By Celia Strong
Yes. Finally. We have hit the big time. But, I’m jumping ahead. So, to begin with, you have accomplished one holiday dinner. (Or, if you read this just before Thanksgiving, you’ve almost accomplished one.) Hopefully everyone had a great Thanksgiving! But that leaves us two to go. And not just two big and very special meals, but also a season of gift giving. Lots of eating and drinking and gifting. If we do it all well, it’s a big deal. If we don’t get everything done in time, it’s a big deal. If we do or don’t find the right menu, the right time, the right gifts, blah blah blah. Stress, stress, stress. Maybe, though, our wine today can be a help.
Lesson time! Our grape variety this week is Pinot Noir. This grape is grown in every wine producing country around the world. Ours, today, is from California, so we’ll review some of what we’ve learned before? Even though it makes some of the world’s greatest red wines, Pinot Noir is difficult to grow. Its berries (grapes) are tightly packed together in their bunches on their vines. This makes it an easy target for vineyard hazards like rot. Also, Pinot Noir grapes have thin skins and low levels of phenolic compounds. (No big deal. Phenolic compounds and polyphenols just affect the color, flavor and texture of wines.) Pinot Noir winemakers always have to struggle against wines that are lightly colored, light or medium bodied, low in tannins, susceptible to dumb phases, and may or may not age well. Because of all this, many California Pinot producers have had to choose to blend in percentages of Merlot, Syrah and other varieties in order to make more drinkable wines. Many of these blended wines can still be labeled “Pinot Noir,” as long as Pinot makes up at least 75% of the wine. And we continually drink many of them. Without knowing.
When grown in California, Pinot Noir has found success in many areas – Sonoma County, including the Russian River Valley, Napa County, Santa Barbara AVA and more. With many different styles that range from cool, minerally and pungent like red Burgundy wines to super ripe, soft and chocolatey sweet made from grapes that are very ripe with high sugar levels. Two different styles, but the one you love you first Pinot Noir from is the style you prefer. And, here, we have another reason for California producers tend to blend their Pinot Noir wines. Not with other varieties, but with different styles of Pinot grapes. The results being very good and very complex wines. Nice!
Row Eleven Wine Company makes our Pinot Noir for this week. Founded in 2004, this company makes wines under several different brand names. Row Eleven is one. Their Pinot Noir grapes, for our wine, come from special vineyards in three appellations. All the grapes are sustainably grown, and each bringing its own particular characteristics to the wine. Our wine, Row Eleven Vinas 3, is a blend of Pinot grapes from Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Monterey vineyards. These Sonoma County grapes grow in sand and loamy soils. Some of them from the excellent Dutton Ranch vineyard in the Russian River AVA. The Santa Barbara grapes grow in clay, silt, sand and gravel soil. And, the Monterey grapes grow in sandy loam and alluvial soil, with ocean and bay breezes blowing on them all the time. Vinas 3 is the fulfillment of a contract that Row Eleven has with their consumers. A luscious wine that is all about this grape. Besides three different vineyards from three appellations, Vinas 3 also uses three different Pinot Noir clones – Pommard, Dijon and Martini. A pretty big deal. Our wine has crisp acidity, loads of cherry pie flavors, a moderate alcohol level and a silky smooth texture and finish. Although Vinas 3 is made to drink young, it is still able to age for several years. For Pinot Noir lovers, new and old, this wine is a find. So, yes, for holiday dinners, especially turkeys, ducks, and other birds we have a great new wine.
And gifts? Oh, yes. It’s always nice to share a new favorite with family, friends and anyone else who needs a gift. Imagine their delight if you’re able to give them a magnum? A liter and a half of Vinas 3? A 750ml for $18.99. The big magnum for $36.97. (Limited supply!) Shoot, yeah! We’ve hit the big time! Enjoy.