty displays. Brilliance from the bottom of the world! 

A classic varietal expression in the nose with aromatic Bing cherry, raspberry, rose petal, baking spice and vanilla along with a whiff of meaty, savory, gaminess. The palate explodes with slightly confected fruits. It’s positively loaded with the rich, vanilla tinged and spice laced flavors of cherry pie filling enlivened by citrusy acidity. Fruit, spice and an undercurrent of wild game ride atop minerally, chalky tannins in the long satisfying finish. Deliciously complete and completely delicious! 

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Contributing Panelists:

  • Alicia Barrett, Wine Educator & Tasting Panel Chair
  • Sara Cant, Wine Consultant, South Loop
  • Courtnye Heidleburg, Wine Consultant, Evergreen Park
  • Jamie McNee, Wine Manager, Portage Park 
  • Keonna Minnion, Wine Consultant, Hyde Park
  • Emily Niketopoulos, Wine Manager, Montgomery 
  • Karla Polanco, Wine Consultant, Glen Ellyn
  • LeAnne Trevino, Wine Consultant, Oak Brook