02/28/07 – March Madness (Pinot Noir)

By Jesse on February 26, 2007


It’s pinot butter jelly time!  Pinot butter jelly time!  Pinot butter jelly time!  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Where y’at?  Now there ya go.  There ya go.  There ya go.  There ya go.  Do the pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly with a baseball bat!  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly.  Pinot butter jelly with a baseball bat!

Ok, seriously, Pinot Noir is one of the noblest grape varieties in the world, so no goofing off at this meeting.  There’s a good Pinot Noir page at the Wine Varietals Index, which you should all check out.  It lists some of the best appellations in California for Pinot Noir, which include, of course, the site of our first field trip, Santa Barbara County (made up of the AVAs Santa Rita, Santa Ynez, and Santa Maria).  Several more California AVAs are excellent Pinot locations; check out the page.  Also, as we’ll remember from doing Oregon in January, the Willamette Valley is world-renowned for its Pinot.  Wine Bible: “grown where they are bathed in the hot sun, [Pinot Noir] grapes end up as a wine that tastes something like pureed prunes mixed with flat cola.”  In Willamette’s cool maritime climate, however, grapes “do not burst into ripeness but instead make their way slowly and methodically toward maturity.”  The result is some of the world’s best Pinot Noir — Willamette examples placed third in an international competition as early as 1979.  Of course, Pinot’s ancestral home is France, specifically Burgundy (or Bourgogne ), where all of the reds are made from 100% Pinot Noir (except for Beaujolais, so be careful of that designation).  “Burgundy is in some ways the most terroir-oriented region on the planet; immense attention is paid to the area of origin, and in which of the region’s 400 types of soil a wine’s grapes are grown,” according to the Burgundy entry in Wikipedia.  My guess is we’ll be getting mostly Pinot from France, Cali and Oregon, but if you feel adventurous, the grape also does well in New Zealand, and it’s the most widely-planted red grape in Germany, where it’s called “Spätburgunder.”

If you’re trying to buy a French bottle, remember, it likely won’t say “Pinot Noir” on the label.  It will list the region, so hopefully it’ll say “Bourgogne Noir” (Red Burgundy), although if it’s a specific appellation or village within Burgundy, it may not.  Your best bet is to ask, or to look for familiar appellation names like Cote d’Or, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, or Cote Chalonnaise.  And one final checkpoint: to avoid mistakenly grabbing a bottle of Bordeaux, make sure the bottle is the correct shape.  What’s the difference?  According to wine wiseass Natalie MacLean, “naughty Frenchmen say the sturdy shape of a Bordeaux bottle reminds them of their wives, but the curvilinear Burgundy bottles conjure up their mistresses.”

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s totally new re-furnished apartment in Brentwood .  Bring a delicious bottle of Pinot Noir and some tasting notes, and we’ll see you people Wednesday night at 9!