Tale of 4 Cities

It is funny the differences between cab and pinot in terms of appellation labeling.  With cab, a label might bottle several vineyards and then the ESTATE is typically the flagship wine.  With Pinot, the ESTATE is usually the bottom wine and vineyard-designates are priced higher–and quality is more pronounced.  This is Laetitia’s bottom bottling.  I have had it 4 times in the past 4 days–with quite different results.  Amazing how ‘place’ and ‘atmosphere’ and maybe even ‘glasses’ make such a profound difference.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON:  Took an out-of-town guest on a quick little junket of Santa Maria Valley with an emphasis on Pinot.  Decided to stop in at Laetitia first-off before hitting SMV.  Laetitia is not Santa Maria Valley, but kinda borders it, technically the Southern end of Arroyo Grande Valley, about 5 miles North of the SMV on the 101.  My guest tasted through the full Pinot offerings–I think 5–ranging from this 30$ bottle up through all their vineyard-designate and clone-designate bottlings in the 60$ range.  I was driving and tour-guiding, so smelled only–surrounded by the typical, fairly neutral environment of a tasting room:  warm and somewhat musty, surrounded by a generous helping of Tourist with a side of Club-Member.  Above-average crystal tasting glasses.  It smelled very pinot, full and ripe and plenty of barnyard with barely a trace of alcohol and good, solid fruit.  It paled in comparison to the higher-priced offerings, though.  Smelled of quality pinot and I gave it good marks.

FRIDAY EVENING:  Went to a local decent–if not a bit touristy–restaurant with a serviceable list and found this same bottle as pretty much their finest wine on the menu.  Thought to myself, “Well, THIS will be interesting!” and ordered it.  It was flabby and fruit-FWD and barely ‘pinot-ey’ amongst salads and fried fish and mediocre steak with trimmings.  Of course, fairly clunky, heavy glass restaurant glasses to boot.  Was really disappointed and rolled my eyes a couple times.  Took half a bottle home.

SATURDAY EVENING:  Under vac since the night before, and alongside an above-average Paso Syrah and a SMV pinot of much higher pedigree, thought, “Hey, wonder how this is holdin up?”  It smelled and tasted considerably better–of course now in Riedel–but still seemed fat and novice-ey in terms of actual classic Pinot nuances.  Not much goin on behind the initial blast of somewhat flabby ripe fruit.

SUNDAY EVENING:  Still under vac, and at this point am usually ready to pour a wine out.  But, always have to taste it first and this TRULY was a moment of, “Hey, wonder how THIS is holdin up?”  Surprise, surprise!  It actually has started to come around into something I can actually drink and call decent pinot.  Warm and ripe, still, but far less overweight.  Seems to have a bright acid streak and a trace of tannin.  Much more AL in the nose.  Far more barnyard, forest-floor, manure sort of wonderful pinot characteristics.  It actually has come full circle and TASTES the way I imagined it should way back when I only SMELLED it.

2012 LAETITIA Pinot Noir Estate Arroyo Grande Valley 13.9



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