Posts Tagged Oregon

What Type of Wine is Pinot Noir?

What type of wine is Pinot Noir? It is both the name of a wine grape and the name of a red wine. These wines are world famous and grown world-wide. And, it is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and wine to make.

The Grape Pinot Noir

Of all commercial wine grapes, Pinot Noir is the most susceptible to common wine grape diseases and maladies including frost, mold, and rot. Pinot Noir has a relatively thin skin making the berries vulnerable. This thin skin also affects the wine making process.

The Pinot Noir grape vines are just as finicky as the grapes. They tend to be thin and are prone to mildew, mold, viruses and are susceptible to a variety of grape vine pests.

Due to the sensitivity of the Pinot Noir vine and grape, there are perhaps a thousand clone varieties worldwide. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, which only has about a dozen clone varieties, Pinot Noir is one of the most diverse wine grapes in the world.

The Places of Pinot Noir

Keep in mind that although most New World wine labels will list the grapes in the wine, many Old World wine labels only list the place. The most famous Old World place for Pinot Noir is the Burgundy region of France (in French: Bourgogne [boohr-go-ny]). But you’ll also find Pinot Noir wines from Italy (where it’s called Pinot Nero [pee-no neh-(l)ro]) and Germany (where it’s called Spätburgunder [spayt-boo(r)-g(oo)n-deh(r)].

In the New World, you can find many Pinot Noir wines from the USA, Chile, and New Zealand. Less common, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa produce fine Pinot Noir wines as well. The Willamette Valley in Oregon produces world-class Pinot Noir wines. Its relatively cool climate and rolling hills mimic the terrior [the-hrwahr] (soil, geography, climate, etc.) of Burgundy allowing the finicky Pinot Noir grape to fully mature and a cool region for the wine to properly ferment and age.

Perhaps because Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult wine to make, prices of the wine are sometimes quite high; especially from famous regions like Burgundy, France or Willamette Valley, Oregon. Look for value-priced Pinot Noir wines from New Zealand and Chile. They make some great wines without the “great” (high) prices!

The Wine Pinot Noir

As mentioned, the Pinot Noir grape has a relatively thin skin. Since the color in red wine comes from the skins of the grape (the juice is lightly colored to almost clear), it can be difficult to achieve and keep the expected red color through the wine making process. Wine makers usually intensify the color by drawing off some of the juice after the grapes are crushed in order to increase the ratio of wine skins to juice during a process called maceration (soaking the juice with the skins, seeds, and stems). Wine makers must also pay close attention during fermentation and aging to avoid a loss of color before (and after) bottling.

Single varietal Pinot Noir wines (those not blended with other grape varietals) have several classic attributes:

  • A light red color
  • Aromas and flavors of cherry or strawberry
  • Often earthy aromas such as mushrooms or what is often called “barnyard” (in other words, it may stink!)
  • Acidity that is well balanced by fruit flavors and light tannins in the best Pinot Noir wines.  

Like all wines, the aromas and flavors of Pinot Noir can vary significantly from vineyard to vineyard, wine maker to wine maker, and vintage to vintage.

Pinot Noir and Food

Because Pinot Noir wines have lighter body with complex aromas and flavors, they best compliment foods that won’t overwhelm the wine. Grilled or broiled salmon, prime rib, lamb and duck are all great meat choices. Any mushroom dish works really well. But go lightly on the spices which may mask the delicate flavors of Pinot Noir.

Although Pinot Noir grapes are difficult to grow and the wine making process finicky, several regions of the world produce amazing Pinot Noir wines that are great with food or just with friends and conversation. Some also age well; ask a knowledgeable wine steward before purchasing one for that purpose.

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5 Popular Northwest White Wines

Similar to my post on 5 popular red wines from the Pacific Northwest, I’ll list the 5 most popular white wines from Washington and Oregon based on sales (in number of bottles sold) over the past 6 months at my store, Taste of Wine.

Once again, we’ll start with the 5th most popular and include the same wine description we provide our customers.

#5. Milbrandt Vineyards 2006 Riesling, Wahluke Slope, Washington, $15

The textbook floral aromas of orange blossom, apricot, and white peaches are well supported by the firm acids and hallmark “evergreen minerality.” The palate is lush, but lively; the finish is long and silky. (90 points, Wine Spectator)

#4. J. Scott Cellars 2007 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $17

The wine displays beautiful pineapple and mineral aromas that persist through the long, full finish. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to seafood, domestic fowl, or light pasta dishes.

#3. Cloudline 2007 Pinot Gris, Dundee Hills, Oregon, $18

Peach, melon and citrus aromas lead to crisp flavors of lemon and green apples. Lean and slightly grassy with excellent acidity. The epitome of Oregon Pinot Gris!

#2. Pine & Post 2006 Chardonnay, Washington, $8

Inviting pineapple and honeysuckle aromas draw you in. Peach blossoms, apricots and light citrus fill your mouth with a hint of caramel on the finish. Lingering peach and integrated oak flavors leave you wanting another glass.

And #1. Zerba 2007 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Oregon, $19

A light-bodied wine with pleasing aromas of apple, honey, and citrus along with subtle hints of oak and vanilla. It has refreshing flavors of pear, lemon, and apricot that meld beautifully and then stretch into a lingering coating finish. (Special note: this wine will soon be very hard to find. The winery is out of stock and they aren’t growing Chardonnay anymore. Get it while you can!)

Let me know how you like them!

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5 Popular Northwest Red Wines

You’ll find lots of blogs, articles, newsletters and other media that will tell you the author’s favorite wines. This post will bring you something a bit different. I’ve looked at the sales (in number of bottles sold) of Pacific Northwest wines over the past 6 months at my store, Taste of Wine. Sure, there a a lot of wines from the Pacific Northwest and we don’t carry them all. But at least you know these wines were enjoyed by quite a few people.

Here is a list of the five most popular red wines from Washington and Oregon wineries starting with the 5th most popular. I’ve included the same description we give our customers. Find some of these wines and check them out for yourself!

#5. Abacela 2006 Tempranillo Estate, Roseburg, Oregon, $37

Drink with a fork! Black fruit, plum, earth, and oak leap from the glass. Complex spices, flint, and pepper coat the tongue to deliver chewy tannin, leather, and tobacco. Lingering finish.  Red meats and strong cheeses will beg for more.

#4. Elk Cove 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Oregon, $29

This opens up with a lovely, expressive nose laden with cherry blossom, plum, vanilla, and butterscotch.  The core of sweet raspberry and cherry holds steady into a moderately tannic finish.  A rich, silky Pinot that’s easy on the wallet too! (90 points, Wine Enthusiast)

#3. Anam Cara 2006 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem, Oregon, $34

Elegant and full bodied with soft tannins. On the nose are hazelnuts, milk chocolate and warm black fruits. Ripe plum and black raspberries emerge on the palate. Sounds like the produce of Oregon, doesn’t it?

#2. Velocity Cellars 2006 Velo, Rogue Valley, Oregon, $18

Bright, sophisticated aromas of plum and black cherry play off fresh raspberries with notes of cocoa, vanilla, and baking spices. Generous palate: dark, rich, and smooth. Finishes with lively fruit and a food-friendly structure that invites another sip.

And #1. Waters 2007 Interlude, Walla Walla, Washington, $28

With aromas of herbs, cedar, and bittersweet chocolate, what’s not to like? Medium-bodied palate of cherries and currants gives way to a generous finish with a hint of smoke and minerals. Find a complex dish to serve with this complex wine.

Stay tuned for the 5 most popular white wines from the Pacific Northwest in a future post.


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