Tag Archives: pinot noir

Seasonal Sipping: Capturing the Flavors of Fall in a Glass

These days, autumn is basically a synonym for “pumpkin spice everything season,” but let’s not forget about the other cozy, delightful fragrances and flavors of fall. Whether you’re enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, relaxing in front of a roaring fire, or rewarding yourself after a long day of raking leaves, you don’t need to venture to Starbucks or a candle shop to get your fix of your favorite flavors. Instead, look for a bottle of wine that captures those characteristics (it will be a lot more fun!).

If you like: Autumn leaves
Try: Red Burgundy
Red Burgundy, made from Pinot Noir, will always exhibit typical notes of red fruitstrawberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate, to name a few—but sometimes the wines from this renowned region will also feature a flavor that is a bit more savory, more wild, and very specific to the local terroir. This can be described as anything from autumn leaves to fresh earth to even wet dog. It may be a bit surprising at first for those who are accustomed to the bold fruit of California Pinot, but it’s definitely worth giving these beautifully complex wines a chance to grow on you.
Our Pick: 2012 Maison Pascal Clément Bourgogne Rouge

If you like: Macintosh apples
Try: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
Apples are of the most perfect foods for fall—you can enjoy them fresh and crisp on their own, bake them into a pie, or use them to brighten up savory dishes like pork loin or sausage stuffing. Apple is also a common flavor in many wines, particularly in Chenin Blanc, which often smells and tastes like Macintosh apples dipped in honey, and can range from bone dry to lusciously sweet, and from still to sparkling.
Our Pick: 2015 Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec

If you like: Baking spice
Try: Oaked Chardonnay
Depending on their place of origin, oak barrels can impart various flavors to a wine during fermentation and maturation. French oak in particular is known for attributes of baking spice or “Christmas” spice. Chardonnay, a fairly adaptable variety, readily displays these characteristics when oak (especially from previously unused barrels) is utilized during winemaking.
Our Pick: 2013 Ramey Russian River Chardonnay

If you like: Caramel
Try: Tawny Port
When wine becomes oxidized, in addition to changing in color (from red to brown, in the case of Port or other red wines), it picks up an entirely new range of flavors and aromas. Tawny port is slowly oxidized through controlled aging in porous wooden barrels. This causes fruit character to pleasingly fade from fresh to dried or stewed berries, and the development of nutty and caramelized notes. These can make for delightful after-dinner wines—try them with a cheese plate or a classic apple pie.
Our Pick: Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port

If you like: Cranberry
Try: Central Coast Pinot Noir
A wide range of red fruit flavors can be found in Pinot Noir from any region, but in the California’s Central Coast, where warm sunlight is tamed by cool breezes, cranberry tends to be a dominant flavor. This bold, tart flavor shows up in Pinots that are marked by moderate to full body and crisp acidity, making for a very crowd-pleasing as well as fall-friendly style.
Our Pick: 2014 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir


If you like: Firewood
Try: Northern Rhône Syrah
Syrah from France’s Northern Rhône Valley can often be easily distinguished in a blind tasting by experienced wine professionals based on several common characteristics: purple fruits and flowers, white pepper, and smoke—sometimes with a hint of bacon fat thrown into the mix! These wines are bold, warming, and aromatically pleasing—and absolutely perfect for enjoying in front of a fireplace while wearing your coziest socks.
Our Pick: 2013 Jean-Louis Chave St. Joseph Offerus

From Burgundy with love: Appellation Bourgogne

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To most lonely and dedicated wine souls, Burgundy is the greatest challenge of all. One taste of a Montrachet or Romanée-Conti and one is doomed for a life of endless searching, and the painful reality of never-enough-money to even sniff wine’s Holy Grail. Even village wines cost more money than most mortals can spend. So it comes down to this: rare, ultra-expensive wines are often difficult to pronounce and harder to locate, even if one has reconciled the cost of the wine. It is no wonder that so many consumers have been chilled out of this precious wine region. Yet Burgundy, well aware of this situation, has begun to market wines that we all can afford.

Bourgogne Chardonnay and Bourgogne Pinot Noir is now the ticket back into Burgundy and provide the world with not just delicious and affordable wines, but wines that can be found in the marketplace. Wine experts freely admit that Burgundy is the birthplace of quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While both varietals (more chard than pinot) are widely grown throughout the world, history and research always begin here. Bourgogne is now the appellation that delivers the flavors of the varietals, as well as the characteristics of Burgundy at an affordable price.

Over the last 20 years, I have been most impressed with Bouchard Père et Fils and how their continued growth to make better and better wines. The current 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay and 2012 Bourgogne Pinot Noir are excellent representatives of this category and of these varietals. One doesn’t always have to break the bank to enjoy the wines from this land that stretches from Dijon to Lyon. This pair of wines are from Burgundy with love.

