I, like many others, am very passionate about Pinot Noir. As I pull together the curriculum for the upcoming class I’m teaching “Pinot Noir: A Wine of Passion” at Savvy Cellar Wines in Mountain View on Monday June 6th, I starting to think about what was at the source of my passion for this varietal.
Pinot Noir is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world. But, because it can be difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine, it demands the most from its wine makers. In fact, André Tchelistcheff, perhaps the dean of post-prohibition American wine makers, once declared that “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir.”
While, as a Sommelier, I celebrate the trials and triumphs of Pinot Noir wine makers, my love of Pinot Noir is less deeply rooted in the grape’s historical lineage but rather in its versatility when combined with food. Pinot Noir can present a broad range of bouquets, flavors and textures and impressions. It tends to be of light to medium body with an aroma reminiscent of cherry (red and/or black), raspberry and sometimes currant. It possesses high levels of acidity which allow it to cut through heavier dishes, yet is delicate enough in flavor profile and weight to not overwhelm more delicate dishes such as fish. There is perhaps no other single varietal that does as well on a date when I want duck and my husband wants fish!
So where do I turn when I want to get my Pinot on? Putting together the latest contest on the iPad contest app “Know the Savvy Sommelier” made me think hard about my favorite Pinot Noir regions in the world.
Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Some of the most famous and expensive wines throughout history, regardless of varietal, have originated from Burgundy. I love Bourgogne as much as the next Sommelier, but it is only #3 on my list of favorite Pinot Noir regions.
I may have some California bias here but my favorite region is the Russian River Valley AVA. It has a cool climate, heavily affected by fog generated by the valley’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and, as such, has had much success with Pinot Noir. Russian River wine makers have experimented over time with trellising techniques to offer more sunshine which help to enhance depth of color and increase sugar levels. The result has been a fuller, heavier bodied Pinot Noir that still retains acidity, cherry and berry fruit flavors and delicate earthy / mushroom aromas.
Now that you have a hint as to a couple of my favorite Pinot Noir regions, be sure to play this week’s contest on Know the Savvy Sommelier iPad app. You could win discounts on glasses of Pinot Noir at Savvy Cellar Wine Bar & Wine Shop (recently voted the Best Wine Bar in the San Francisco Bay Are by readers of SFGate.com BayList).