I've been tasting TOO many really awesome Pinot Noirs lately. From Burgundy to New Zealand to Willamette Valley, Oregon, there is simply a lot of killer juice out there. What's a girl to do? Well....it's simple really- I've been totally addicted to these tuna and salmon burgers I get at Costco- they're frozen (yes, blasphemous, but it's hard for me to "pop into" a grocery store for fresher stuff these days with Elvis at my side). .....I throw these puppies on the grill, toss salad from garden with avocados and balsamic (NO TOMATOS- FYI- they DO NOT LIKE PINOT!), and get my corkscrew. Ooh- good question for you folks- what's your favorite type of corkscrew? I have this cheap plastic waiter's key with a VERY cool foilcutter I bought in Beaune, France, and have held onto for over a decade. Oldie but a goodie. I digress.....
So, for value, I've been drinking a couple yummy Pinots- one being Cono Sur Sustainable from Chile. ($12) Cool thing about this little wine is its surprising depth, and intensely fruity profile without being sweet, (some of the cheapies are SUPER sweet- ugh). It even has a little backbone. LOVELY....Then I head across the southern hemisphere for a New Zealand Pinot- try Mud House ($15). This is a dead ringer for a great little Bourgogne Rouge without the pricetag. NZ is the SOUTHERNMOST place in the world for growing grapes- (cool little fact). For more serious Pinots from NZ, look for ones hailing from Otago- the country's premier growing region for the juice.....GREAT acidity- perfect with my above mentioned salad.
My personal faves come from Willamette Oregon. Unfortunately, they tend to get pretty pricey, but DAMN, are they good! Definitely worth the price of admission.....Ones from the Dundee Hills get to be powerful, blackberry scented Pinots with rich texture, and a core of minerality that makes them age well. I just bought this Arterberry Maresh Dundee Hills Pinot 2006 ($70). Yes, it's pricey, but holy cow- this is SERIOUS! It is BY FAR the best American Pinot Noir I've tasted this year. Trust me- I taste a LOT of 'em.....It also received the highest score in 06 of any Oregon Pinot from Stephen Tanzer- A Pinot geek like myself. Big, rich, refined, juicy, and so, so long!!! I've been dreaming about my next bottle....
Within the stratosphere is a wine made by wine-making demi-god Tony Soter- pioneer of great Napa and Oregon Pinot, and at the head of the West Coast Organic and Sustainable winemaking movement. I attended a seminar at Pinot Camp (yes there is a camp for us freaks each year where we eat, drink, and breathe Pinot for a whole week- it rocks!), with Tony, and learned more in 3 hours about organic/ biodynamic farming than I would have at a whole semester at UC Davis. He owns Etude in Napa, and the Soter estate in Willamette. His North Valley Pinot ($32) is from the coolest regions of the valley, where he achieves incredible freshness, acidity, and balance. Incredibly approachable, and drinks like a beautiful Savigny Les Beaune. Important to remember: Willamette is THE SAME latitude as Burgundy, France, so you're going to get similar styles of Pinot (generally), with the exception of those from the ultra north, where the soil goes from limestone to volcanic.
ooh- almost forgot! Pinot makes one of my OTHER favorite wines in the whole wide world...Ros`e! Try the La Scolca Chiara Rosato ($15). It is Pinot Noir from PIEDMONT, Italy, and is beautiful- silky strawberry, hints of white pepper, and a long, clean finish. It is served every year at the Queen of England's birthday celebration! Classy too!!!
Ok- enough with the Pinot babble- I could wax poetic on Pinot for days. A couple "take-aways" for you on Pinot:
The Best Pinots:
- Come from cool climates (Champagne, NZ, Oregon, Russian river Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Burgundy, Patagonia
- Have a zippy, "fresh" acidity (they should feel clean, not cloying on your palate)
- Are drinkable in the near to mid-term (1-6 years)
- Smell like grapes (sounds silly, but more true of Pinot than any other red grape)
- Have a delicate texture, even if tannic- the tannins are linear like a fine laser beam on your palate
- Unfortunately, are LIMITED, as Pinot is a PAIN to grow- Winemakers call it "The Heartbreak Grape"