I recently read an article in one of the best known wine magazines about Pinot Noir, and the “singular” thinking some wine drinkers have about this noble grape. By “singular” I am talking about those who live in a growing region not in Burgundy, but rather places like New Zealand, and the United States. These are the voices of non-reason who either say they only produce Pinot Noirs in the “Burgundy style”, or only drink Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
Now that is very singular, narrow minded, and lacks an adventuring spirit of the palate if you limit yourself to only wine from any one region, in my opinion. As we all know, the standard was set long ago in Burgundy France, as the mother of Pinot Noir, but does that mean the only Pinot worth sipping must come from Burgundy? I say not, and if you are limiting yourself to just that you are truly missing the boat.
Now I have enjoyed Pinot Noir from Burgundy, New Zealand, Northern California and the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and always will. I have also sipped what is called Pinot Noir from many other regions, including Washington State, Southern California, Southern Oregon as well as the East Coast (I don’t know why). My taste buds tell me that although many of these other localities attempt to grow this grape, many should consider sticking to a grape that grows well in their particular environment, and not just to put a wine with that label on their menu. In my humble opinion, but one that has made it a career to sip and report on wine, Burgundy France, California’s Anderson Valley,Santa Rita and Sonoma Coast,central New Zealand and lastly Willamette Valley Oregon are where the climate influence produces the best Pinot Noirs. There, now I’ve said it.
If ever there was a time and place that cemented this fact into my mind,nose and palate, it was attending the International Pinot Noir Conference this past summer in McMinnville, Oregon. This International celebration of Pinot Noir is held there every year, and attending this event, tasting hundreds of Pinot Noir’s from around the world, your palate becomes extremely calibrated to the specificities of this the noble grape. After three days of swirling, sniffing and sipping Pinot Noir, fro Burgundy France, New Zealand, Northern California and of course, the Willamette Valley Oregon, I will inform you that blindfolded, I can tell you which country and or state a Pinot Noir was produced in.
That my friends is the point of this article. Not to tell you which country is producing the finest Pinot Noir, but rather that you should find in your opinions, the best from different wine regions, because they all are different in many ways. I do agree that Burgundy produces excellent Pinot Noir, and I was honored to spend some private time with a Vintner from Burgundy, and learning about her experiences while sipping her wines. While Burgundy Pinot Noir is in my opinion the “standard”, I do enjoy many Willamette Valley Pino’s, especially when looking for a “lighter” softer wine.When I want a bolder, heavier Pinot Noir, then I head to the Northern California Pinot Noir’s in my wine cellar. If what I need is a really great earthy / fruity Pinot Noir, then I fly to New Zealand, just saying.
So the next time you are dining out with friends, and the guys browsing the wine list immediately say “lets see what they have for a good Burgundy Pinot Noir”, how about you kick it up a notch and suggest they look at one of these other regions? You may all find a new “best friend”.