I set out on a journey to explore this alluring and mysterious grape by scrutinizing my past tasting notes and, of course, tasting a lot of wines in the process.
I can’t say that I have ever considered myself one to be frustrated with any grape, but over the past few weeks I have experienced the same combination of obsession and confusion that the rest of the world seems to have with pinot noir. At its best it can be absolutely blissful, but outside of bliss it many times is only disappointing.
I set out on a journey to explore this alluring and mysterious grape by scrutinizing my past tasting notes and, of course, tasting a lot of wines in the process.There was no frustration as I tasted pinot noir wines that fit into my Splurge category. Quite honestly, there was not a bad wine in the bunch. I could recommend numerous wines from areas that have already given this grape cult status: Burgundy, California and Oregon. Almost every glass I tasted reinforced why wine drinkers can easily become obsessed with pinot noir and its sublime elegance. Perhaps my only frustration with the Splurge was that, sadly, most of these wines are made in minuscule quantities and, as expected, with rarity most likely comes a higher price.
It was the Value category that produced my greatest frustration and a few rough days of tasting. Bottle after bottle in this lower price range proved hit or miss. A few could be considered wonderful but, sadly, many more would be considered anything but what you would expect to find in a good bottle of pinot noir. I can easily understand why so few of the wines could pass the test. Pinot noir is an incredibly finicky grape that must have perfect growing conditions and also tolerates few if any mistakes in the winemaking process. Simply said, it is one tough grape to get right.
In the craze of pinot noir’s popularity, some wineries planted this grape anywhere and everywhere, leaving wine drinkers shuffling through a river of not-so-great wines in the lower price range. So, when buying, keep in mind that a pinot noir at a low price, as with most wines, may not always be the best value. The Values 2008 Yearing Station Little Yering Pinot Noir, Australia (about $13 retail) www.yearing.com 2007 Concannon Pinot Noir, California (about $17 retail) concannonvineyard.com 2008 King Ridge Pinot Noir, Oregon (about $20 retail) kingsridgewines.com The Splurges 2007 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, California (about $48 retail) siduri.com 2008 Chasseur Sonoma County Pinot Noir, California (about $38 retail) chasseurwines.com