Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Wine, etc.: Perfect pinot noirs for summer
By TOM MARQUARDT and PATRICK DARR
Every pinot noir column should start with an apology. Prices for these wines are out of the range of most consumers, but $50 is about what it takes to get a full-body pinot noir from the West Coast. That's a far cry from the time when only the wines from Burgundy commanded those kinds of prices.
Blame it on price and demand. As the grape has become more popular, vineyard owners have been able to increase the price of their fruit or sell their land. Like in Burgundy, producers have been making small lots of pinot noir from vineyards whose fruit was often used in blends. Small means expensive.
Still, a good pinot noir at this time of the year is very enjoyable. It is the wine we pour with grilled salmon, lamb, hamburgers, cold pasta and even chicken. There are plenty of excellent pinot noirs coming out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and in Monterey and Russian River Valley in California. Here are a bunch of pinot noirs we recently tasted from the West Coast and even France:
J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006 ($38)
Known most for its sparkling wine, J also produces an excellent pinot noir using grapes from the prized Russian River Valley. Broad in the palate, it has the earthy, mushroom character often found in burgundy. Red berry flavors and a generous dollop of spice.
Find recommended wine: J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Eastport Liquors, Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits
Thursday, July 23, 2009
James Laube Unfined
July 22, 2009
When Pinot Tastes Like Syrah It Might Be Pinotage
Last week during a blind tasting flight of 2007 Sonoma Pinot Noirs, I came across one wine that stood out, and that I really liked.
It was dark in color, notably spicy and peppery, with pretty floral scents and ripe, vivid black and wild berry fruit. Tight in structure, dense and concentrated, even a tad rustic, ending with a complex array of fruit, herb and anise, with firm tannins.
My first reaction: Is this a Syrah? Had I missed the change in varietals in the lineup? Did we shift from Pinot to Rhône reds?
The wine certainly fit the critique some people have of some California Pinots--that is, they’re too big and almost Syrah-like in their structure, strength and flavor profile.
When the bags came off, the wine made sense. It was a 2007 Pinotage ($38) from J Vineyards and Winery (which is owned by Judy Jordan, the daughter of Jordan Winery owner Tom Jordan, but is a separate entity). I liked the new J Pinots, too, but the Pinotage caught my fancy that day, and later that night as I tried it after it had had eight hours of aeration. It was still going strong the next day.
It’s a wonderful wine. Pinotage is rather rare in California, and I can only recall having tried a few others over the years. The grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. The latter grape gives it its tannic backbone and muscle, along with the pepper and spice, balancing out the more tender, fleshy, fruitier elements of Pinot Noir.
Pinotage first gained recognition as one of the signature wines from South Africa, where it was created in the 1920s. However, as my colleague James Molesworth pointed out in an article a few years ago, the grape and wine have fallen out of favor there.
J’s Pinotage isn’t the lone Pinotage from California. I’ve given high marks to Fort Ross’ Sonoma Coast bottlings as well. If you like Pinot but have never experienced a Pinotage, you owe it to yourself to try one and taste the crossroad of Pinot and Cinsault, or the point where red Burgundy meets the Southern Rhône.