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Wine

Best Pinot Noir

One of the most popular red varietals around the world, Pinot Noir is a delicate grape that's difficult to grow. Native to Burgundy, France, there are only a handful of other appellations that are known for producing excellent Pinot Noir. Cooler regions of Northern California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Yarra Valley in Australia, and a few cool regions of New Zealand rival Burgundy for making the world's best Pinot Noirs.

This grape gets its name from the French word for "pinecone," because Pinot Noir grapes grow in tightly-packed clusters. The grapes are light-colored, producing wines that are medium-bodied and often strawberry or cherry red. Though there aren't a lot of tannins in these wines, they can be aged successfully, though it's often difficult to predict how an older Pinot will taste, or whether a particular wine will hold up to a few years in the cellar. Young Pinots are fruit forward, medium bodied wines with extremely soft tannins and bright fruit aromas.

Schug Pinot Noir '12

Schug Pinot Noir '12

Schug is well-known as one of California's premier wine makers. Schug Pinot Noir '12 is our favorite Pinot that's sold by major retailers for less than $20. It's relatively moderate in alcohol content, at only 13.5 percent, which allows the delicate flavors of the Pinot grape to shine through. This wine is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in aged French oak that doesn't lend the wine too many earthy, oaky notes. Instead, the wine has flavors of red cherry, raspberry, and spice, and aromas of strawberry and cherry. The finish is a bit on the acidic side, which perfectly complements this fruit forward, well balanced wine.

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir '11

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir '11

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir '11 is one of our Best Picks when it comes to Pinots for less than $20. This wine hails from the Yarra Valley in Australia, an appellation that's known for having cool weather and rain patterns that favor the delicate Pinot Noir grape. The nose has lots of bright red fruit, along with fresh flowers, anise, and even a bit of muskiness like you'd expect in an aged Pinot. The flavor profile is equally complex, with lots of strawberry and raspberry backed up by earthy notes of tar. This wine is excellent right now, and is already receiving scores in the low to mid 90's by professional wine critics. Though you could drink it right away, it will hold for up to another 5 years.

Clifford Bay Pinot Noir '11

Clifford Bay Pinot Noir '11

Marlborough is one of the world's premier Pinot Noir appellations. Fortunately for those of us who appreciate fine wine but don't have money to burn, this corner of the globe also produces some of the most affordable wines around. One of our favorites is Clifford Bay Pinot Noir '11. This wine is a bright garnet red, and has an incredibly smooth texture, both in the glass and on the tongue. The nose has lots of bright fruit and spice, and the palate big fruit flavors of ripe cherry that are backed up by well-structured, spicy tannins that bring along flavors of cigar and tomato leaves. A little bigger than many Pinots, this wine pairs very well with grilled meats.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir '12

An incredibly juicy wine, Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir '12 is one of ourfavorite wines. Though this wine is fruit forward, it's also well balanced by earthy undertones. On the nose, violet, anise, and clean earth back up the pronounced red fruit aromas. On the palate, vanilla and spice perfectly complement fruity flavors of strawberry, cherry, and cranberry. The tannins are soft and acidic, cutting through any sweetness that the fruit flavors lend this Pinot. With a wine this good, you may be tempted to put a few bottles away for a few years but this wine has been designed to be enjoyed right away and will be at its peak only until 2015.

Sea Glass Pinot Noir '12

Sea Glass Pinot Noir '12

Fans of the movie Sideways may remember the Santa Barbara appellation as one of best places to grow delicate Pinot Noir grapes, and indeed, there are some exceptional wines that come out of this area. The hills around this seaside community enjoy cool weather, lots of fog to protect grapes from hot summer sunshine, and a terroir that helps keep the grapes light in flavor. Sea Glass Pinot Noir '12 is one of our Pinots. It's bright and light, with lots of acidity and plenty of cherry and strawberry flavors. The nose is fruity and floral, with a sweetness that provides an excellent counterpoint to the acidity in the wine.

