Monday, November 27, 2006

Two Pinot Noir Hits for Special Occasions

Pinot Noir is a finicky grape. It is thin-skinned, demanding and inconsistent. (I see you comparing it to some of the relatives you saw over Thanksgiving!) At its best, however, Pinot Noir can be hauntingly elegant and complex. The key to a good Pinot Noir is an even better producer, someone who can tame that persnickety berry into a multifaceted, memorable wine.

I had two Pinot Noirs from two such producers over the weekend. Although not inexpensive, they represent some of the best of what is inherent to Burgundian Pinots as well as California Pinots, showcasing the style and potential of each region.

The first was the 2002 Perrot-Minot Gevrey Chambertin. This is a village wine from the Gevrey Chambertin appellation in Burgundy, France and, as such, is a bit overpriced at $60. The excellent 2002 vintage is commanding high prices across the board and, given the bottle was for my wine-loving uncle and Perrot-Minot is known for quality wines in the classic Burgundian style, I decided to buy it anyway. I was not disappointed — and neither was my uncle or anyone else around the table for that matter.

The wine is elegant with seamless balance and a beautifully delicate floral fragrance. The palate is more powerful, as is typical with Gevrey Chambertin, and the wine has a very fine, silky mouthfeel. The characteristic cherry and earth flavors are there along with intricate layers of flavor and a long smooth finish. The refreshing but not overbearing acidity makes it a great match for food with which it was meant to be drunk. This is classic Burgundy in the traditional sense.

2002 Perrot-Minot Gevrey Chambertin Report Card

Intensity: B+
Complexity: A
Balance & Structure: A
Current Grade: A
Peak Grade: A

The second Pinot Noir tasted this weekend was the 2003 Testarossa Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard from California, also priced at $60. I had alw
ays been a fan of Gary’s Vineyard (which is located in the coastal Santa Lucia Highlands area of California) although I had not tasted the Pinot in years. I remembered it fondly as a good California Pinot Noir — more obvious fruit and body than Burgundy Pinots but not overly sweet or heavy like some Cali Pinots. True to form, the 2003 is made in a subdued and silky style but with the ripe fruit you expect from sunny California. The aroma is intensely cherry and the palate plush and sweet, balanced by a fresh acidity. You can sense a bit of the oak on the palate but it is well rounded and serves to give the wine a nice toasty character. The wine is well balanced and a nice match for a wide range of foods. This is a great pick if you enjoy Red Burgundy but want to try something from the U.S. —something that does not stray too far from the French style.

2003 Testarossa Pinot Noir Gary's Vineyard Report Card

Intensity: A

Complexity: B+
Balance & Structure: A
Current Grade: A
Peak Grade: A

Vino Girl says cheers to being finicky!

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