Posts Tagged ‘Pinot Noir’

24th June
written by The Chronicler

Oh, I had a grand time at Wine Enthusiast’s Toast of the Town: Chicago Edition.  Where else could you sip on delicious wine and enjoy mouth savoring food with Sue?  For those of you who have yet to meet Sue, she is the largest, most complete, best preserved T. Rex … In. The. WORLD.  (That was for you, Sam.)  Sue lives at the Field Museum which was an appropriate venue for such a grand event.  The majority of wine producers pouring wine for the evening were California producers.  In California, wine makers go big: big fruit and bold flavors.  So, Sue’s presence seemed fitting for the occasion.

There's Sue in the back

Toast of the Town ranks among the best of wine festivals.  Wine festivals are a great opportunity to taste a lot of different wines during the same time period, allowing you the best opportunity to compare and contrast and develop your palate.  However, I have found that few of the wines poured at festivals are of high quality.  Given the high ticket price that wine festivals tend to command, I am often disappointed by the wine selection offered.  I purchased a VIP ticket to Toast of Town in order to have access to the premium wine selection, and it was worth it.  I tasted very good wine from producers such as William Hill in Napa Valley, California; Scala Dei in Priorat, Spain; Louis Roederer in Champagne, France.


My favorite wine of the night was MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block Selection Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008.  This is a remarkable Pinot that shows a lot of complexity with smoky undertones and a soft, round finish.  The most interesting wine I enjoyed was Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier Eden Valley 2009.  Botrytis cinerea is a mold that when it grows on grapes, it causes them to shrivel, concentrating the grape’s natural sugars and flavors.  I expected this Botrytis Viognier dessert wine to be very sweet.  Indeed, it is sweet, but it maintains an airy, crisp factor that I didn’t expect.  This wine would pair wonderfully with fresh fruit.  There were several Napa Valley wineries represented at Toast of the Town.  What would Napa Valley be without Cabernet Sauvignon?  The best Cabernet of the evening was Merryvale Profile Napa Valley 2007.  Profile is a Bordeaux-style blend with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is smooth and has a depth of character, balancing notes of cassis and dark berries with tobacco and cedar.  Profile is drinkable now but will be even better with a few more years of age.

Though the wine took center stage, the food—prepared by 35 top restaurants in the city—held its own.  Grahamwich gyros, lobster rolls and red velvet cupcakes, oh my.  Here’s to you, Wine Enthusiast!


22nd June
written by The Chronicler

I love Pinot Noir for its versatility.  It is typically my go-to varietal when I go out for dinner because it pairs well with a wide-variety of dishes.   It is flexible and dependable.   Indeed, a good Pinot Noir can stand alone, as it can show a depth and complexity that will keep you on your toes.  Every now and then, I come across a remarkable Pinot Noir that amazes me.  ”Jayson” is one of those Pinots.

Yesterday, I prepared chicken with a creamy mushroom sauce.  Deciding what type of wine to serve with it was an easy task.  Pinot Noir often picks up notes of mushroom—complimenting mushroom dishes—and its medium body wouldn’t overwhelm the chicken or be drowned out by the creamy sauce.  So, I pulled out Pahlmeyer “Jayson” Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2006 which I received in one of my wine club shipments earlier this year.

Jayson is a beautiful Pinot Noir that perfectly balances the tension between delicate and powerful.  This California Pinot Noir is dominated by fruit including raspberry, currant, cranberry, and blackberry, but earth, smoke, and toasted oak isn’t hard to find.  It has a soft, velvety mouth-feel and long, elegant finish.  Soft tannins give it some backbone to balance the 14% alcohol content.  We continued to sip on this remarkable Pinot Noir long after our meal was finished, and it continued to reveal new complexity as it opened up.  In a phrase, I would describe it as: forbidden lovers.  Try it, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

“Jayson” retails for around $50.  I give it an A and recommend that you treat yourself with a bottle.


7th March
written by The Chronicler

Credit Nurisha Rush

Although my Wine & Food Festival oenophile horoscope said that the “easy going, romantic, and charming [Libra] couples great with a light to medium Pinot Noir,” I didn’t drink a single Pinot Noir at the Festival.  Instead, I tasted Hungarian varietals Kiralyleanyka, Furmint, and Kadarka for the first time; sipped on a few favorites—Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage—from South Africa; and explored red and white wines of the Almansa region of Spain.  The Festival was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  I drank a lot of wine, met many wine lovers, and had some duck breast that was so delicious that I bought some to take home with me.

Here’s a quick rundown of my top three picks (all priced under $20) from the Festival:

Doolhof, Dark Lady, Pinotage, South Africa: Pinotage is one of the varietals that South Africa is best known for producing well.  This was no exception.  In fact, it was the most interesting Pinotage that I tasted that day.  It is full bodied with dark fruit and hints of coffee and chocolate.

Domaine la Croix des Marchands, “Methode Gaillacoise” Demi Sec, France 2007:  sparkling wine made of 100% Mauzac grapes.  It had more complexity than I would have expected from a demi sec at the $18 price point.  It is lively, sweet and fruity with notes of apple and honey.  It would be great with dessert.

Bodegas Tintoralba, Crianza, Spain: this blend of Garnacha and Syrah is bold.  Its spicy tannins are well integrated with the prominent notes of red and black berries.  It would pair well with red meat or dark chocolate.

The best way to learn about wine is to drink it.  You can develop an understanding of the characteristics of certain wines and figure out what you like by comparing and contrasting several different wines.  Wine festivals provide a great opportunity to do just that—taste several different types of wines side by side.  In addition to being a fun social outing, these festivals can be a great learning tool.