Domaine Pousse Volnay Clos de la Bousse d'Or '08

Domaine Pousse Volnay Clos de la Bousse d'Or '08

Pinot Noir is native to Burgundy and this appellation still makes some of the world's best Pinots. Dom. Pousse Volnay Clos de la Bousse d'Or '08 isn't just our favorite French Pinot, it's also our favorite high-end Pinot overall. The majority of this wine comes from vines that are 40 or more years old, leading to a richly complex flavor that only mature vines can produce. This is a dark ruby-colored wine, with aromas of plum, violet, and black fruit. The flavor shows off notes of black cherry and the tannins are soft yet supportive. Though you can drink it right away, you could also put it away for a while, as this wine is expected to reach its full potential between 2023 and 2038.

Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir '10

Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir '10

Made by Oregonian winemaker with a French name, Domaine Drouhin is a beautiful Pinot Noir crafted in the classic Burgundy style. 2010 was a cool year, which was good news for Pinot which doesn't thrive in hot summers. This wine is fruit forward, with notes of both red and black cherry, as well as other soft red fruits. The finish is long and well-structured, though a little on the acidic side, which should help this wine age well over the next 10 years. Once the wine has fermented, it's put up for 12 months in French oak taken from the woods around Burgundy. This gives it some earthy notes that perfectly mimic wines coming out of this French Provence. Since only the barrels with the best wine make it into the bottles, you can be assured that any bottle of Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir is going to be excellent.

Greywacke Pinot Noir '10

Greywacke Pinot Noir '10

Marlborough is one of the best places in the world to grow Pinot Noir. Greywacke Pinot Noir '10 is a great wine that consistently scores in the 90s with professional wine critics. The nose is slightly sweet, with a big punch of strawberry jam and just a hint of smoke. In fact, this is one of the most aromatic wines on our list. The palate is likewise complex, with plum and cherry flavors and smokey, woody undertones. The tannins are nice and soft, though they still offer plenty of structure. This is a wine that can be enjoyed right away, or put away for a few years.

Guarachi Family Wines Caps Crown Single Vineyard Pinot Noir '11

Guarachi Family Wines Caps Crown Single Vineyard Pinot Noir '11

Grown in the cool vineyards of the Sonoma Coast, Guarachi Family Wines Caps Crown Single Vineyard Pinot Noir '11 is one of our Best Picks. This wine is 100 percent Pinot Noir, and is both light and fruity, and sultry and spicy. It has a complex bouquet that includes notes of raspberry, fresh flowers, and oaky spice. At first sip, there's a big hit of juicy fruit, with plenty of raspberry and cherry, as well as deeper notes of dark berry. As it nears the finish, a well-balanced acidity takes hold, as do flavors of medium-roasted coffee and mocha. After 11 months in French oak barrels, this wine is ready to carve out a spot in your wine cellar. It's incredible now and will continue to evolve as it ages.

Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Noir '11

Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Noir '11

With a name that perfectly embodies the soft nature of the Pinot Noir grape, Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Noir '11 is an elegant wine that's one of our Best Picks when it comes to high-end Pinot Noirs. It's smooth and soft on the palate, with a long, rather acidic finish that leaves the tongue without even a hint of residual sweetness. The flavor includes raspberry, cherry, and a hint of exotic spice. The bouquet has plenty of soft fruit, lots of fresh floral notes, and even a bit of musky smoke. Since this is an unfiltered wine, you can expect some sediment in the bottle so decanting is recommended, especially if you lay this wine aside for the next 5 to 10 years.

Crystal Beran
Crystal Beran has spent the past 10 years immersed in the exciting and delicious world of food and drink. She has honed her cooking skills as a baker, a caterer, and a personal chef, and currently spends a good deal of her time training the next generation of young chefs. Her work as a wine steward has helped her to develop a discerning palate and a love of excellent wines from all over the world. Over the years, she has had the good fortune to visit wineries in Northern California, Tanzania, France, and Italy. In her spare time, she brews beer and invents delectable dishes to share with friends, family, and students.
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