Posts Tagged ‘Pinot Noir’

Believing in the mystical significance of the number 47 was practically a graduation requirement at the college I attended. So when I brought a bottle of 2008 47 Friends Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($18) to share with some college friends on a recent Saturday night, I was pretty sure the label alone would favorably predispose them to the wine.

Yet another college friend had tipped me off to the 47 Friends label—she had seen them on Facebook and knew instantly that there had to be a connection. Sure enough, 47 Friends is the “little sister” winery—read less-expensive wines and a Millennial-friendly Web presence—to Ancient Oak Cellars, a Santa Rosa winery owned by Pomona grads Melissa and Ken Moholt-Siebert.

But back to Saturday. We all enjoyed the 2008 Pinot; not terribly Pinot-y and the aroma was somewhat muted, but it had nice red fruit on the palate and made for extremely smooth drinking. And Peter—who never says this—said it seemed worth the price.

Still, our favorite 47 Friends so far are the blends — simple red and white table wines that sell for $10 a piece. On Tuesday we opened the red, which Peter guessed was bulk Merlot. It’s actually a Cabernet Sauvignon blend with some Zinfandel and Syrah in the mix—all of which make for a ripe wine brimming with blackberry and other dark fruits.

Remember that I spent four years of writing a column about $10-and-under wines, and based on that experience, cheap California reds make me nervous. That’s why this one was such a pleasant surprise: mellow, moderate alcohol content (13.8 percent), and versatile enough to pair with a wide variety of foods.

Thursday we opened the white blend, and Peter was redeemed when he immediately pegged it as Sauvignon Blanc (it’s got a bit of un-oaked Chardonnay as well). It had a strong, really nice aroma of melon and freshly cut grass, and it was light, tingly, and delicate on the palate.

Pairs perfectly with an early spring heat wave.

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Spring finally seemed to have sprung today, but after enduring the wettest winter ever, I’m not counting my chickens. So while I did put a bottle of red in the fridge (gasp!) late this afternoon, around the time that our house began to sweat, I’m still not quite ready to start drinking white.

The solution? What this between-seasons moment calls for is really a lovely “medium red”—a Pinot, maybe a red blend or Merlot—anything that satisfies without feeling too much like a warm blanket. Here’s a roundup of some we’ve recently enjoyed, listed from north to south, inland to coastal, U.S. to Italy. Salute!

2007 Waterstone Napa Valley Merlot, $18. The pungent berry bouquet and tannic mouthfeel of this Merlot screamed Napa to me—in a good way. We also liked its not-very-Napa price tag.

2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $24. Lots going on in this offering from the land of lusted-after Pinots: an aroma of dense dark fruit, sweet smoke and spice, and a bit of cedar. It tasted of black cherry, with gamey notes and a little Chinese spice.

2009 La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir, $24. We wondered briefly if La Crema’s winemaker felt that these two 2009 Pinots were rushed to market a bit early. . . . Great potential was the dominant takeaway with this one, but we liked its dark fruit aroma, rough-silk mouthfeel, and pleasant finish. Not particularly Pinot-y.

2007 Intelligent Design Central Coast Cuvee, $38. I got lots of earth and oak on the nose of this Rhône-grape blend from Wesley Ashley Wines—and must admit that I missed some of what captivated Thomas of The Blog Wine Cellar last summer. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed his review and agree that it’s a wine worth trying. Velvety on the palate, with a long strong finish

2007 Lucente Tuscan Red Blend, $30. This simple blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cab earned its Super Tuscan stripes with a jammy aroma, smooth mouthfeel, and very nice, long finish. Our favorite wine merchant calls it “nicely made”—and he doesn’t dish out the compliments easily.

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This Christmas, I’m giving one wine-loving relative a bottle of Bolinas-based winemaker Sean Thackrey‘s 2008 Andromeda Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown at Nicasio’s Devil’s Gulch Ranch. I have to say, it was gratifying to buy a bottle with “Marin County” proudly emblazoned on the label—especially knowing that what’s inside just has to be good, given Thackrey’s reputation. (Just don’t expect it to taste like Pinot, wine-loving relative… One reviewer of a past vintage said Andromeda tasted like Syrah, while another said it tasted like Sean Thackrey—but no one has called it a characteristic Pinot.) You can read more about Thackrey here, and for other ideas for buying local, check out Homegrown Marin Market online and sign up for their free membership.

One more way to work wine into your holiday: make a wreath out of cuttings from grape vines. I was a skeptic when my husband first suggested this, but now I love our grape vine wreath—which lives on our front door 12 months a year and gets decorated annually with (small, tasteful) ornaments. The wreath pictured above was a happy flickr discovery. My favorite part about it is the holiday-appropriate message on the beads, revealed by photographer Auntie Owwee to read:

life without confetti is only an existence

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I have to admit that when I stopped writing my newspaper column on ‘value’ wines, I looked forward to a break from tasting inexpensive wines produced by beverage-industry behemoths. It’s not that I think price always reflects quality—years of tasting several wines a month priced under $10 actually convinced me that often enough, the opposite is true. It’s just that for every low-priced gem I discovered, I suffered through two or three wines that weren’t worth the $9.99 (or $4.99, or sometimes $1.99!) I had paid for them.

Then one night last week, I was really craving a glass of Pinot Noir, and there was only one in my wine fridge: the 2008 North Coast Pinot Noir from Clos Du Bois ($15). Now it’s true that Clos Du Bois is a very recognizable supermarket brand owned by Constellation, the world’s biggest wine company. But this lovely wine was a valuable reminder that, just as pricey doesn’t always mean good, big doesn’t always mean bad. This smooth sipper bursting with red fruit was a little fuller-bodied than is characteristic of its varietal, but it was satisfying nonetheless. While warm summer days are still with us, try it with grilled chicken.

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It’s been gone for a couple of years now, but every Sunday I still mourn the loss of Bob Morris’ Age of Dissonance column in the New York Times. To me, Morris managed to strike a perfect pose somewhere between etiquette watchdog and snarky culture critic, and I waited all week to see what he’d serve up next. One of my favorite of Morris’ columns was a rant about the inanity of elaborate birthday and anniversary celebrations honoring every age and milestone imaginable. Like overused antibiotics, Morris wrote, these numbers begin to lose their potency after a while.

This observation made me smile, in part because in the wine industry, it truly seems like there’s an anniversary being celebrated every few minutes. In fact, soon after I read that column of Morris’, I had occasion to write my own about a certain local winery’s 125th anniversary celebration (pretty legit)—which, said winery eagerly noted, happen to coincide with the 10th anniversary of its golf course (slightly less legit) and the 30th anniversary of the band Foreigner (seriously pushing it).

Indeed, Morris noted that low-number anniversaries for businesses should only be celebrated by the “very powerful and very desperate,” so I don’t imagine he’d object to Schug Carneros Estate Winery marking it’s 30th anniversary this year with the release of its first-ever estate grown Pinot Noir. After all, proprietor Walter Schug is a well-respected “old-timer” in California’s wine industry, having served as winemaker at Napa’s famed Joseph Phelps Vineyards from 1973 to 1983.

And while the new Schug Pinot won’t come out till later in the year, you can still celebrate at the winery next Saturday, April 17th, during “April in Carneros,” a winery open house event featuring more than 20 Carneros-area wineries. The event takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; for tickets and more information visit www.carneroswineries.org.

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