All my wine blogs, All wine reviews, Burgundy, Pinot Noir, Red wine

D’Autrefois Pinot Noir 2011

When you say Pinot Noir – it sounds so nobles. It is also (in most cases) fine, nobles wine. It took me few years, after being impressed with all those power houses, to find my humble way to appreciate the finesse  of this unique grape variety.

pinot-noir1Pinot is some of the most difficult varieties to cultivate and transform into fine wine. This wine is truly hard to deal with. Compare to other grape varieties, Pinot Noir grapes are sensitive to almost everything.

Vines are sensitive to unstable weather, frost can kill it, it doesn’t like the wind, the certain soil, and it must be kept low yielding, in order to produce any quality wines. Back in the winery, it is still sensitive to a certain fermentation methods, it might not like the kind of yeast you used and being highly reflective of its terroir  – the different regions can produce completely different wines. In other words, this wine is demanding plenty of hard labor.

Pinot Noir’s thin skin also makes it easier for a number of different diseases, such as mildew, bunch rot or infection by leaf roll, to attack. All these “prospective problems” that winemaker has to deal with, makes a production of a fine Pinot Noir a very risky business. It is a challenge, literally.

All these risky factors also drive the prices of the final product up. Therefore, when I come across cheap Pinot Noir, I am more than suspicious.  Unless it comes from Burgundy. There, in the origin of  this noble black grape, I am willing to take a chance with an unknown wine. Simply because those French just know what they are doing.

dautrefois Pinot Noir1Comp

So, I grabbed the bottle of 2011 D’Autrefois Pinot Noir without hesitation. Simply because I know that Pinot Noir from Burgundy tastes like Pinot Noir supposed to taste. And this one wasn’t different. Although, it only costs $10.99. Seriously.  Yet it didn’t lack any quality of the true Pinot Noir – light – to medium body, delicate, a delicious crisp cherry undertone in the taste, great freshness and acidity. An excellent match to my seared salmon and sauteed spinach.

It might be tough for some, who believe that Pinot Noir wines are fruity and full body. Very much like Beaujolais that is sometimes confused for Pinot Noir. Intentionally or not. Seriously, I had people asking me: “Just show me your biggest, fruitiest Pinot Noir.” Ouch. What do you say, when “customer is always right”.  No, these wines are none of the above. They are supposed to be “thin” as one of my customers once referred to a Pinot Noir I showed him, with an open  disappointment.

But back to D’Autrefois Pinot Noir 2011. Seriously. If you want a gem, and know what Pinot Noir is all about, this is an incredible deal. I just loved it and will buy it again.

“Adored by critics, prized by collectors, Pinot Noir is one of most tantalizing yet temperamental varietals in the world. For many wine enthusiasts, this is part of the appeal of Pinot — it doesn’t reveal its charms easily. Pinot Noir’s virtue also stems from the unique characteristics of the grape. The skins are especially delicate, which accounts for the lighter color and body of finished wine. But, despite the delicacy, the best wines have excellent backbone and length, providing aromatic intensity unlike any other grape.…” as the subscription of variety on the Wine access website accurately said. Cheers to that!

California, Pinot Noir, Red wine

Acacia Pinot Noir Carneros 2007

Winemaker: Matthew Glynn
Grape: Pinot Noir
Region: Carneros, California

See other wines from this producer:
A by Acacia Pinot Noir
Acacia Chardonnay Carneros

I always considered Acacia to be a pioneer when it comes to Carneros and Pinot Noirs.  Founded in 1979, this winery specializes in two Burgundy varieties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

For more than 3 decades they produce consistently high quality wines thanks to their attention to the details (in the vineyard and in the winery) and perhaps also thanks to their winemaker’s background.

Matthew gained his experience in numerous wineries in California, New Zealand, but most importantly in Burgundy, France – where he learned the traditional techniques of Grand Cru and Premium Cru wines. No doubt that the great potential of Acacia estate vineyards plays a significant role as well.

Grapes for 2007 Estate Pinot Noir Carneros were harvested by hand when perfectly ripe, and underwent careful selection to assure that only ripe, undamaged grapes made it to the fermentation tanks. Grapes were de-stemmed and cold soaked for a few days. Grapes were punched to extract the most flavor, color and character in the stainless steel fermentation tanks for about 3 weeks.

After that time, the wine was pressed and transferred to oak barrels. Pinot Noir Carneros 2007 aged in mainly French and Hungarian oak barrels for 7 months.

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color and lovely aroma of exotic flowers, dark cherries and plums. On the palate it was silky, medium body Pinot Noir with lovely expression of ripe fruit, notes of wild blackberries, cherries and baked plums. Light hints of cacao and vanilla. Very smooth tannins and great acidity.

Acacia Carneros Pinot Noir to me is the textbook Pinot Noir, as close to Burgundy style as Carneros appellation allows it.  Based on the quality of this wine, it must be considered a great value as well!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 24.00

Ideal food pairing:

Warm mushroom gourmet salad, Roasted salmon with spring spinachShish kebab with eggplant hash and Tzaziki sauce

California, Pinot Noir, Red wine, Sonoma

Belle Glos MEIOMI 2009

Winemaker: Joseph Wagner
Grape: Pinot Noir
Region: Sonoma, California

Belle Glos Pinot Noirs are nothing new to wine drinkers. Some of the finest California Pinot Noirs are grown in 3 different vineyards: Taylor Lane, Clark & Telephone and Las Alturas (each single vineyard is continuously getting high rates from wine reviews every vintage).

