Passion was unleashed yesterday at SFWC, with Jordan Mackay, James Beard-award winning author, leading our Passion for Pinot tasting class. Jordan explained the beauty and challenges of Pinot Noir as a grape and a wine, from its thin skin and light tannin to its complex flavors of berries, cherries, earth and spice. We learned about the differences Pinot can show when made in different parts of the world and why Burgundy is so coveted. Because of the long winemaking tradition in France, Burgundy is the standard for Pinot Noir. The notion of terroir is very important in Burgundy, where small vineyard plots have cult status. In a region where the only red grape allowed is Pinot Noir, the wines are distinguished by the area in which they were grown, sometimes down to a row in a vineyard, based on the soil and growing conditions of each place. Burgundy is a cold region, so getting grapes ripe can be challenging and yields can sometimes suffer, making Burgundy expensive and sometimes difficult to procure. Stylistically, a Pinot Noir from South Africa can taste similar to a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, because of the characteristics of the grape, but the differences will be profound based on the soil and other environmental factors. It was a fascinating tour of Pinot Noir from around the world. Unfortunately one of the wines was corked, a Grand Cru Burgundy from 1999, but this ended up being a helpful exercise since many students had not smelled a corked wine before. We replaced the bottle with another, which ended up being the favorite of the tasting. It was a Premier Cru Burgundy from 1990 at its peak, meaning it was a pleasure to drink but it probably wouldn’t get any better with additional aging.
1. Paul Cluver Elgin Estate Pinot Noir 2008 – South Africa
2. Matua Central Otago Estate Pinot Noir 2008 – New Zealand
3. Domaine Jean & Giles Lafourge Auxey-Duresses La Chapelle 1er Cru 2005
4. Domaine Taupenot-Merme Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1999 (corked and replaced with Domaine Jacques Prieur Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru 1990)
5. Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2009 – Oregon
6. Sokol Blosser Big Tree Block Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2008 – Oregon
7. Walter Hansel South Slope Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2003
8. Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2008
Thanks to Jordan for a wonderful tour of Pinot Noir and to the students for attending. We saw some familiar faces and some new ones as well. Keep spreading the word!
Until next time… Cheers!