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January 2, 2013 / WineinTamiTime

My deal with Pinot

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I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not the biggest fan of Pinot Noir. The Sideways fever never infected me. What I did take from the movie, from the scene where Miles and Maya discussed the beauty of pinot on the porch, was that it is a hard grape to grow and get in a bottle. Since then, I’ve felt like pinot should be expensive. Add to that a propensity for syrah and Spanish wine, which are generally more accessible on a server’s budget and it comes out to me never developing an appreciation for it’s charms. Which is weird considering that I’ve always loved Beaujolais, but that’s another story altogether. When it comes to Burgundy, it’s been hit or miss for me, but my studies tell me that that is the nature of Burgundy. If I don’t know what I’m doing in terms of vintage or producer, it’s most likely just going to be okay. As a buyer and a student, I have had the chance to taste and gain some familiarity, but I have only scratched the surface. I do have an expectation of a ruby red wine of medium concentration, typically with red fruit character and the earth up front, at least holding hands with the fruit.

Fast forward to June 2012 when I get to attend Oregon Pinot Camp. NOW I get it! It’s pretty, floral, expressive, and sometimes dirty in a barnyard, earthy, funky kind of deliciousness. Minerality is present. It can pair with almost anything. The tannins don’t rip my face off. It doesn’t weigh down my palate. I Love Pinot Noir! Now I’m paying attention. I’m even bringing it home for dinner.

I started tasting with the Grapevine in August. I get to taste all kinds of pinot, but they’re all from California, nearly all 2010 so far. Sonoma, Anderson Valley, Santa Barbara, you name it. I am taken aback with the purple, opaque, tear staining, black fruit, no earth booziness. Mind you, I am making a generalization. I’m not saying this is all Cali pinot, but it’s common and it makes me mad.  And I know why it’s common. It’s because that is what the customer wants, they want a big bold pinot. It tastes like syrah, which really makes me mad because it’s hard to sell the most lovely of syrahs.

Accept the things you cannot change, right? After the last flight of these big goopy pinots, I came to the realization that maybe that is just what California Pinot Noir is. That is how they distinguish themselves from the rest of the world. I need to just roll with it, find the ones I think display the best balance and complexity and make the people happy. Because there is still plenty of Burgundy and Oregon Pinot out there for me.

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