(New) World of Pinot Noir

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.

Willakenzie Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Pinot Noir from Catalian Island, Chile and Alsace? These are regions you don’t associate with this varietal. But that’s what I discovered last weekend at the World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach.

However, I felt the title a bit misleading. The two-day Grand Tasting held under the cavernous tent at The Cliffs Rsort showcased Pinots New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and plenty from California, but where was the sublime Pinot from Burgundy, the capital of this exalted grape? Over the two day tasting I sampled just four Burgundies – Chorey-Les-Beaune by Albert Bichot, two Hautes Cotes de Nuit Bourgogne and one Gevrey Chambertin. Yes, there was a seminar and a Burgundy dinner, events I coulnd’t attend as they were sold out. So, for eager Burgundy fans it was more like the New World of Pinot Noir experience.

Nonetheless, there were plenty of the pleasurable Pinot to sip and spit. A big surprise was the Trimbach Pinot, a rarity from Alsace. The stainless steel fermented 2009 vintage had good acidity, it’s a perfect food friendly wine. The Alsace region produce a mere 2% of red wine and Trimbach’s annual Pinot production is just 1800 cases.

Trimbach Pinot Noir from Alsace (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Another first for me was Pinot from Chile, from three cool appellations – the Bio Bio Valley, Casablanca Valley and Maule Valley. The region’s Pinot planting has been as recent as ten years and it look like it’s off to a good start. Overall the wines refelect  a cross between New and Old World Pinot, they are lighter in style and color and show balanced acidity and fruit aromas. The wines featured were all 2009 vintages with names like Lauca, Ocio, Veranda, Porta and Alazan. Here’s the good news – all these wines are priced between $13-$25 retail.

I ran into John Falcone, winemaker of Rusack Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley region. He poured a Pinot from Catalina Island. What appellation is that I joked? Los Angeles County he shot back! In 2007 Geoff and Allison Wrigley Rusack planted a-six acre vineyard in Catalina (that’s where the Wrigley connection comes in). It’s a bit of a challenge says Falcone, from planting, farming and harvesting in Catalina then transporting the fruit to Rusack’s Ballard Canyon winery for production.  But it’s worth it, the wine is delicious – spicier and lighter than the typical Santa Barbara County style.

Kent Torrey, President of The Cheese Shop in Carmel, brought in a selection of 100 cheeses to pair with the international Pinot Noirs. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

We encountered plenty of Pinots from Oregon and California. Some of my favorites are –  Breggo Cellars from Anderson Valley, Bergstrom Wines from Newberg, Oregon, Michaud from Soledad Canyon, Migration from Napa Valley, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery from Sonoma’s newest Fort Ross-Seaview applletion, Ampelos and Sandhi both from Santa Rita Hills, and Greywacke from New Zealand’s Marlborough region.

Then there were my all time faves – the seductive Etude (Carneros), the elegant Flowers (Sonoma Coast) and Paul Lato’s deep lush Pinot from Santa Maria.