Pinot Noir is grown around the world and is considered an ancient vine. This is presumed to be the first vine that was domesticated for wine production over 2000 years ago. With its ancestral home in Burgundy, France, Pinot Noir can be some of the most expensive bottles in the world on release. The thin-skinned grape will not have the same level of color as a Cabernet Sauvignon but can still be just as layered and complex.
Where it is grown
This is the home of Pinot Noir. There are a dizzying number of appellations for Pinot Noir and some of the lesser known AOCs have some of the best value. I would love to drink Grand Cru Burgundy but is out of my price range. Places such as Santennay, Fixin and Savigny-les-Beaune offer great value for Red Burgundy.
Sonoma, Monterrey and Santa Barbera counties are where Pinot Noir is concentrated. With brighter, riper fruit on the nose and palate, these wines are the crowd pleasers. Easy to drink with dinner or as a cocktail wine, they are very versatile at the table. Merry Edwards is a standard bearer in Sonoma with her operation in the Russian River Valley. Hahn is a leader in Monterrey and Fiddlestix and Curran lead in Santa Barbera.
Oregon is relatively new to the Pinot Noir game. Its first plantings only go back to the 1960s, when Dick Shea, Dick Erath, David Lett and David Adlesheim went north from California to Willamette Valley. They are the godfathers of the industry. Willamette Valley is on the same parallel as Burgundy and is the gateway from California into Burgundy. It shows more raspberry and cranberry than California and less earth and forest floor than Burgundy. Look for Shea Cellars, Stoller Family and Argyle for great entry level bottles. For a splurge, pick up Ken Wright, Elk Cove or Domaine Serene.
Other rising areas
Germany is the 3rd largest grower of Pinot Noir, but not much makes it across the pond. New Zealand’s Southern Island is known for Sauvignon Blanc, but makes great, affordable options to consider from Malborough and Central Otago. Casablanca Valley in Chile is another rising spot for well-made and affordable Pinot Noir as well as Syrah.
Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”
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