Since spring officially sprung over a month ago and the weather can't seem to make up it's mind, I thought I would give a shout out to my red “of the moment”, Pinot Noir, before we leap right into summer. During the colder months, I tend to gravitate towards a single red varietal (specific wine or grape), sampling different brands. The gravitational pull typically occurs while I am out socially at a bar or dining with friends. My home wine cooler, however, is always stocked with an assortment to satisfy my other red wine urges.
The name Pinot Noir comes from the French words “pine” and “black”, referring to the dark purple pine cone shaped clusters of fruit that grow on the vines. Grown mostly in cooler climates, it thrives in France (Burgundy and Champagne), northern Italy, western Germany, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States to name a few. The latter is recognized as one of the major Pinot producers in the world with its most notable examples coming from California's Sonoma County, Central Coast's Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County and Willamette Valley in Oregon.
A dry wine, Pinot Noir is light to medium bodied with cherry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry on the nose and palate. Hints of warm spices also come through in the fuller bodied Pinots; cinnamon, clove and smokey tobacco.
Also a flexible wine, Pinot Noir can be paired with a variety of ethnic cuisines and traditional favorites. Ideal pairings include chicken, pork, beef, fish, lamb, wild game, mushrooms, fresh herbs, cheese and chocolate. The best cheese pairings are Asiago, Blue, Brie, Camembert, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Havarti and Swiss.
A few of my favorite Pinots come from the aforementioned areas above:
- 2011 Hahn Estates Pinot Noir - While out celebrating the New Year with some friends this January, we uncorked a bottle (maybe it was two!) of this Pinot. Hailing from Soledad, CA (Monterey County), this wine retails for about $11.99, though in the restaurant we paid about $40.00, which always kills me.
- 2010 Firesteed Oregon Pinot Noir - At a tasting in a local wine store, I sampled this Pinot, from Rickereall, OR (Willamette Valley). The winemaker procures the fruit from the Willamette, Umpqua, Rogue and Walla Walla Valleys, producing a genuine Oregon blend. It retails for about $13.99.
- 2009 Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir - Awhile back I did a wine exchange with a friend and she shared this Pinot from Valle Central, Chile. Do not let the price scare you; I have seen it for as low as $4.99. It definitely competes with any of the more expensive Pinots.
- 2009 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir - My friends at the Marriott recently recommended this Pinot from Central Otago, New Zealand. I found this one became smoother, the longer I let it breathe. It retails for about $28.79.
Whether you enjoy it on its own, with a mushroom risotto, steak fajitas, or chocolate-covered strawberries, Pinot Noir is known for being one of the more elegant grape varietals. However you fancy it, just crack open your favorite bottle or one of the ones I have mentioned and share your experience. I look forward to hearing from you!