Picking Pinot with a Master of Wine (MW)

“God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the Devil made Pinot Noir,” a quote from America’s most influential winemaker, André Tchelistcheff.

I recently attended a fantastic event at Astor Center with Christy Canterbury, MW.

Master of Wine is an IMPRESSIVE title, there are currently only 30 Americans who have it. The program takes a minimum of three years to complete, and most never achieve the certification.

I am often asked to recommend a great, affordable Pinot Noir. This is usually an oxymoron.  Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape which means it is susceptible to frost, wind, and too cold or too hot temperature. It is also a very low yielding grape which means you get very few grapes per vine.

All of these factors make Pinot Noir very difficult to grow and therefore it is expensive to turn into wine.

Most agree that the best Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy, France but they are also some of the priciest. I have found some really good, affordable Pinot from Washington State and Central Otago, New Zealand that I recommend to others.

I was curious to taste all 8 expressions of Pinot Noir and also to hear how “the Master” would handle the challenge.

Her Pinot Selections…
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Is Old Wine Better?

To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night  I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).

Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger   Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.

2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)

About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).

As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.

 On to the wines…

As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.

The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.

Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.

Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).

The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel,   the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as  fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.

So which is better?

Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.

But you love them both.

 

Why don’t Americans drink Chianti?

I recently attended the launch of the Slow Wine Guide as well as the Italian Wine Masters class on Tuscan wines.

One of the wines that we tasted and discussed, was Chianti.

Forget everything you know about straw basket Chianti. The main grape of Chianti, Sangiovese, with it’s high aciditiy, produces some of the most affordable, food friendly, versatile wines that I enjoy.

Also, because Chianti can be made in so many styles you are sure to find one that suits your tastes.

So why don’t we drink Chianti, more often? STRAW BASKETS!

It is probably due to Americans past negative experiences with Chianti…

1. Originally the laws for making red wine in Chianti were very restrictive:

•  Wines needed to include a white grape, Malvasia (they don’t anymore)

•  Producers had to match the “recipe” or established percentage of each grape set in the mid 19th Century (now vast improvements have been made by winemakers)

2. Quality of wine exported to the United States was not very good. Producers focused on quantity, for exports, and kept the best wines for the local market (Italians)

3. The main grape, Sangiovese, doesn’t grow well outside of Italy so we are not as familiar with it as we are with other California staples like Cabernet and Merlot.

NEW, IMPROVED Chianti… On to the wines

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Around the World in 80 Sips- Wines of the Week

Host of the Event

The Crowd

I attended an excellent event thrown by Bottlenotes Around the World in 80 Sips. This is a great opportunity to learn while “drinking around the world”. Virtually every style of wine can be sampled in one place.

Click here to see the wines poured

Below are some wines that really stood out, for me. The exclusive retail sponsor was Continue reading