April 2005                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

The Sideways Phenomena - Pinot Noir

What’s so special about Pinot Noir? Miles, the main character in the hit movie “Sideways”, describes it as “haunting, brilliant, thrilling, subtle and ancient”. His mystical description of the varietal is well founded, but he forgot to mention “tempermental”. Pinot Noir is the wine world’s elusive holy grail, as its greatness is often foretold, but less frequently encountered. Fine examples are less easy to find from this grape than from other highly esteemed grapes, because Pinot Noir is very particular about the climate and soil in which it is grown and needs to be treated with extra care in the vineyard, during its making and even after it’s bottled. It is one of the oldest wine grapes, being used to make wine by the Gauls and Romans more than 2000 years ago. Today, it is grown all over the world, although its legend has been built on the wines that come from a 30-mile long hillside known as the Slope of Gold, La Cote d’Or. As the name implies, these wines from northern Burgundy are not cheap. Fortunately, over the past ten years or so, other regions have developed the knack for producing fine Pinot Noir, including Santa Barbara (the setting of “Sideways”), Sonoma and Monterey counties in California, and parts of Oregon and New Zealand. I have listed one or more selections from each of these regions below and have also included two reasonably-priced Burgundian gems. At its best, Pinot Noir is liquid irony, being intensely flavored yet light in color, rich yet elegant, fruity yet profound. I hope that my observations both illuminate and foreworn you of the Pinot Noir path, so if you choose to go down it, you do it with more joy than our amusingly disturbed protagonist Miles.

Listed below are some of my favorites that I’ve recently tasted in order of preference. Feel free to direct any questions or comments to me at deroseline@comcast.net.

• 2001 Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Oregon ($36)
• 2002 Vincent Girardin Santenay Les Gravieres ($30)
• 2001 Sanford Santa Rita Hills Santa Barbara County ($25) *
• 2002 Saintsbury Garnet Carneros ($20) *
• 2002 Vincent Girardin Maranges ($22)
• 2002 Nobilo Icon New Zealand ($18)
• 2002 Sebastiani Sonoma Coast ($15) *
• 2002 Estancia Monterey County ($14) *
• 2002 Meridian Santa Barbara County ($9) *
• 2002/3 Camelot ($7) *

* indicates available in Montgomery County