Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir 2008 to 2011 Vertical Tasting – Consistently Delicious

Tasting four vintages of the same wine reveals some surprising yet consistently delicious results!


Today we have a fascinating exploration into the evolution of a wine over four vintages. The first vintage of the Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir was in 2008. In the subsequent years the oak treatment and barrel aging has changed, but as what is likely a testament to the high quality of the winemaking process, the end result is the same.

What perhaps surprised me the most was not that I rated 3 of the 4 years as a Bulk Buy, but that I liked each one of them for different reasons. This is the hallmark of a true Bulk Buy wine — one that is made so well that even through several vintages and all the variations that go along with each, the winemaker is able to consistently make top-notch wine. Let’s take a look at all four wines, shall we?

All four vintages are 100% Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, California. All vintages have an SRP of $20 and are available for as low as $14, but more commonly available for $15-$16. Samples submitted for review.

From the bottle:

“For four generations our family has been making wines in Sonoma County. In crafting our namesake Don & Sons wines we turned to some of our oldest local vineyard partners for the exceptional fruit used to produce beautiful Burgundian style varietals. Displaying both elegance and depth these wines stand in testament to show just how far Sonoma winemaking has come since our great grandfather’s time.

2011: 13.5% Alcohol
2010: 13.9%
2009: 13.9%
2008: 14.6%”

Let’s start with the most recent vintage first. The 2011 Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir begins with lots of red fruit like cranberry and raspberry, a few dried herbal notes and a little cedar and pine on the pleasant nose. According to the winemaker 2011 was a difficult vintage but it certainly does not show in the glass. The wine tastes of juicy and tart red fruit with a nice layer of spice and a bit of earthiness all the way through. It ends dry and somewhat oaky but those notes quickly dissipate with some air so give this wine time to breathe or give it another year in the bottle and it’ll be even better. This wine saw 10 months in French oak (60% new).

Buy this wine online from our featured sponsor Marketview Liquor or see a listing of local retailers selling this wine here.

Taste Rating: 9              Cost Rating: 6
Overall Rating: 8.3

Bulk Buy

The 2010 Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir saw the shortest amount of time in barrel at only 8 months in French oak (50% new) and perhaps not coincidentally the winemaker deemed this one the least age-worthy of the bunch. That’s not to say it isn’t a good wine, in fact, it is excellent for drinking right now! It begins with aromas of red fruit like the others, but not as much cedar and it also has a bit of cola. The wine tastes super drinkable with a nice mix of jammy, cherry fruit and spice. A hint of caramel comes out on the long finish. Perhaps not as complex as the others, but still very good.

See a listing of local retailers selling this wine here.

Taste Rating: 8              Cost Rating: 6
Overall Rating: 7.5

Recommended Buy

The 2009 Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir saw 12 months in French oak and that is evident in some of the secondary flavors you find in this wine that are not as pronounced in the 2010 and 2011. Things like sassafras/root beer, caramel and a bit of mint. This one also features the most spice of the bunch. The primary fruit flavors are strawberry and cran-apple. It ends dry with good length. I’m torn between this one and the 2011 as my favorite — they are actually quite different tasting wines, but both are excellent!

See a listing of local retailers selling this wine here.

Taste Rating: 9              Cost Rating: 6
Overall Rating: 8.3

Bulk Buy

The 2008 Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Pinot Noir was the first vintage of this wine and saw a whopping 24 months in French oak. If you tasted this wine blind beside other vintages you would be hard pressed to pick it out as the oldest of the bunch. Like the others cedar, red berries and a few herbal notes are present on the nose. The wine tastes smooth with probably a few more earthy notes and less spice than the other vintages. Perhaps the fruit is beginning to fall off just a bit, but it’s hard to say. Again, I really enjoyed this wine but for different reasons than the others.

See a listing of local retailers selling this wine here.

Thanks to Don & Sons and Balzac Communications for allowing us this fascinating look into vintage variation within a single wine. Given the consistency that I experienced across these four vintages I would not hesitate one second to buy or recommend any future vintage of this Pinot Noir, and as such, it definitely becomes one of my go-to wines under $20!

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