A native of Europe whose spiritual habitat is Burgundy, France, Pinot Noir is now at home in countless wine regions around the globe. Although New World Pinot Noir is often more powerful than its restrained Old World cousin, many oenophiles turn to site-specific versions from California and Oregon to satisfy their Burgundy-style cravings. Named for the pinecones its clusters resemble (pinot) and the color black (noir,) the grape’s tight bunches are prone to mold and bacteria, so it does best in cold vineyard sites that help acidity reach its best potential.
While Pinot Noir has flourished in California since the time of the Gold Rush, it was first planted in Oregon in 1965. Starting with Domaine Drouhin’s entrance into Oregon with the purchase of its first vineyard in 1987, there has been a steady influx of French investment in vineyards and wineries there. Because of its soft tannins and bright acidity, Pinot Noir pairs well with a wide variety of foods such as grilled tuna, roast chicken or barbecued baby back ribs. Of course, it is also a good choice when red meat is on the menu as well. Here are some Pinots from California and Oregon to whet your appetite.
Flowers Vineyard & Winery 2021 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast California
This delightful Pinot Noir is fermented with native yeast and has 14 days of skin contact which gives a brilliant garnet color to the wine. There are aromas of red raspberry and freshly picked blueberry. In the mouth there are rich fruit flavors as well as a nuance of bramble from the fact that 10 percent of the grapes are pressed as whole clusters. It is aged in French oak for 10 months and has silky tannins and a long fruity finish.
Fort Ross Vineyard 2019 FVR Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast California
For this Pinot Noir winemaker Jeff Pisoni chooses grapes grown in single vineyards less than one mile from the Pacific Ocean. His Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir has aromas and flavors of red cherry and cranberry with a touch of Oolong tea and brown baking spices in the back palate. It has rich mouthfeel with silky tannins and a smooth finish.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery Rochioli Vineyard 2019 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley California
Grapes that make up this intriguing wine come from the historic Rochioli Vineyard in Russian River Valley. It has enticing aromas of ripe cherry, red raspberry and nuances of tobacco leaf and mango preserves. In the mouth there is an explosion of red fruit flavors with a bright burst of pink grapefruit and Clementine orange. Only 426 cases were produced.
Kosta Brown 2019 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills California
This wine is aged for 13 months in French oak and just about half of the barrels are used for the first time. It has aromas of freshly picked cherry, pomegranate juice and red currant. In the mouth there are flavors of ripe red and dark fruits and silky, well-integrated tannins.
Beaux Freres 2019 Bass Notes Pinot Noir Yamhill County Oregon
Only 193 cases of this delicious Pinot Noir were produced in 2019. It has deep aromas of red cherry, black cherry and red currant with top notes of cinnamon and clove. In the mouth there are rich fruit flavors and a nuance of caramelized orange peel. The tannins are silky and well-integrated in the long, long finish.
Résonance Vineyard 2018 Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton Oregon
This estate-grown Pinot Noir from a dry-farmed organic vineyard is from an exceptional vintage in Oregon. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, it offers aromas of black cherry, raspberry, violet candy and baking spices that transition seamlessly to the palate in a wine with satiny tannins, gorgeous structure and an elegant finish.
Dutton Goldfield 2019 Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley California
One of a variety of Dutton Goldfield’s site-specific Pinot Noir offerings, this is produced from a mix of Dijon and heritage clones. Bright cherry and strawberry flavors are joined by notes of clove, vanilla and Oolong tea wrapped in a sheath of glossy tannins that fill the mouth and then recede, leaving lingering notes of fruit and spice.
Domaine Drouhin 2019 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Oregon
Crafted by fourth-generation winemaker Veronique Boss-Drouhin (whose family was among the first wave of French pioneers in Oregon), this wine has aromas of cassis and pipe tobacco with a hint of clove. Flavors of black cherry, forest floor and vanilla are perfect on the palate right now, but this will gracefully mature for another 10 years.
Goldeneye 2019 The Narrows Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley California
Just 10 miles from the Mendocino coast, the Narrows Vineyard sits on a slender ridge top planted with old-growth Pinot Noir. This cold site coaxes out bold fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry that are backed by notes of olive paste and nutmeg. Downy tannins evaporate into a spicy finish.