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The US Pacific region, with a coastal, cool climate, produces Pinot Noir wines with a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas.

 

 

American Pinot Noir: A Strain that Differs from the Classic French

By Irene Moore




The Pinot Noir grape is now grown all over the world, including cool climate terrains.


Though it was in the Burgundy region of France that Pinot Noir acquired its esteemed pedigree, the grapes are now grown all over the New World. Oregon is one major bastion, along with California’s Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, plus Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.

Recently vintners, sommeliers, wine writers and other members of the wine trade met for a “Cool-Climate Coastal Pinot Noir Symposium” to taste 2013 Pinot Noir releases from six cool-climate wine appellations. The symposium was presented by winemakers from the Jackson Family Wine Collection’s wineries on the Northern Pacific Coast. 

The unifying factors of these Pinot Noirs are cool climates terrains, marine-based soils and their real sense of place. A revered cool climate means grapes spend more time on the vine, resulting in rich, layered wines with a dramatic spectrum of flavors and aromas.



La Crema 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Unpredictable weather and extremely varied terrain make this region exciting and complex. La Crema’s Director of Winemaking Elizabeth Grant Douglas says, “The 2013 growing season had near perfect conditions during the spring and summer, resulting in Pinots that are an ideal expression of the Willamette Valley.” The 2013 vintage has “notes of rose petals, pipe tobacco, cranberry, black tea, mocha, and pomegranate. It is graceful and balanced, supple, with a spicy finish.”



Champ de Rêves 2013 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
The Anderson Valley’s cooling maritime influence, geological contours and rocky soils are ideal for growing grapes. Winemaker Eric Johannsen says, “This unique corner of the world motivates me to make wines that capture the essence of their origins.” The 2013 Pinot Noir showcases the personality of this high-elevation site—it’s laden with vivid, blue/black fruit, silky textual elements, aromas and flavors of flowers and spices, and a pronounced mineral streak.


The Northern Pacific coastal areas of the United States are ideal for the cultivation of Pinot Noir.

Wild Ridge 2013 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Wild Ridge Pinot Noir is grown on vineyards located on the far western edge of the Sonoma Coast. “Wild Ridge is a true expression of coastal Pinot Noir,” Winemaker Craig McAllister says. “Naturally bright acidity and firm yet integrated tannins complement multiple layers of aroma and flavor.” The wildness of the site comes through in spicy and savory elements with a texture that’s both mouth filling and stony. Aromas of blackberry, ripe red cherries and oolong tea are complemented by flavors of pomegranate, raspberry and orange zest.

La Crema 2013 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
In the Russian River Valley, temperatures can shift up to 40 degrees in a single day, but the conditions in 2013 were nearly ideal for a great vintage. The late season was mild, allowing the grapes maturity, concentration, and texture. Winemaker Grant-Douglas says of the 2013 vintage, “It is scented with sweet spice, ripe cherry, dark chocolate, and coffee. Flavors of black plum and subtle oak and tobacco. It is rich, supple and lingering.” 

La Crema 2013 Pinot Noir, Monterey County, California
Monterey is rocky, windswept, unrestrained, and just a little wild. 2013 was an excellent year for grape growing in Monterey; the cooling winds came in slightly later in the day, allowing for even more ripeness, resulting in an elegant, exotic, fresh, spicy vintage. Winemaker Grant-Douglas says of the 2013 vintage: “This Pinot is bright, juicy, lingering. In the nose, red plum, tea leaves, and coffee bean; in the mouth red cherry, orange zest, and classic Monterey minerality. A lingering finish of sweet spice.”


Pinot Noir vineyard in Oregon.


Pinot Noir is one of the most popular grape in the world.

Cambria Estate Vineyards & Winery 2013 Benchbreak Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County
Cambria Estate’s setting is known as benchland, referring to the way the foothills rise from the valley floor. Winemaker Denise Shurtleff’s goal is to create wines that reflect Santa Barabara County, and especially the Santa Maria Bench. Each wine is 100% produced on the estate, fully revealing the essence of the area. The 2013 vintage features aromas and flavors of blueberry, black cherry, cola, and mocha. Creamy vanilla and oak spice characters keep the finish long and lingering.

Nielson (By Byron) 2013 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County
The site of this vineyard was initially deemed too cold and inhospitable for grapes, but time has proved the naysayers wrong. Winemaker Jonathan Nagy uses high-end, small-lot wine-making techniques, in combination with fruit from some of the AVA’s (American Viticulture Association) most renowned sites, ensuring that the wines capture the flavor of Santa Barbara County. “The 2013 vintage has real Pinot flair and character.  This wine displays the beautiful floral and mineral characteristics typical of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir,” he says. ■


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