The hunt for California’s Holy Grail

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You think you need to travel to The Mecca of Pinot Noir to satisfy your appetite for the variety? Well, I have news for all of you starving wine lovers. Though it is hard to deny that a week in Beaune, France would do wonders for the wine soul, I can point to so many places in California where Pinot Noir has gone to the next level. Where? Could it be the Russian River Valley, the Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast? While those places do indeed have some of America’s very best Pinots, today I’d like to talk about the Santa Lucia Highlands.

History tells us that the earliest plantings in this AVA took place in the 1790’s, but it was not until the 1980’s and 1990’s that the area was re-discovered by farming families: Pisoni, Franscioni, Manzoni, Boekenoogen and others. Today there are many artisan productions proving this area’s potential for greatness. At the forefront of the movement is Bernardus, whose single vineyard Pinot Noirs are nothing short of spectacular. While Proprietor Ben Pon had been known for developing a strong case for Bordeaux blends (Marinus) out of Carmel Valley, his more recent launch of Pinot Noir is grabbing  attention from the top critics in the wine world. Wine publications such as the Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and the Wine Enthusiast, have given the wines superb accolades and high scores.

In my recent tastings I was really wowed by the 2011 single vineyard offerings. The  Soberanes shows great balance and trueness to the varietal. The Sierra Mar takes the varietal on a darker fruit journey and is pretty delicious. The Pisoni is scary good and so young that it could take a year of two before it is ready, though one could roast a leg of lamb and be pretty happy with this wine. The Garys’ is complete and distinctive as it offers a more savory personality. My very favorite is the Rosella’s. This wine is so spectacular that I could easily turn away a fine Gevrey-Chambertin and pour this one in its place. Gentle and bright, yet deceptively powerful, the wine just stays, stays and stays on the palate. It may now be the time to invoke a new saying, “Can Burgundy rival America’s best single vineyard Pinot Noir?”

The Gorgeous 2012 Oregon Pinot Noirs

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I am so incredibly excited! About what, you ask? The 2012 Oregon Pinot Noirs, a vintage the Wine Spectator called, “Ideal conditions produced generous wines; not over the top.” The magazine rated the vintage 92-95 points. I am on a mission to taste 50 or more of the current releases from some of the best wineries in the state. This process will take a couple of months. I will have a full report by the first of July. The following wineries are among my hit list: A to Z Wineworks, Adelsheim, Argyle, Chaehalem, Domaine Serene, Elk Cove, King Estate, Ponzi, Rainstorm, RouteStock and Seven Hills Winery. I have a few others that I will include as well. So what about recent vintages?

Oregon is one of the wine world’s most marginal growing regions. Over the past four decades, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris have been the stars, especially in the Willamette Valley. Even adding to the fun are the growers and vintners themselves. If any of you have ever spent quality time with these folks you will have learned that they can be cagey, cantankerous and collaborative. If you are not into it, they won’t even acknowledge your presence (I am only kidding here). But one thing that is undeniable is that the Oregon wine folks are super passionate about what they do. The result is: they live in a growing region that is reserve for the strongest souls in the wine biz. Potentially, the Willamette Valley can have some really difficult vintages. Hearts are anxious and spirits are strong as each harvest comes into view.

I have tasted some 2010’s and 2011’s and there are so many very good wines. The 2011’s are by and large a bit leaner and reticent of recent years. As I begin to taste the 2012’s I am really liking them. The first few have come across a pleasingly plump, yet nicely balanced. Yes, this promises to be a vintage to remember. Seems those guys at the Wine Spectator are very much on target! My current favorite for all to try is the 2012 Argyle. The wine is so pretty and ready to enjoy. This wine is a precursor of what is to come. Stay tuned, you may even be able to forget about Burgundy for a while… Well, maybe not. For the time being, 2012 Oregon Pinots will be the envy of the marketplace. By the way,  May is Oregon Wine Month, wouldn’t this be a great way to celebrate?

If you could only serve two wines this holiday season…

We’re big fans of the Wagner family. Not only are they the minds (and hands) behind Caymus, one of our favorite California Cabernets, they also expanded their portfolio to include other varieties, and like Caymus, they do these wines oh so well.

We’re featuring a couple of them today because they really two ideal holiday wines: Conundrum white and Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir.

Conundrum, called as such because you never know what the exact blend of grapes is in this wine, is a customer favorite. It is full of ripe fruit flavors, a creamy texture and lingering finish. It’s a wine that can last through the dinner, especially pairing with anything that has a touch of spice. It is a delicious all-night party sipper for any holiday fete and an all-around palate-pleaser.

The Meiomi (pronounced mey-OH-me) hails from the coastal vineyards of California, the perfect climate for growing a cool-climate variety like Pinot Noir. Delicious red fruits and sweet spice make this a rich yet not-too-heavy wine perfect for holiday parties and dinners. It’s terribly food friendly, but also has all those characteristics that make it a superbly delightful wine sipping on its own. At such a great price point, it could be your go-to dinner party red.

So stock up on these two to pull out for holiday dinners, hostess gifts or just sipping by the fire.