As the seasons change, we have an opportunity to explore different wines. If the excessive heat of this summer had us seeking refuge in sauvignon blanc, then the chill in the air invites pinot noir.
Among the lightest of well-known red wine grapes and a faddish favorite, pinot noir pairs well with fall fare — roasted chicken and dishes with rich, earthy mushroom sauces. Pinot noir, of course, is the red grape of Burgundy, the storied wine region of France. So if you pick up a Burgundy, rest assured that it was made with the venerable pinot noir.
I checked out some pinots from a few of the West Coast’s leading pinot regions. Monterey County, California, produces some of the richest, most flavorful pinot noir with ripe cherries and spice that some mark as cherry pie.
For a fantastic deal and a brush of Monterey’s pinot greatness, try CRU 2018 Library Vineyard Pinot Noir of Monterey County, a very light wine with cranberry and herbal notes with a hint of cherry pie and black pepper on the finish. $10. ♦♦♦♦
If you care to explore the heart of Monterey pinot noir country, look for wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands subregion.
Willamette Valley, Oregon, has made a name for itself by making wine akin to those from Burgundy but with a New World approach of fruitfulness and rich earthiness.
One of the best wines I’ve had this year, Lemelson Vineyards Thea’s Selection 2016 Pinot Noir packs loads of flavor into a slim wine with smells of stewed cherries and spice and flavors of raspberry, tobacco and leather. The wine wraps up with a clean, mouthwatering finish. $20. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Washington state does a fine job with many grape varietals. Golden West is a project of K Vintners and Charles Smith. Golden West Vineyards Washington State 2018 Pinot Noir is light-bodied, lean and earthy with cedar and black cherry character and a dusty finish. $20. ♦♦♦ 1/2
Pinot noirs will show a great range, the greatest perhaps of any wine grape. You can find it made into jug wines and the most valued, coveted wines in the world. On a smaller level, slight differences in place, soil and climate yield exaggerated characters in the final product. Wine drinkers and winemakers can become obsessed with it or they can kick back with a glass and watch the leaves fall.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