Proper Pinot Prevents Poor Potation
by James Krajewski
In the film Sideways, right around the time Paul Giamatti’s character (Miles) threatens to leave the dinner table if anyone orders Merlot, he also utters some extremely poignant words regarding his favorite grape variety: "It's thin-skinned, temperamental, and ripens early. It's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it's neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention. And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, tucked away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, its flavors, they're just the most haunting, brilliant, thrilling, subtle, and ancient on the planet."
If you take a good look around our shop you’ll notice just how strong our pinot passion is just by the sheer amount of real estate dedicated to it. And if you have the desire to talk pinot, any one of our staff members is more than happy to oblige. But unlike Miles, who’s most prized and coveted bottle of wine in his collection ironically contains Merlot as a large portion of its blend, if Merlot is what you’re after, we would be happy to recommend one of our many tasty examples of one of the worlds most popular grape varieties.
The name pinot noir comes from the French words for "pine" and "black". When it is fully ripe it exhibits a deep blue or black color, and the grape clusters are dense and tightly packed resembling the structure of a pinecone. It is one of the oldest varieties of vinifera cultivated with the intent of vinification, with historical accounts dating as far back as the first century. We have Catholic monks in France to thank for planting pinot to use for sacramental purposes and eventually identifying the finest vineyard sites in Burgundy, which is undoubtedly considered the best place in the world for growing pinot noir.
The very narrow thirty-mile long stretch of hillside known as the Cote d' Or (Slope of Gold) is its undisputed home. Its softly undulating east facing slopes that provide lengthy exposure to sunlight and chalk rich soils which boast exceptional drainage, are just a few of the many reasons that the finest examples of pinot noir are grown here. The French describe this multitude of environmental factors that influence a vine in its growing process in one word known as "terroir". Even though the terroir of Burgundy is in its own category, there are a number of other locations that provide exceptional conditions in which outstanding pinot noir can de produced.
France's Loire River Valley, the Cotes du Jura, and Champagne all create unique and intriguing examples of pinot noir. New Zealand, Northern Italy, Northern California, Oregon's Willamette Valley, and Southwest Germany are also of honorable mention. What sets all these great regions apart is that they allow the variety to speak of the earth, combining terroir, history, and pure wonder all in one glass. More than any other variety, pinot noir has the remarkable ability to soak up the essence of the land on which it has been grown upon. This transparent characteristic as well as its aforementioned noble qualities is amongst the many reasons we love pinot noir so very much.
The collection of bottlings we have put together for you represents exactly what makes the variety so special; importance of place, favor of aromatic purity, balance, and finesse over power and extraction, harmony of sugar, tannin, alcohol, and acidity, and unprecedented ability to pair with a vast array of cuisines. We hope these wines inspire you to embrace the beauty and transcendence of Pinot and grow to love it as much as we do.
2012 Marchand-Tawse Pommard- Cotes de Beaune, France $60
A dazzling example of Burgundy that drinks amazingly well in its youth, it jumps from the glass with gobs of ripe red cherry fruit and finishes with silky and supple tannins. The clay rich soils of Pommard provide a well-built frame on which to hang its generous fruit. Trust us, open this one, and it is going to disappear fast.
2012 Marchand- Tawse "Domaine Maume' Gevry-Chambertin- Cotes de Nuits, France $68
An homage to the great Domaine Maume which was recently acquired by Marchand-
Tawse, this darker and more brooding than its brother from Pommard. As Gevry-Chambertin tends to be one of the more muscular and dark examples of Burgundy, it shows notes of roasted coffee, black cherry and plums. Although the M.T. lineup is easy to enjoy in its youth, this beauty will benefit from a few years of bottle age.
2010 Lucien Crochet "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre Rouge- Loire, France $37
This is one of our favorites in the bunch for its downright sensuality. It creeps up on you with an elegance and finesse that can only come from fruit grown in soil with a generous amount of limestone. Give the wine an hour to breath and you be thanking us that you did,
2014 Domaine Grand Pinot Noir- Cotes du Jura, France $24
While the Southern part of Jura in Eastern France is not as well known for their reds as their whites, this bottling represents structured and pretty pinot noir at a very affordable price point. Try this one with a roasted game bird of your choice.
N.V. Soutiran "Non Dose" Brut Grand Cru- Champagne, France $55
Hailing from the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay, where some of the finest pinot noir used for Champagne is grown, you’ll find tightly packed red fruits layered atop a chassis of dazzling acidity creating a fresh and focused sparkler. This wine has zero dosage or sweetening liquid and is extremely dry, just the way we like ‘em.
2012 Claus Schneider "Weiler Schlipf' "C.S" Spätburgunder- Baden, Germany $31
All the virtues of Spätburgunder, the German name for Pinot Noir, are rendered in a form that is extremely fine and flavor packed. Vibrant, suave and stylish with the rooty qualities that one hopes for from the grape and a degree of concentration that commands attention.
Niedrist Blauburgunder- Südtirol, Italy $50
From the northern most of all red wine producing regions in Italy, this is a quintessential example of cool climate pinot noir, showing purity and grace rather than power or muscle. With exceptional balance of fruit and acidity, it is highly acclaimed amongst pint enthusiasts and boasts unreal food-pairing capability
2011 Patricia Greene "Estate Etzel Block" Pinot Noir- Ribbon Ridge, Oregon $60
One of the more penetrating wines in the bunch, this baby is packed full of sour cherries and notes of mushroom and loam. The fruit comes from Ribbon Ridge, a tiny appellation that just might have the best terroir in Willamette Valley, OR.
2012 Fire and Flood "The Fire" Pinot Noir- Willamette Valley, Oregon $60
The volcanic “Fire” soils of Willamette Valley provide a suave mineral undertone under a blanket of high-toned and elegant bright red fruit. A wine with a great degree of aging potential it will surely reward to patient.
2011 Copain "Monument Tree" Pinot Noir- Anderson Valley, California $60
We love this producer for making some of the most balanced and finesse driven pinot noir in California. The cool growing season of 2011 gives the wine great tension and verve, and the sandstone and loam soils of Anderson Valley yield exotic and spicy fruit.