Ah — Pinot Noir.
There was a time, not that long ago, I’d never have written those words. I wasn’t a pinot fan, you couldn’t make me a pinot fan, and I was never going to be a pinot fan.
My, how times have changed.
It’s like anything, I suppose. It just takes determination, perseverance, and lots — and lots — of practice.
But it’s tough to do, especially when you keep getting stymied.
I think the problem, in my early days, was I didn’t want to spend much money on pinot noir since I didn’t really like it anyway — I was just trying to like it. But as with anything, quality will out, and frequently — not always, but often — that comes at a somewhat steeper price tag.
Don’t get me wrong — some wine prices are ridiculously inflated and I don’t blame people for seeking out bargains. I love a bargain, whether it’s on wine or clothing or whatever. If I like it, and it’s cheap, I’m thrilled! If I like it, and it’s expensive, that’s generally ok, too. But if it’s expensive, and I don’t like it, then I have a problem. Because you usually have to buy a wine to find out whether it delights or dismays you.
I’ve found that, primarily, a good pinot doesn’t come at a bargain price. There’s the odd exception, but for the most part, the pinots I’ve had that I’ve loved are around the $25 mark. And while that might seem like a deal to some of you, my budget won’t let me afford that price-point on anything near a regular basis. But by the same token, to me, $15 is a bargain, whereas that might seem extravagant to some readers of this column.
It all comes down to finding something you like for a price you’re willing to pay. And to buy a pinot I can live with (well, I better be able to not just live with it but enjoy it if the cost is up there), I’ve found I have to part with a little more of my hard-earned cash than I’d prefer.
All that said, I found some lovely pinots in recent months and years, including the Wagner Family of Wine’s Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir from California. While I like full-bodied, big wines with some edge, the Belle Glos Meiomi was none of those things. But it was, I thought, a bit deeper than most pinots, and instead of tasting of dirt, like I find so many of them do, this was earthy, sure, but gently so. And it had little or no edge at all. While it was chock full of typical pinot flavour — cherry, red fruit, etc. — it was really subtle, really soft. While some pinot lovers might think that, despite its depth of flavour, its delicacy makes it a tad wussy, I don’t. I love it just the way it is, even at $24.99 a bottle.
I first discovered the Meiomi at the Westman Wine Festival a couple of years back, and at this year’s incarnation of the event, I was enamoured by the Nicky Hahn Pinot Noir from Monterey, Calif. Hahn pioneered pinot noir in Monterey back in the ’80s, and his product is fruity, light, and nicely elegant. It’s $21.99, which I think, for this wine, is a bargain.
Another pinot I was smitten by at the Wine Fest was Block 9 Caiden’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, also from California. It sells for $17.75 and is quite pleasant, especially for the price. And if you’re planning a traditional festive feast, pinot goes especially well with turkey, so hopefully some of the aforementioned wines appeal to your taste.
Since we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, sparkling wines are certainly much in demand, and the two new-to-me ones I tried at the Wine Festival were from Italy.
The Caposaldo Prosecco ($16.99) with a faint hint of sweetness, was very pleasant, and sure to please many palates. The Marca Prosecco ($19.99), starts sweet but finishes with nicely balanced acidity — a refreshing, lovely beverage.
For white wine aficionados, the Nuevo Mundo Viognier Reserva ($13.92) is aromatic, floral, honeyed, pear-like, but dry. I like this one, and my husband likes it even more. The Balance Chenin Blanc/Colombar from South Africa ($11.18) is uncomplicated but decent, and the price point is certainly good news, especially at this time of year.
Fans of edgy malbec would likely applaud the Norton Barrel Select Malbec from Argentina — it’s very nice, it’s dry, it’s spicy and brambly and definitely worth a try at $14.99 a bottle.
Those who enjoy the gutsy deepness of shiraz and/or durif will certainly enjoy the 19 Crimes Shiraz/Durif ($18.99) from New Zealand. It packs a dark fruit punch — it’s impossible to ignore the intensity of this wine. And since I love deep, dark and delicious, it’s certainly perfect for me!