Pinot Noir, perhaps more than any other grape varietal, varies greatly, depending on where it is grown. It is one of the easiest varietals to tell its appellation of origin in a blind tasting, as the difference in aromas and flavor profiles are that pronounced. Therefore, it is one of those grapes that you should try from all the various growing areas before you decide, whether or not you like it.
Pinot Noir is typically more expensive than many other wines. This comes down to some simple viticultural facts. Pinot Noir is a very thin-skinned grape that grows in tight bundles. It also does best in areas with a cool, moist climate. These cool and moist growing conditions lend themselves to developing mold on the grapes, which really thrives in the tight bundles and easily penetrates the thin skins of the Pinot Noir grapes. A big part of the cost equation is due to these contradictions in the vineyard. It is, in short, a difficult grape to handle.
On to the favorites.
The 2017 Sean Minor Pinot Noir ($17, $15.30 Wine Club) is made from grapes grown on the Central Coast of California, and like the Sauvignon Blanc we talked about last week and all of the Sean Minor wines, it has a tremendous customer following. They produce high quality wines, especially for the money. The wine has a bit more oak ageing than most Pinot Noir for a bit more robust wine. It is a popular choice for large gatherings with a modest price tag.
The Annabella Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, made by Pozzan Winery out of Napa, is another extraordinary value. The 2016 ($22, $19.80 Wine Club) over delivers with every sip. Generous cherry aromas with mild earthiness lead to a rich and silky palate loaded with more cherry flavors for a delicious, well-priced interpretation of the varietal.
Another winery repeat is the 2015 Truchard Carneros Pinot Noir ($37, $33.30 Wine Club). Their Carneros Chardonnay is also very popular and we mentioned it in the Chardonnay column a couple weeks back. Truchard is located on the Napa side of Carneros, the strip of land along San Pablo Bay. This area gets cooling breezes and plenty of fog most evenings, exactly what Pinot Noir likes. These ideal climate conditions show in every sip of this silky, elegant Pinot.
The 2013 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir ($45, $40.50 Wine Club) is from vineyards just up the road from Truchard and shows a similar character. However, with a bit of age and coming from an outstanding vintage like 2013, it is a fun comparison to do side-by-side with the Truchard. It shows not only how truly age-worthy, well-made Pinot Noir can be, but also the subtle influences of winemaking on the grapes. The Saintsbury has taken on a sleekness and bit of leathery note on the nose that is remarkable as it has aged. There is not much of this one left, so it shouldn’t be missed.
We are thrilled that we recently gained access to the wines from Marimar Torres. The winery is located in the Russian River Valley, just across the road from my former employer, Balletto Vineyards, so I have known the wines for many years. Marimar is from Spain — a descendant of the winemaking Torres family there. The Pinot now on the 2015 vintage ($75, $67.50 Wine Club) has a European flair to it, with higher acid than many domestic Pinots, framing lovely Russian River Valley fruit. It is a unique wine, and one that our customers are enjoying more and more.
The 2017 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55, $49.50 Wine Club) is one of our favorites every year. Ehren Jordan handles this finicky varietal as well as any winemaker we know — crafting silky, elegant and fruit-laden Pinot from his winery in the heart of Napa. The 2017 shows all of his signature opulence, but also his legendary balance, for a layered and spectacular Pinot Noir that to us may be the stand out in this great group of wines.
Tune in next week as we discuss some of your favorite Cabernets.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.