Each site works with a different clone of Pinot Noir and very distinctive terroir, there for the wine has an individual flavor profile. Belle Glos Pinot Noirs were named by its winemaker Joseph Wagner’s grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, co-founder of Caymus Vineyards.

Although you don’t find the name CAYMUS anywhere on the label, its owner and winemaker Joe Wagner is a guarantee of top quality wine of all Belle Glos Pinot Noirs.

Meiomi Pinot Noir was composed from fine selection of grapes, sourced from top vineyards in Sonoma county and it provides more affordable alternative to top notch single vineyard wines.

Tasting notes:
This Pinot Noir with lovely floral aroma, very silky on the palate with rich tones of ripe berries, black cherry with spiced cocoa and tobacco. Quite acidic at first (which I like, it makes it more accessible to different food pairings) but perfectly balanced with a rich, fruity goodness.

When you leave it in your mouth for a few seconds, you can feel a touch of vanilla on the finish.This wine is a book example of Pinot Noir variety and the longer you leave the bottle open, the more body and flavor you are going to enjoy. Definitely worth decanting it!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 35.00

Ideal food pairing:
Chicken thighs in homemade mushroom gravy, Roasted salmon with spring spinachChicken and shrimp skewers, Crispy tilapia, Italian turkey thighs with roasted veggies, Chicken drumsticks with mushrooms, Roasted duck

California, Monterey, Pinot Noir, Red wine

Chalone Monterey Pinot Noir 2007

Winemaker: Robert Cook
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Region: AVA Chalone, Monterey, California

Being the oldest producing vineyard in Monterey County wasn’t enough for Chalone vineyard. They even have their own appelation! Chalone Vineyard is the sole winery in the Chalone American Viticultural Area (AVA), a federally designated area that has climatic, geologic and geographic features distinguished from the land surrounding it.

This unique teroire, with temperatures changing literally hour to hour with hot days and cold nights, fog and cooling winds from the Monterey Bay, allows the ideal conditions for Burgundian varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their flagship wine, Chalone estate Pinot Noir, (every bottle has its own unique serial number), belongs in my opinion among the top Pinot Noirs produced in California today.

The Chalone vineyard was originally planted back in 1919. The first wine produced under the Chalone label was made here in 1960 by famous winemaker Philip Togni. He runs a very successful boutique winery, carrying his name today. The production of Philip Togni highly rated wines is so small that it’s almost impossible to get it.

Around early sixties Dick Graff tasted the wine from Chalone grapes and loved it. Discovering its great potential, he ended up buying the vineyard and later co-founded Chalone Wine Group. Dick made his first commercial vintage here in 1966. The Chalone estate is currently comprised of almost 1,000 contiguous acres, of which nearly 310 are planted to vines.

This 2007 Chalone Monterey Pinot Noir was sourced from Chalone grapes throughout the Monterey County. The conditions for correct ripening were just spectacular. Moderate temperatures that summer allowed wine to ripe evenly developing just the right amount of sugar and acidity,in a great balance.

Tasting notes:
Nice ruby color and lovely aroma of fresh cherries and dark fruit. On the palate ripe dark fruit with a light dust of cocoa on the finish. Velvet tannins and very well balanced acidity creates a long, satisfying finish. Great quality and value!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 17.00

Ideal food pairing:
salmon and other rich fish, risotto, chicken or turkey dishes,tapas, grilled veggies and many more

Oregon, Pinot Noir, Red wine, Villamette Valley

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2006

Winemaker: Dave Paige
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Region: Villamette Valley, Oregon

Adelsheim family makes Pinot Noir since 1970. I personally love Pinot Noir from this particular region the most. To me, that’s how the true Pinot Noir supposed to taste like (aside of Burdgundy, of course). Most of the grapes, sourced for Adelsheim Pinot Noir, came from their seven estate vineyards and about 25% from nine vineyards in other parts of the Willamette Valley.

The secret to complexity of their wine is in blending several different clones of Pinot, (originally brought to Oregon from Burgundy) and several different soil types and appellations. Since each lot has vine of different age and sun exposure, it produces a different style and flavors of Pinot Noir as well. This diversity allows the winemaker to create a very unique blend.

Since all the grapes weren’t picked at the same time, the final blend was created after each lot was destemmed, macerated, pressed and underwent a 7 – 10 days fermentation in open vats. After that the final blend underwent a malolactic fermentation in small French oak barrels. Wine was estate bottled and released after a few additional months of aging.

The portrait of Diana Lett on the Pinot Noir label was created by Ginny Adelsheim. It is a tribute to special woman, that together with her husband founded a first Oregon Pinot Noir winery (The Eyrie Vineyards) and as a thank you for her friendship.

Tasting notes:
Beautiful light ruby color. Rich aroma of freshly crushed cherries and blueberries, mixed with oak spices and dust of cocoa. Just the right amount of acidity and soft tannins cause the desire for a second glass. Nice, long finish. Blending different flavors and styles of Pinot Noir as Adelsheim does, successfully competes with many single vineyard Pinot Noirs, carrying much higher price tag.

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 30.00

Ideal food pairing:
salmon, grilled sea bass, veal dishes, hearty vegetarian dishes, duck or dark turkey meat, medium aged cheeses