Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Pinot Noir’

What to Drink – La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

La Crema 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir

La Crema Winery is really into cool. They have some of the coolest vineyards, Russian River, Carneros, Monterey, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. All perfect places to grow those Burundian grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

They believe the wine is in the details. When grown in the vineyardscool climate vineyards, fruit develops wonderful aromatics and lush flavors with a crisp, firm structure.

The Monterey appellation begins just north of the Monterey Bay and extends south to Paso Robles. This 90-mile-long valley is cooled by ocean winds. The cool climate, abundant sun, strong winds and low rainfall lower the yield, and provide extended hang time which makes for a concentrated flavors and aromas. Also ideal conditions for cultivating the bright acidity that’s the hallmark of a proper Pinot Noir.

The 2012 vintage was a good one. The fruit ripened slowly, with good concentration and fruit character that can only come from extended hang time.

It’s both savory and sweet, showcasing aromas and flavors of pomegranate and blackberry. Framed by sweet herbs and bright acidity, it’s juicy with smooth tannins, a perfect food wine.

This is the wine when everyone is ordering a different entrée which may explain why it was voted Most Popular in a national restaurant poll.

La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir sells for under $20.

Red wine with game hens? You bet!

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Chicken and lemongrass makes you think white wine doesn’t it?

But you’ve probably learned by now that we don’t always recommend wines that go with conventional wisdom. Yes we like to mix it up a bit, but we also strive to find what we think is the perfect wine for the recipes presented.

Which is why we’re going into the red department for Ann Vogel’s Vietnamese recipe of Grilled Cornish Hens with Garlic, Lemongrass and Five-Spice Powder.

This dish, with its grilled hens and five-spice powder immediately brought Pinot Noir to mind. We referenced our wine and food dictionary, which confirmed our suspicions.

The beauty of Pinot Noir is that you get the complexity of a red wine without the muscle of a Cabernet. Anyone who has watched the movie Sideways is probably not surprised at the impact the 2004 movie had on Pinot Noir sales.

Main character Paul Giamatti goes into great depth explaining why he prefers Pinots to other reds — which also serves as a not-so-subtle peek into the complexity of his character, Miles Raymond.

We of course did not choose Pinot for this dish to try and send a hint to readers about our sensitivity or difficult temperament.  We chose it because we thought it’d go well with the flavors of the five-spice, which covers the flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty.

For this dish we recommend Santa Barbara Pinot Noir in honor of Miles Raymond and all he did for the Pinot Noir grape.

Santa Barbara County incidentally includes some of the best vineyards and growing areas for the Pinot grape. The Santa Maria region and Bien Nacido Vineyards grow some of the best Pinots in California — and some of the oldest. A third area known for its Pinots is Santa Rita.

While we’d definitely recommend a winery that gets its Pinot from the Bien Nacido Vineyard plots, there might be some sticker shock involved, so we’re going to recommend a wine that fits more in the weekend wine price range.

The Santa Barbara Winery has two Pinots, a 2009 from Santa Rita Hills for $25 and a 2009 from the Central Coast for $17. While these are still a little pricier than we normally recommend, they’re well worth it.


Brynn and Mary

Ahi tuna, shiitake mushrooms and wine

Friday, May 13th, 2011

White wine goes with fish, right? Well maybe.

With Carter’s recipe — thanks Carter! — for ahi tuna with ginger-shiitake cream sauce, the ginger immediately makes us think Chardonnay. It’s probably clear by now that we love Chardonnay, but that’s because it’s a great white wine that pairs well with dishes of varying styles.

Ginger makes us think of Chardonnay because the two have an affinity for each other – possibly because of the dryness of the Chardonnay and the piquant characteristic of the root.

Beyond this affinity, Chardonnay has the body to match the meatiness of the ahi.

But since we recommended a Chardonnay with Ann Vogel’s recent Iowa Stuffed Chop recipe, we’re going to stay away from Chardonnay this time and instead recommend red wine to pair with the tuna.

Because of the density of the fish, we recommend a Pinot Noir or a Pinotage.

Pinotage is a South African red grape that is the result of a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes.

Both wine varietals have weight and flavor that would pair well with Carter’s dish — which is made even richer by the shiitake mushroom sauce.

If you’ve never tried a Pinotage, we recommend branching out for this meal. Look to the Goats du Roam winery for its interesting blend of Pinotage — 33 percent Pinotage, 22 percent Shiraz and 13 percent Grenache. There are four other grapes with lesser percentages also blended in this wine, which results in a medium-style red that would match the recipe’s ginger and soy nicely.

If you’d rather stay with Pinot Noir, our favorite go-to Pinot is from Castle Rock.

Castle Rock Winery is located in California and sources its grapes up and down the coast from California to Washington. Their wines are always affordable and dependably good.

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