Maia’s Cellar is a column from our friend Maia Gosselin of Sip Wine Education. As always, stay tuned for more from Maia!
Soft, smooth, silky, seductive… perhaps it’s the descriptors used after taking a sip but if there is a wine more romantic than Pinot Noir I have yet to discover it! And with the ultimate day of amour, Valentine’s Day, right around the corner, now is the perfect time to become intimately acquainted with this most alluring of wines.
Whether it’s planning a cozy evening by the fire with simple appetizers or an elaborate multi-course dinner, Pinot Noir is the ideal accompaniment to your evening’s plans. From light and playful to full-bodied and luscious, Pinot has it all! Read below for some Pinot 101, plus some favorite Pinots for Valentine’s Day.
Let’s start with a little Pinot Noir 101…
A Pinot Primer:
The noble Pinot Noir grape has been around for thousands of years, pre-dating Cabernet Sauvignon and is idolized around the globe due to the superb quality of the wines it produces. The fame and glory originally belonged only to Burgundy but California and Oregon have established themselves as premier Pinot Noir producing states.
Remember, in the U.S. we drink our wines by their varietal name. In France they mainly drink their wines by the appellation, (the place they came from.) So if you are drinking a red Burgundy, it is a Pinot Noir. In America we don’t have appellations similar to France or Italy (e.g.: Burgundy, Chianti), a wine producing region in the U.S. is known as an “AVA” or American Viticultural Area.
What’s Your Type?
There are several styles of wine that can be made from this versatile grape, each unique, each delicious! There are light Pinot Noirs and full-bodied ones. It can be fresh and fruity, earthy and elegant, soft and subdued. The grape reflects the characteristics and personality of where it’s grown, a trait known as terroir. Climate, the use of oak and winemaker’s personal styles also play a role in the final product.
Here’s a brief cheat sheet of what to expect from the Big Three regions:
*Within each of these areas there are numerous smaller regions worth getting to know.
Crushing on Pinot Noir
America has been having a love affair with Pinot since a little movie called “Sideways” and an eccentric character named Miles propelled it to fame in 2004, creating instant Pinot-mania. Demand skyrocketed and many winemakers raced to get their bottles to the shelves. While a great deal of excellent wine came to the market, unfortunately a lot of poorly made Pinot Noir also made its way into wine glasses across the country.
Pinot Noir is a delicate, finicky grape and doesn’t do well when mass cultivated and hastily made into wine. It takes skill, time and finesse to create an exceptional Pinot Noir. Bad Pinot tastes something like a Jolly Rancher flavored watery wine. A good one should be soft and silky, a pleasure on the palate, and trust me; you know when you taste the real thing!
Pinot Noir is a foodie’s delight when it comes to pairing! Peking duck, mushroom-based dishes, grilled or baked herbed salmon, pork loin with herbs or a fruit glaze, chocolate tortes, ganache with raspberry sauce, chocolate covered strawberries. Is your mouth watering yet?
Ready to jump in? Here are our heartthrob Pinots for Valentine’s Day:
Just in time for Valentines Day or ANY day you’re feeling the love, we’ve released a custom label reserve Pinot Noir! Because “All You Need is Love and Wine!” A full bodied, voluptuous stunner from Monterey, CA – this is an irresistible Pinot Noir and one that should be savored with a loved one. Loaded with rich red fruit (plum, black cherry), cinnamon, vanilla and subtle earthiness. Indulge with stuffed mushrooms appetizer, beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes and parsnips and a gooey chocolate cake for dessert!
This reserve Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley is an all-time favorite, no matter what the occasion! Smooth and soft with juicy cherry and strawberry on the nose, it caresses the palate with notes of violet and spices. I always feel a little extra luxurious when sipping Lot 75! Try with braised duck, herbed roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, plank grilled salmon steaks. Or, enjoy while nibbling chocolate covered strawberries!
Rosé in February? Absolutely! Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this silky rosé has classic Loire minerality. A little spice along with raspberry, strawberry and watermelon in the mouth. Fresh and frisky! Perfect as an aperitif with goat cheese crostinis, tuna sashimi, pork and ginger pot stickers or smoked salmon.
Our newest crush! Oregon has developed a world-class reputation for stellar Pinot Noirs and this beauty does not disappoint! Medium-bodied, bright and fresh with classic cherry and black raspberry notes. A little earthiness and spice in the mouth. You just might think you’re drinking a Burgundy! Flawlessly elegant. Heavenly with a cranberry glazed roasted pork, grilled salmon with honey mustard or seared duck breast.
A go-to favorite. Lot 117 is smooth and uncomplicated with fresh cherry and raspberry aromas. Dry with notes of cocoa and a little cedar. Open a bottle while you’re prepping dinner or serve with plank roasted salmon or mushroom risotto. Sublime with a raspberry chocolate torte!
Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé, Italy – $11.99
What’s Valentine’s Day without a little bubbly? This pretty pink sparkler is the perfect way to kick off your festivities! Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it’s deliciously dry with aromas of cherries, strawberries and a hint of orange. Sophisticated and so sip-able! I adore this wine, in fact I almost always have a few bottles of it on hand in my wine fridge… Delicious with sushi, oysters, smoked salmon and of course, a box of chocolates!
Pick up a bottle (or three) of our Pinot Noir at your local retailer or find them on our online store here to enjoy this Valentine’s Day… you and your loved one will be happy you did!