Wines made from the Pinot Noir variety constantly surprise me. Even the wines produced from the same region, same vineyard, same clone. I find the type reminiscent of a mushroom in that it soaks in the vineyard’s terroir more than some. With its thin skin and long growing season, it has the time to soak in the character of the land, delivering a sense of place in the wine. Here are a few that deserve a place on your table, now and throughout the years.
Delivering an earthy savoriness that coats the palate and lingers through to the finish, Otronia Block 1 Pinot Noir showcases rusticity and richness, perfect for Pinot Noir lovers. Crafted from the vineyards of Patagonia, Argentina, located in the cold, southernmost tip of the country, it is also a wine that any bold Bordeaux or Rhone Valley wine lover will adore. It is dense and earthy while maintaining the classic refinement of a well-made Pinot Noir.
A part of the New Frontier Wines owned by Alejandro Bulgheroni (also the owner of Bodega Garzon in Uruguay, which I visited a few years ago). An Argentine businessman, Bulgheroni has brought some of the world’s finest winemakers together to create this new line of wines producing distinct selections that highlight the sense of place the best wines in the world reveal. Using partial whole-cluster fermentation to lock in freshness and aged for 20 months in partially new French oak, the wine shows layers of wet leaves, dried herbs, and truffle, melding with black cherry, crushed stone, and a touch of anise. This beauty will be a stunning and welcoming selection if you serve a crown roast or beef tenderloin this holiday.
Sipping the wines crafted by winemaker Matt Dees of The Hilt and Jonata makes me wonder why everyone isn’t drinking the wines of Santa Barbara County right now. Each one I have had the opportunity to taste is beautiful.
The Hilt Estate Pinot Noir brings together a mix of clones, soil types, elevations, and micro-climates from vineyards lying within 10 miles of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Rita Hills. The resulting Pinot Noir is multi-layered, with incredible texture, structure, and complexity. The Estate Pinot Noir shows ripe black fruits like cherry and blackberry with hints of tangerine, black tea, and truffle. Pair with roasted duck, pheasant, or other game, seared tuna, or even slow-roasted brisket.
On my first trip to Willamette Valley with Gary, we stopped at Dobbes Family Estate for a tasting. Initially, the stop was because we wanted to have another taste, and they were the only winery that stayed open late. Then we tried the wines, met the team, and realized Dobbes crafted solid wines. Owner Joe Dobbes made sure of it, growing the operation and his more affordable line, Wine by Joe, to be one of the largest in Willamette.
In 2017 he stepped back from the day-to-day operations to reflect and take some time. That only lasted so long, and in 2019 he began Interum wines on his home estate in Eola-Amity Hills. The winery focuses on small production, root-to-bottle Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc wines, showcasing the land’s story, and revealing the winemaker’s heart. Meaning “again, afresh, once more,” Interum Wines is allowing Dobbes to reclaim the essence of Willamette Valley with elegant, refined wines that highlight the expressive nature of the region. Interum Clone 115 Orchard House Vineyard Pinot Noir is delicate and finessed. The wine has a gorgeous balance of ripe red and black fruits, earthy forest floor notes, and warm toasted spice, the three characteristics of great Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Keller Estate La Cruz Pinot Noir from mineral intense, clay soils in Sonoma’s Petaluma Gap is juicy, lively, fresh, and vibrant. From a Pommard-clone-rich base, the wine reveals the classic Dijon Pommard-clone flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry, and pomegranate, with aromatic floral notes and woody herbs. The combination produces a balanced, welcoming palate with delicate refinement and character. Subtle notes of dark chocolate and warm spice linger on the finish, inviting you to enjoy another sip again and again. This is a wine I could quickly drink on its own any night.
From the cool climate of Anderson Valley just inland from the Pacific Ocean, FEL Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir has a delicate elegance wrapped in rugged refinement that defines the northern Californian region. With cool breezes blowing in off the Pacific, the grapes hold lively freshness and vibrancy. This freshness melds with black cherry, raspberry, and plum flavors, along with dried rose petals and toasted spice. The result is a wonderfully rich, well-rounded, balanced wine. Each year FEL showcases the best from the region with each of its wines, with the Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir producing only 606 cases with the 2020 vintage. Grab a few bottles now to enjoy for the holiday, and lay a few down to savor next year.
Highlighting the red, volcanic, Jory soils and high elevations of the Dundee Hills in Willamette Valley, Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir mixes lovely floral notes of violets with wild raspberry and strawberry, black tea, and mushroom. Balanced and fresh, the wine is a beauty paired with grilled salmon, roasted turkey, pork, or roasted portabello mushrooms.
You know there is something unconventional about Unshackled Pinot Noir from The Prisoner Wine Company when you first see the bottle. Packaged in a classic Bordeaux-style bottle vs. the most common Burgundy-style, Unshackled is all about breaking traditional perceptions. This sentiment is carried on through the wine, which blends Syrah with Pinot Noir, giving the wine weight, spice, and ripe fruit-forward character. These characteristics meld with the berry flavors and dusty earthiness of Pinot Noir, revealing a multi-layered, easy-drinking selection.
Though Chile is known for its robust, powerful Bordeaux-style blends and single variety wines, like its signature Carmenere, just outside of Santiago near the Pacific Ocean, cool-climate wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive in the Casablanca Valley. Veramonte’s Ritual Wines crafts expressive, earthy Pinot Noir from organically farmed fruit. Ritual Pinot Noir shows an elegant balance of earthiness with fruit-forward flavors melding cherry and berry with truffle, dried leaves, and herbs. I love this wine paired with roasted root vegetables with thyme, butternut squash soup, or rosemary-rubbed grilled chicken.
Highly affordable and delicious, Raeburn delivers a classic Russian River flavor profile without the traditionally high Russian River AVA price. With a focus on hands-off, low-intervention, sustainable farming, Raeburn produces varietally correct Pinot Noir for around $25 a bottle. With an average rating of 92 points, the wine reveals ripe red cherries, berries, and spice. It isn’t the most complex wine we have tried, but it isn’t the point; this is a smooth, solid, highly affordable Pinot Noir great for any given Monday or Tuesday night.
Flat Top Hills Pinot Noir should be your go-to wine to entertain a crowd this holiday, pairing easily with your holiday meal while delivering affordable flavor. From the 4th generation of the C. Mondavi family, with Angelina Mondavi acting as consulting winemaker and seasoned winemaker Randy Heron, Flat Top Hills celebrates the family’s connection to the land and their desire to showcase the authenticity of California wines and their connection to them. The Flat Top Hills Pinot Noir is fresh and accessible, revealing juicy red and black fruits, toasted spice, and soft herbs, all for about $17 a bottle.