Wild red and black orchard fruit, a dash of exotic spices, and if you're lucky a bloom of roses in the finish - all you will find in a glass of finely crafted pinot noir. Burgundy is the benchmark. Yet a number of regions throughout the world yield fine expressions that can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything from France. Here are 10 riveting examples that display all the flavors found in fine pinot noir, all from sites other than Burgundy.
2012 Castle Rock Pinot Noir Central Coast
A spot-on pinot noir from one of the best value labels on our shelves. Its no easy task crafting a value pinot, a labor intensive varietal that demands a soft touch in the cellar. Somehow Castle Rock finds the best sources for their Central Coast cuvee, a medium bodied red full of cherries, herbal notes, and baking spices. Silky and smooth, serve this with chicken or salmon, but enjoy it on its own if it strikes your fancy. Purchase it by the case.
2013 Zorzal Terroir Unico Pinot Noir
A floral-inflected, perfumed pinot from Argentina? Were from France this would be double the price. Power without weight - to many that is the defining feature of great pinot noir from Burgundy, whose chalky soils instill into the wines an intensity of flavors and a delicacy of structure matched by few other regions. Yet Burgundy isnt the only region that enjoys chalky soils, as Zorzals 2013 Terroir Unico pinot noir proves. Pale yet iridescent red to the eye, with floral-inflected red fruit on the nose. Wild strawberries, red cherries, and a saline quality on the palate - and all unobscured by even a kiss of oak. Intense and persistent, this is what pinot noir is all about.
2014 Erath Pinot Noir
Some say Oregon is this countrys answer to Burgundy - and the 2014 Erath pinot noir makes a strong argument for it. Cool, overcast, unpredictable - Oregon seems an unlikely place to cultivate the vine. Yet here pinot noir, which demands a more cool site, thrives, yielding, at least in this instance, a richer and darker expression of this tantalizing varietal. Erath's 2014 pinot is medium-bodied, with ripe red and blue fruit, with toasty notes, svelte tannins, and dark roasted coffee framing all.
2014 Ritual Pinot Noir
Conventional wisdom says that because pinot noir is so hard to cultivate that good examples are north of $20. Not so. The 2014 Ritual proves that top notch pinot could be had for under that. Cultivated in Chile (whose cool ocean breezes and morning fogs are the ideal climate for pinot noir vines) and crafted under the guidance of wine veteran Augustin Huneeus and California superstar winemaker Paul Hobbs, the 2014 Ritual pinot noir - with its flavors of strawberries, black cherries, forest floor hints, and silky tannins - is a stunning deal.
2013 Talbott Kali Hart Pinot Noir
A step or three up from the Castle Rock, a more lithe and vibrant pinot from Californias cool and coastal Monterey county. Which was a risk to cultivate at the time Robb Talbott decided to plant vines in the early 80s. Too cold, too high, too windswept he was told. Yet he persisted, inspired by the great red and white Burgundies that he still enjoys today. He is now regarded as a pioneering visionary, and his 2013 Kali Hart pinot serves as an excellent introduction to his wines. Bright red and black fruit on the nose, with cranberries, currants, and plums on the palate. Silky and smooth, with vanilla notes unfolding in the long finish. A lush, vibrant wine.
2014 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
Yet another successfully crafted pinot noir from one of the worlds master winemakers. For over 30 years Jim Clendenin has been at the helm of ABC, crafting some of Californias most expressive pinots and chards. He sources his fruit from the warmer, southern end of Californias Central Coast; which yield wines rich with fruit flavors. Only a stones throw away from the Pacific, his vineyards enjoy cool evenings, which in turn ensure that those rich fruit flavors remain fresh and vibrant. His 2014 ABC pinot noir is a slow seduction with its suggestions of red cherries, raspberries, rose petals, anise, and cloves.
2014 Patricia Green Pinot Noir Freedom Hill
A dark and brooding wine, crafted with fruit sourced from one of Oregons oldest and most storied vineyards. Proprietors Patricia Green and Jim Anderson aspire to do as few adjustments as possible in the cellar - which means that they have to source the finest fruit available. And no fruit is better than that from Freedom Hill, one of Oregon's finest sites. They destem their berries and ferment whole cluster to ensure that the ripeness earned in the vineyard is not only fully expressed but also unobscured by any tanins. The results? An intense pinot noir whose black/blueberry notes and spicy nuances almost overwhelm the senses. Not for the faint of heart.
2014 Loring Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
An energetic and ripe pinot noir, whose sole aim is intensity of fruit expression. Crafted by former missile and torpedo guidance systems designer Brian Loring, who sources fruit for this 2014 pinot from the Sta. Rita Hills. The valleys within SRH run east-west, which in turn permit the easterly inward flow of morning fogs and the afternoon outward flow of cool westerly winds. The morning shade and cool afternoon breeze leave in turn a cool yet sunny situation ideally suited for pinot noir, which Loring destems, cold-soaks, and basket presses to minimize the extraction of any bitter, green tannins. Sweet cherries, kirsch, plums, and baking spices - all you will find in this silky pinot.
2011 Schnaitmann Spatburgunder Junge Reben
Pinot noir from Germany? Absolutely! Known there as spatburgunder, where upon the German hillsides it gains a freshness and an aromatic lift that persists long on the palate and on the memory. Rainer Schnaitmann founded his estate in 1997, and rather than cultivate riesling decided instead to plant pinot noir - no easy task in even the best of conditions, made all the more difficult in the especially cool vineyards of Germany. Yet in short time his choice proved the right one. His 2011 Spatburgunder Junge Reben - with its wild cherry, rose petal, and baking spice notes - is all about perfume and exotic allure.
2013 Calera Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard
Enjoying stints at Domaine Romanee-Conti and Domaine Dujac before establishing his Calera estate in Mount Harlan, California native Josh Jensen and his California pinot noirs have proven every inch the equal of its French counterparts. In France he learned of the significance of terroir, and in turn established a California vineyard whose limestone soils and elevated plots yield some of the finest pinot clusters in all of California. His gentle, hands-off approach in the cellar brings to the fore crushed flowers, sweet red raspberries, cinnamon and fresh ground coffee suggestions. Its lift, energy, persistence, and precision on the palate easily equal any Grand Cru from Burgundy.
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