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Saturday Wine Time!

In my continuing efforts to bring culture to all us heathen deplorables I’ve decided we must include some education on my favorite subject – Wine! Proof that God himself exists in my opinion we should all know at least a little bit about it. Over a few articles we’ll cover the basics and maybe help you discover something you like. My first article is from my long time friend and wine lover Tony Hamlin, a big fan of Pinot Noir. Tony would like to kick me straight in the sac because I personally have never been a fan of this particular varietal, but it clearly trips a lot of triggers out there so give it a try, won’t ya? I turn it over to Tony from here:

Peanut of the Night.

Pinot Noir, for the rest of us.

Pinot Noir is what I would call ‘red iced tea’.  It goes with everything.  (Dry Riesling is what I call ‘white iced tea’, by the way.)  It has been revered and reviled.  I was surprised when the movie Sideways made it so popular, to the detriment of my beloved Merlot.  Equally, it has surprised me to see it unappreciated (to say it politely).  To me, it is just not that strong of a flavor to induce such strong reactions.

But, I get it. I was kinda like that. My first experience was a well-researched-paid-too-much-for-it burgundy.  I was supposed to like it, being a wine guy.  But it reminded me too much of grape juice and mud puddle water.  It was probably a year before I tried another one.

Then, I was given an Oregon pinot noir. My opinion changed. 180 degrees. (Thank you to my wife).

Pinot noir is so easy to drink. No mouth-drying-face-puckering tannins (which I like, often).  It has softer flavors and aromas. It is a gentle wine. There are tannins, however, they are the mellow tannins. Think symphony-tannins, not HeadBanger’s Ball-tannins such as in our bold Napa Cabs that we all know and love so well.

The flavors are more subtle, more nuanced, not bold.  You must sip it slowly, letting it flood your tongue, holding it in your mouth sometimes, to pick up the flavors.  Then you will find them. Generally, it is a light dry wine, nicely aromatic with soft berry flavors, a bit of earthiness.   Sometimes, you will discover complex, VERY complex, flavors and aromas. You can often get into 5 and 6 flavor descriptors if you slow down, breathe it in, and allow yourself the pleasure of slowly focusing on a glass of wine over a period of time.

Burgundy is the same grape, as noted previously.  As with most French varietals, burgundy is less fruity/berry-y and more minerally and earthy than pinot noir made elsewhere.  I would not recommend starting with a burgundy as you begin to explore pinot noir, unless you are from Europe of course. Or like mud puddle water in your grape juice.  Start with a California pinot, which is generally more fruit forward. Oregon, especially the Willamette Valley, is what I would also recommend for your go-to source for pinot.  Of course, eventually, once you get your ‘feel’ for pinot, it would be good to try some Burgundies.  They often get pretty spendy, though.  The most expensive bottle of wine in the world is pinot noir.

Oh, and because of the movie Sideways, there is a bit of pretentiousness with some pinot noir ‘lovers’.  I have heard about the ‘thin delicate skin that must be nurtured and that’s why I like it’ a few too many times. Just sayin’.

Food Pairings.

All of the above. Seriously, it goes with everything.

The textbook pairing is salmon.

I recommend it for your Thanksgiving meal.  You know how Cabernet Sauvignon makes white turkey meat taste metallic? Pinot noir doesn’t do that. It actually helps you taste the turkey preparation:  it can enhance, not overpower, your meal, you’ll taste the herbs used, or the stuffing mixture seasoning.

It may surprise you at how good it is with a filet mignon.  (Although I don’t think I’ve ever tried pinot with a big  ol  greasy ribeye…that’s huge Cab or a hearty Rhone red territory—not negotiable…).

Don’t take my word for it.  Buy a bottle and put a second glass next to your preferred wine.  Half of the dinner with each.

Social Pairings.

A California Pinot noir is a good all-around wine as it is so inoffensive and easy to drink. And….it’s less likely to give you purple teeth toward the end of the event. Pinot will literally be fine with any appetizer you throw out.  Even buffalo wings.

Cost.

Tough to find good $10 pinot, but it’s possible.  I’ve found that $15-$20 is a good hit.  Once you get to the $25 range, you’re generally golden.

Recommendations.

A2Z. Oregon.  $15-$20. Has some tannins, but they are the symphony-tannins. Very-Berry.  I listed this one first, because it’s the one that got me into pinots.

Guenoc.  California. $10.  This isn’t the old Guenoc for us elder wine lovers that remember some splurge bottles from them.  This is their cheap version. But it’s actually decent. I totally recommend this as a starting point, or a cheap wine to give a shot.

Meomi. California. $20-$25. I don’t know how they make it so dark. Almost black.  I was forced to try it.  Naturally, I was sure I would NOT like it.  Naturally, I IDID like it. A lot.

Cloud Nine. Willamette Valley, Oregon.  $20-25.  This Willamette Valley pinot was developed in partnership with a 4th generation burgundy wine maker. SHE really knows what she’s doing. For real.  This is a world class collaborative effort, in a world class wine region, made by a world class wine producer, overseen by a world class female winemaker.  And it’s only $25, often less.

Argyle, Willamette Valley, Oregon $35-$40  Now you’re getting into some 92 ratings. Beware, you may become addicted.  Grill (don’t bake) some salmon and asparagus and serve with this wine slightly cooled outside on the deck. This combination will impress your date. Trust me. Wear your nicest come-hither shirt. You’re welcome. Failla. Napa, Sonoma, Oregon.  $30 and up. Last is the favorite for my lovely wife Belinda and I.  This is a step up wine, and we buy them when we see them. They are incorporating terroir(soil, air, elevation) into their vineyards, and have been for awhile.  They were originally named Failla-Jordan.  But some other winery that Chance loves wouldn’t let them use the Jordan name. So it’s just Failla (Fay-La). My goodness are they good. Belinda had a spiritual event at our tasting in Napa. The flavors remain in your mouth long after you’ve swallowed. This is probably the most elegant wine I’ve ever had.

Get out there and enjoy some Pinot!

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