Bristol Bar & Grille Master Sommoler Scott harpers discusses why Pinot Noir is his favorite grape:
Sometimes a wine professional gets asked questions about wine that are very difficult to answer. These questions are difficult to answer not because we lack the knowledge or resources to research the question, but because the question is of a very subjective nature.
These questions start out like this: what is the best wine, what is your favorite wine, if you were stranded on a dessert island and you could take only one wine with you what would it be, what is the best wine you have ever had or the most expensive wine you have ever had? I used to say, well, my favorite wine is the next one I have. Wanting to try the newest release from a certain winery or a new wine from an emerging wine region seemed like a good answer, but that didn’t work with most people. Then I would answer the question with the wines that I have had that were truly memorable, not just because of the wine but because of the place, the winemaker or the people I drank them with. Here are some of the wines I would mention, 1941 Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Reserve Ingelnook Napa Valley, California (I know what you are thinking, Ingelnook? But at the time I tasted the 1941, its auction value was $1,400.00 and it had a perfect 100 score in the wine magazine “The Wine Spectator”), 1961 Barbersco Fontanafredda Piedmont, Italy, 1998 Gewurztraminer Marc Tempe “Selection De Grains Nobles, Mambourg” Alsace, France, 2000 Volnay Joseph Voillot “Les Brouillards, Premier Cru” Burgundy, France and 2000 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, France. I found for the most part after the second or third wine people’s eyes will start to glaze over, as if they asked the wrong question. So, at least for now my answer is, the red wines made from Pinot Noir.
The Pinot Noir Grape
Pinot Noir is obviously a grape not a specific wine, but this allows the conversation to continue. Most people would ask why not Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Nebbiolo or Sangiovese? And of course, I do very much enjoy wines from these grapes, but I must pick one so there it is Pinot Noir! Pinot Noir can be one of the most textured, alluring, ethereal grapes grown. It can produce wines of great flavor, intensity, elegance and food compatibility. From a poor vintage or an unscrupulous winery it can also be very disappointing. The fact that its quality can be allusive may be what makes it so intriguing. But, when its quality is high it is as good as it gets.
Pinot Noir is a grape not fully understood by most. I am fond of saying that most people who like Merlot really want Pinot Noir. Merlot is often described as being round, soft and supple. I am not sure the last time I had a merlot that fit this description. Although I am sure the last time I tried a Pinot Noir that fit that description. Pinot Noir is one of the most textured and polished red wines there is. That is not to say there are not excellent examples (mainly in Burgundy) that are more masculine and tannic but, these wines too, if well made, will evolve in to textured flavorful wines for the Pinot Noir hedonist. The Pinot Noir grape is one of the most difficult to produce, which is illustrated by its nickname “The Heart Break Grape”. Pinot Noir is one of the three grapes of Champagne but, it originally hails from Burgundy, France. In tiny parcels of land that the French government have delimited and classified into a hierarchy as Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village and Regional, the Pinot Noir grape reaches its zenith. But after some time of learning from the Burundians and experimenting the new world now makes some of the most delicious Pinot Noir any were. Places in California like the Russian River Valley, Carneros, Mount Harlan, Chalone and Santa Barbara make excellent Pinot Noirs. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley and other places around the globe such as, New Zealand’s Marlborough the Pinot Noir excels. This is by no means an all inclusive list of great growing areas of Pinot Noir, but it does help answer the question, what is my favorite wine made from? The Pinot Noir grape!
Scott’s Favorite Pinot Noirs
Because of their silky texture and low tannins these wines are good to drink with full flavored fish like yellow fin tuna and salmon. They will also go well with lighter meats such as roasted chicken or pork. And to show Pinot Noirs food compatibility allow its vivacious fruit to stand up to full flavored meats like roasted lamb or buffalo.
Kenwood Russian River Valley, California 2001
One of the best value Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs around, it is medium-bodied, with a supple texture and flavors of red cherry, spice, oak and violets.
Kim Crawford Marlborough, New Zealand 2002
Don’t be scared off by this wines screw cap closure instead of a cork, for it is a delicious full flavored Pinot Noir. A deep rich nose is highlighted with red fruits, spice and oak. It is medium-bodied, dry, supple long and complex.