Since 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:
LaFollette Pinot Noir - LaFollette makes this list two weeks in a row, first for their Chardonnay -which changed my view on chardonnay- and now for their Pinot Noir. Greg LaFollette is a world class winemaker who has finally been unleashed with the right backing to focus solely on making great wines for his own eponymous label. As I say to everyone to whom I pour this wine, "Get on the list now as it won't be long before it's a waiting list and these wines become absorbed by the secondary market". Price: $30-50 depending on vineyard and vintage. Buy LaFollette Wines
MacPhail Pinot Noir - MacPhail Pinot Noir is a special wine to me as it has the distinguishing characteristic of being the first wine I ever tried that made me say "Holy hell, what is this?". And thus was born a wine enthusiast. I was elated to find MacPhail Pinot Noir included in a recent California Wine Club Signature Series shipment I received, a good indicator of the quality of wines in that club (and a wine club I recommend for that very reason). Price: $40-60 depending on vineyard and vintage. Buy MacPhail Wines
Freeman Pinot Noir - Two years ago I had the privilege of dining at Napa's famous French Laundry, arguably one of the world's finest restaurants. As commonly happens when dining out, my dinner companions looked to me -the IntoWine.com guy- to choose the wines. Understand, under normal circumstances I would jump at the chance to pick through the wine list and solicit the opinion of the sommelier, but this was the French Laundry, perhaps the pinnacle of Northern California fine dining, so being handed the responsibility of wine pairing for a 9-course meal was an understandably daunting task. Nevertheless I dove into the wine list and to my delight chose one of my favorite Sonoma pinot producers, Freeman. The sommelier endorsed my decision and the wine was a fantastic pairing for the meal, enjoyed by all. Now you would think that choosing a particular wine to accompany your meal at French Laundry would be close to the ultimate compliment for that producer. Au contraire. Not only did we choose Freeman for our once in a lifetime meal at French Laundry, we liked it so much we ordered a second bottle. So yes Freeman, you get the "This Wine is So Good We Bought a Second Bottle of it at French Laundry" prize. Go buy this wine. Price: $40-50 depending on vineyard and vintage.
Have pinot noir suggestions for me? Please email me as I'd love to discover wines I love as much as the three noted above.
Who is Brad Prescott and why is he recommending these wines?
As the Founder of IntoWine.com, I receive a ton of wine samples. Almost every day I get an email from some wine industry professional offering to send me a sample of this or that. These samples, in combination with all the wine I purchase myself, result in each night becoming a new wine adventure for me (and usually the person with whom I am fortunate to share a bottle). The problem I have -and hope to solve with this "Wines to Go Buy This Week" feature- is that I've never had a good angle on IntoWine for recommending all the great wines I have had the pleasure of discovering. Should I do straight wine reviews? No. I love wine, I run my own wine web site, and I don't really read wine reviews. They are boring and they don't help me one iota in choosing a wine. Should I write a wine column? Maybe someday, but not yet. Too soon. Here is the thing, writing a column puts me in the uncomfortable position of "wine writer", which I am not. I like to describe myself as a "web guy who loves wine" rather than a "wine guy with a web site". So what should I do to share with IntoWine readers all the great wines I stumble on? That's where "Wines to Go Buy This Week" comes in. Each week I am going to recommend a couple of wines I've tried and on which I am willing to stake my name (for whatever that's worth). I'm not going to sell you any BS about points, "hints of gooseberry and charcoal", or how much time the wine spent aging in French oak. I'm just going to recommend wines I have tasted and enjoyed, explain why I like it, and share any interesting or useful tidbits of info I managed to obtain about the wine.
Will I like the wines you recommend?
Maybe, maybe not. Everyone has a different palate. I know I like getting advice on wine to try as opposed to just randomly purchasing wines based on a clever label or the price point.
Are you a wine expert?
Hell no. And who really is? I'm like the vast majority of wine enthusiasts in that I've discovered I love wine and want to learn more. The advantage I have over most people is that, between running IntoWine for 5 years and living in San Francisco, I have access to so many wines from so many different regions and producers, many of which the average wine consumer would never know to try. Couple that with all of the great wine info on IntoWine.com and my wine learning curve is, to say the least, steep.
I work for XYZ Vineyards. Can I send you some wine samples?
Of course. However I only recommend wines I truly like so the only guarantee I can make is that your wines will get fair consideration. If you want to send samples you can find useful info here or email me at MYFIRSTNAME AT IntoWine DOT com (sorry for the code but listing the email in the normal fashion invites spam).