Pinot Noir: Articles on the Pinot Noir Red Wine Grape Varietal

The Onset of Southern Oregon

There is a saying that when people think of Oregon, they think of the three “Ps” - Portland, Precipitation and Pinot. Yes, there is rain; yes, Portland is a the largest city in the state, and yes the Willamette Valley, south of Portland, is known for Pinot Noir. But Oregon, specifically Southern Oregon, also excels at under-the-radar grape varieties and has an advantage that no other wine region could ever possess – a climate scientist who knows the best possible sites to plant the right varieties on the right soil under the right conditions.

Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley: Foods to Pair With, and Meals that Call for, Willamette Valley Pinot

Great Pinot Noir—the Holy Grail of winemakers from France to Australia and the US, and one of the most notoriously difficult grapes to grow. The thin-skinned varietal is susceptible to rot, viruses and diseases and needs a perfectly cool climate and exacting vineyard management to thrive. After the grapes are harvested the winemaker has plenty of decisions to make, including whether or not to fine and filter the wine, how much tannin the final product should have and choosing a precise regimen of oak aging, since Pinot’s delicate flavors can easily be masked by the flavors of wood. It’s easy to make a disappointing, thin-tasting wine from this grape, but really fine Pinot is the stuff of the gods and the combination of ripe fruit and spice flavors, low tannin and high acid make Pinot Noir one of the most food friendly wines in the world.

Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – The Pinnacle of Pinot Noir

France's Burgundy Wine Region: A Primer on the History, Wines, Vineyards & Terroir contains an excellent introduction into the ethereal wine of one of the most famous wine producing regions.  No winery is more famous, or produces such legendary wines in Burgundy than Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.  Often abbreviated as DRC, the winery makes some of the most exclusive and expensive wines in the world.  They are, for those lucky enough to have tried them, the pinnacle of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Wines to Go Buy This Week: Sonoma Pinot Noir by La Follette, MacPhail, and Freeman

Pinot NoirSince I wrote last week about how much I (used to) hate chardonnay, this week I am turning attention to the varietal I love: pinot noir. Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me for my favorite wine producers -and the list is long- so I am going to focus this week on my favorite Sonoma pinot noir producers. There are numerous producers of fantastic pinot in Sonoma so I'm sure I will get plenty of emails from people wondering how I could leave out so and so or who are incredulous that my recommendations exclude "less expensive" options.

So let me respond in advance: The threshold for inclusion on this list is that the wine must be in regular rotation in my house and be the "go to" bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir to serve to guests or to uncork to celebrate small victories (a concept I enthusiastically embrace..... life is too short not to celebrate good days with a fantastic bottle of wine. Who wants to die with a huge collection of great wine aging in the basement?). Must a good Sonoma pinot noir cost $40+? Of course not, though so often they do. With that said, the three wines to go buy this week are:

Best Pinot Noir (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their best pinot noir recommendations (for the money):

Finding a good, value-priced Pinot Noir—i.e., for $20 and under--has been a real challenge over the past decade, when the demand for Pinot Noir grapes has driven up the price growers charge to producers, leading to higher and higher consumer prices. Significantly lower yields in vintages like 2010 and 2011 haven’t helped either. And although a lot of Pinot Noir has been planted each year since the Sideways phenomenon made the grape the wine world’s hottest commodity, those plantings and the speed with which they get mature enough to be the source of wine (minimum three years) have still lagged behind demand.

The best sources for Pinots at this price level in California have been La Crema (their Monterey appellation bottling is usually $20 or less) and Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley ($20 or less). The lowest priced, decent Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from the State in the last few years has been the Mark West, simply a California appellation, for about $11.

The real value source for characterful Pinot Noir these days, however, is New Zealand. They can be a bit more of a challenge to find on U.S. shelves, but are well worth the hunt, for both quality and value. Some of the best recent releases I’ve tried, that can be had for $15 to $20, are from Coopers Creek (I especially loved their Razorback bottling from Central Otago), Saint Clair, Stoneleigh, Te Kairanga and Wither Hills. You’ll find a delicacy, lightness and good acidity in these Kiwi Pinots that make their value pricing no contest when compared to similarly priced domestic Pinot. - Richard Jennings, IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder RJonWine.com

Twin Oaks Pinot Noir 2007 - IntoWineTV Episode 141

"Cult Wines of Crushpad" - IntoWineTV host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Bartholomew Broadbent and Loren Sonkin convene among the vines at Crushpad in Napa Valley to taste and discuss the cult wine brands of Crushpad.

Top Burgundy Red Wines

France's Burgundy wine region produces some of the world's truly great wines.  This is a region completely dedicated to terroir and tradition.  Even the grapes planted in Burgundy are restricted to a few traditional varietals, with pinot noir and chardonnay holding pride of place – as they have for many, many centuries.

Burgundy's Winemaking History

Burgundy's winemaking history dates back at least to ancient Roman times, possibly earlier, although documentation is scanty prior to the Romans' arrival.  Catholic monks cultivated vineyards during the Middle Ages, and the ruling Dukes of Burgundy involved themselves in the grape-growing process in an effort to improve the quality (and, no doubt, export value) of Burgundy wines.  It was during this period that pinot noir became the red wine grape of choice in Burgundy.  Vineyards shifted from Church ownership to individual owners during the Renaissance, and, in the aftermath of the French Revolution some 300 years later, all remaining Church vineyards were privatized.  These privately-owned vineyards were divided and re-divided under Napoleonic law, which forced families to split holdings among heirs instead of willing all inheritable property to one descendant.  This division of the vineyards led directly to the system used in Burgundy today; hundreds of growers sell their grapes to négociants, or buyers, who use the grapes to make wine.

Ellman Family Vineyards "Alexis Skye" Pinot Noir 2008 - IntoWineTV Episode 136

"Cult Wine Brands of Crushpad" - IntoWineTV host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Bartholomew Broadbent and Loren Sonkin convene among the vines at Crushpad in Napa Valley to taste and discuss the cult wine brands of Crushpad.

Affaire de Coeur Pinot Noir 2005 - IntoWineTV Episode 136

"Cult Wine Brands of Crushpad" IntoWineTV host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Bartholomew Broadbent and Loren Sonkin convene among the vines at Crushpad in Napa Valley to taste and discuss the cult wine brands of Crushpad

Calicaro Liberty Bridge Pinot Noir 2008 - IntoWineTV Episode 135

"Cult Wine Brands of Crushpad" IntoWineTV host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Bartholomew Broadbent and Loren Sonkin convene among the vines at Crushpad in Napa Valley to taste and discuss the cult wine brands of Crushpad.

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