Pinot Noir (Pee-noe Nwahr)
Luscious, rich, complex, integrated, austere, and complex are all words describing one of the noblest grapes in the world: Pinot Noir. Its wide-sweeping appeal reaches throughout all of the United States and France and across the Atlantic to far-away regions such as Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Worldwide, winemaker’s try in vain to capture the funky (barnyard) and not-so-funky (ripe strawberry) array of flavors that are sought after in the glass.
Pinot Noir Tasting Notes: Cherry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Pine, Orange Peel, Oak, violets, tangerine, coffee, chocolate, Cinnamon, Earth, Cedar, Grapefruit, Barnyard, Root beer, smoke, Pomegranate, Rhubarb, Cranberry, Roasted Tomato, Blackberry, Wet Leaves, Mushroom, Vanilla, Plum, Licorice, Rose, Red Currant, Clove, Lavender, Pepper, Leather, Tar, and Cassis
Originating in Burgundy, its ideal climate of cool, cold weather helps the thinned skinned grape reach full potential. Grown in regions considered too hot, the grape can emit strange burnt vegetable flavors in the glass, almost as if it was basking in the sun just a little too long. In the vineyard, Pinot Noir is notorious for cloning itself over and over and many times a “pure clonal” vineyard, without careful care, turns into a missed-matched group of clones. Pinot Noir also has a love affair with French oak, and it seems to pull out all the nuances that the barrel gives to the grapes during barrel maturation. Recent trends require careful vineyard care, cold-soaking, and the use indigenous yeasts. In the bottle, Pinot Noir is much more sensitive to its surroundings and a corked or “off” bottle is not uncommon to find. It’s also one of the three grapes used in most Champagne blends and typically a rosé bubbly, can be traced back to Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is so popular that it even played a famous role in the movie, Sideways. The movie, a huge hit, created Pinot Noir fans everywhere much to the chagrin of the fall guy, Merlot. People seemed to fall in love with Miles Raymond, the lovable, but pathetic wing-man, who loved all things Pinot Noir. Trying to impress his date Maya, who could forget his famous quote explaining his love for the grape.
Miles Raymond on Pinot Noir
“It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Only somebody who really take the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle, and… ancient on the planet.”
Since 2004 and the success of the movie, there has been an uptick in producers of Pinot Noir. Many vineyards and wineries in cool micro-climates, such as the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, are testing the boundaries and creating some incredible artisan Pinot Noirs. They have been putting their Pinot Noir’s to the test through many national competitions and tasting panels, many times concluding with rave reviews. Check out these Santa Cruz wineries below that go to great lengths to create some fantastic Pinot Noir!
Lindsey’s Santa Cruz Pinot Noir Picks
2006 Burrell School Vineyards “Principal’s Choice” Estate Pinot Noir
2009 Dancing Creek Pinot Noir, Regan Vineyard
2007 Loma Prieta Winery Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir
2008 Poetic Cellars Pinot Noir