How To: Host a Pinot Noir Around the World Tasting for Around $50

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pinot Noir plays well in so many seasons and occasions.  I think of it as a harvest wine.  It's a lighter red and doesn't have drying tannins so it plays well in the summer months.  It's food-friendly -or- depending on the style works well as a cocktail wine.  That pretty much covers 90% of the situations I drink wine in so it's not surprising it passed Cabernet Sauvignon as my most frequently consumed grape variety in 2010.

One of the most interesting things I like to get out of comparative tastings of wines is a general understanding of the styles within that category.  Sure, it's fun to sit down and compare a bunch of wines from the same category to see which you prefer.  But one of the more fun and educational tastings you can do is a comparative tasting of the major wine regions American wine consumers consider when purchasing Pinot Noir: Oregon, California and Burgundy.

The challenge is finding varietally correct examples of each at approachable price points.  Over the past week I cracked open a trio of affordable Pinot Noirs that represent what I look for from each of these regions.  I feel they're each delicious and enjoyable in their own right but if you sit down and compre these side-by-side I think they're even more interesting.

2006 Nicolas Potel Volnay Vieilles Vignes
France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay
$46 Release Price/180 Cases Imported
88 Points Wine Spectator
13% Alcohol
Purchased for $24.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

What a pretty wine. Light ruby in color and mostly transparent. Austere by new world standards but with food it shines. Sufficient round fruit on the nose that turns more tart on the palate. Wonderful mineral flavors with considerable acidity and a touch of tannic bite. Would like to check in on this wine in a couple years but even now - very elegant.

WWP 90/100: Outstanding

2008 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir
USA, Oregon
$20 Release Price/62,954 Cases Produced
90 Points Wine Spectator
13% Alchol
Purchased for $15.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

Starts off with a lot of promise as the nose delivers beautiful cherry and earthy aromas you'd expect from an Oregon Pinot Noir. A nice dose of acidity and a long enjoyable finish. The only thing that's got me down is a green, stemmy aftertaste that lasts just a moment but is particularly distracting and off-putting. Oh, and it was a little thin too. But so close to being great! The green aftertaste seems to dissipate on the second day.

WWP 88/100: Very Good

2009 Michael Pozzan Winery Pinot Noir Annabella Special Selection
USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
14.5% Alcohol
Purchased for $12.50 at The Hingham Wine Merchant

After an ever-so-slight step backwards in 2008, I think this 2009 Annabella is back on track as a solid 90 point Pinot Noir. Combine that with its wide availability in the $12 range and I think this deserves a slot in the rotation of anyone who likes fruit-forward domestic Pinot Noir.

Medium-dark in color and ready to go immediately upon opening. Aromas of pomegranates, cranberries, dark cherries, and dusty fresh blackberries in a briar patch. The initial attack is straight fruit. Silky tannins and it finishes clean with a hint of earth and slight tartness which balances out its otherwise fruity nature.

Highly recommended. One of the best Pinot Noirs I've found in this price range the past year.

WWP 90/100: Outstanding

Posted from CellarTracker

So there you have it.  A nice trio of Pinot Noirs that can be had for $52.97.  Enjoy!

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