Pinot for Valentine’s Day

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DSCN2755This 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.

Champagne is the traditional way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But how about savoring the Pinot Noir grape (one of the varietals that goes into the bubbly) by itself?

Pinot is sensual in texture and seductive on the nose. Depending on the region and the producer, the wine can unleash lush berry aromas or exude earthy, spice notes. Either way, this soft and silky wine is ideal for lovers on Valentine’s Day.

The Pinot capital is of course Burgundy’s Cote d’Or region and here in the U.S. Oregon’s Willamette Valley comes close to producing the restrained Burgundian ‘barnyard’ style of wine. However, the cool coastal area of California and New Zealand’s Marlborough region produce excellent well-balanced Pinots with dark berry notes.

In the Central Coast region, some of my favorites are Melville, Brewer Clifton, Fiddlehead Cellars and Clos Pepe from Santa Rita Hills appellation in the Lompoc region; and Windward from Paso Robles’ cool, westside area. If you like Burgundian style Pinots then these are the wines for you.

Although Paso Robles is a warmer appellation, a couple of wineries such as Jack Creek Cellars and Wild Horse produce Pinots that have a lush mouthfeel and cherry notes. The 2008 Wild Horse Pinot Noir is a lively wine produced from gapes that are sourced from Santa Maria Valley in the South to San Benito County in the North. It is appropriately labeled Central Coast.

From the cool Monterey County wine region, Estancia produces affordable Pinots. Its 2009 Pinnacles Ranch is caressed with lush berry fruit and spice notes.

In the North while Napa is known for Cabernet Sauvignon, its neighbor Sonoma produces some very good Pinots in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations. One of the Pinots that I favor passionately is Flowers, a riot of violets, cherry and fennel spice. Perched high above the Sonoma Coast at an elevation of 2,000 feet, the trek to the winery itself is a romantic adventure.

On the other side of the Pacific, New Zealand’s Marlborough region is another popular Pinot producing area. The 2009 vintages of both Kim Crawford and Nobilo Icon exude vibrant cherry flavors with a smooth long finish.