Smooth Pinot Noir is great on its own and with food from pizza and wings to holiday turkey dinner.
More than a decade ago, the hit movie Sideways threw a spotlight on Pinot Noir, and Americans have been head over heels for the velvety wine ever since one of the film’s characters spurned Merlot for Pinot.
The Pinot Noir grape originated in France’s Burgundy region, one of the world’s most famous wine growing areas. This grape, which is finicky about where it sinks its roots, flourishes in Burgundy’s cooler climate and produces wines of note that can fetch thousands of dollars. There are also delicious offerings labeled with the general regional “Bourgogne” that offer more affordable options.
Domestically, California and Oregon produce Pinot Noir so delicious it gives French Burgundy a run for its euro. Some of the United States’ most esteemed Pinots come from the large section of California known as the Central Coast, which stretches south from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Some names you will see on these wines include the counties of Alameda, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and many areas in between. Inland a bit, the Russian River that snakes through Sonoma County is responsible for the chill that makes the Russian River Valley a premier Pinot region as well.
Oregon has just the right conditions to make great Pinot Noir. Its temperate climate, combined with coastal marine influences, make the gentle growing conditions within the Willamette Valley ideal for cool climate grapes such as Pinot Noir.
Lighter in body and color, Pinot Noir is less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. White wine devotees should also enjoy Pinot Noir’s silky medley of flavors that can range from black cherry, raspberries and plum to anise, cedar, fresh earth and more. Oregon Pinot Noir spans the flavor spectrum between red and black fruit, frequently accented by a pronounced spiciness that suggests cinnamon, sassafras or mint. They are usually fresher with higher acidity and often more intensely fruity notes.