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Hindsight of course is 20/20, and looking back at the surge of popularity that Pinot Noir experienced over the past decade one can see some of the factors that helped to contribute to the grapes rise in fortune. Of course we all attribute a considerable impact to the movie Sideways, which glamorized Pinot Noir like no other grape before. Add to this the growing popular awareness of the so-called French paradox and the wine industry's passionate affair with Pinot Noir and you have all the pieces in place, save one: the consumer.
Now here's the funny thing. If you ask consumers what it is they like about Pinot they'll tell you a few things. The wines are fruity, they are also soft and easy to drink, or at least tend to be in the most popular incarnations. The funny thing here is that this style, profitable as it may be, is not what has driven the passion of vintners for decades. No, there are very few winemakers out there dreaming of producing a fruity, easy to drink Pinot from fruit farmed on the flatlands in some back water appellation. The industry wants to make art, the consuming public by and large wants to drink something that's fun. Why raise this issue? Well, I think it may very well by the lynchpin that pulls the whole Pinot Noir train apart.
With the disconnect between producers and consumers inherent in Pinot Noir one has to think how long the Pinot wave can continue to grow. In fact I would say we've probably peaked, both at the bottom and top of the market. Too much cheap, crappy Pinot Noir is now being produced in marginal growing regions, and too much expensive, crappy Pinot Noir is being produced in what we have been lead to believe are the greatest appellations for the variety, like for example in that meaningless Sonoma Coast appellation that sprawls across more than half a million acres. Put succinctly, I believe we have already planted far more acres of Pinot than there are great acres of plantable land. It's not an uncommon situation. Just look at Cabernet, which is planted just about anywhere it'll grow and produces decent wines in many places, but great wines in but a few. We all know, because we've been repeatedly told by those in the know, that Pinot is an even bitchier grape, fickle and less adept at adapting to terroir that falls outside of it comfort zone.
So there we have it. We're making more of the light, fruity, low tannin easy drinking style of Pinot Noir that consumers want and winemakers are uninterested in because the market demands it. The market demands it to a certain extent because the industry has glamorized Pinot Noir, one of the world's truly noble varieties that is worshiped within the industry. Of course the two styles have very little in common, the commercial style of wine and the Grand Cru efforts, so why don't we fight for a change. I'll start. I've been rather vocal over the years about my general dislike, though dislike is perhaps to strong a term, for Grenache. It's a grape that does very little for me, but it is also a grape that can produce large volumes of fruity, low tannin, easy to drink wine. I drink a fair amount of this style of wine, though derived from Barbera, Dolcetto, and Sangiovese as opposed to Grenache. This is right for me and my palate but today I've come to take a stand for Grenache!
You see it has taken me some time, only about 30 years, to wrap my head around the concept of wine appreciation. Very few people give a damn about things like terroir, typicity, and the like; most people just want their wine to taste good. Pinot Noir is virtually built upon typicity and terroir, which, as I've suggested. may have helped add a certain appealing mystique to it. It also helps explain away why people may not like a specific Pinot, not that that is right or wrong, though it is more wrong than right. Let's face it, the people want what the people want, and we in the industry expend an awful lot of effort convincing them that a specific wine/region/brand is what they want. Well guess what. What they want is Grenache, fruity, almost candied, easy drinking, exuberant Grenache and the truth of the matter is that probably more than half of the Pinot vineyards in California are better suited for producing exactly that Grenache than Pinot!
So what we have is the perfect confluence of a market place clamoring for a style of wines that seems tailor made for Grenache. We also have thousands of acres of vineyards in California, not to mention around the globe, that are ideally suited for Grenache, a notoriously vigorous vine that is know to be a prodigious producer. All that's missing is the critical/industrial acclaim! That is building no doubt but there is a high degree of wine snobbism at play here, and of which I myself have been guilty. It's time to move beyond that, and with the industry's help we are. My recent visit to Santa Barbara's wine country was in no small part driven by an interest in Grenache from a region that has a well deserved reputation with the variety, and Rhone varieties in general. What I tasted just helped further convince me that Grenache's moment will come. It's time to let the wine drinking public out there know that a great Grenache is better than a crappy Pinot, and often the same price!
So with one eye on the not too distant Grenache Day 2013, Friday, September 20th I'm going to get the ball moving with this handful of reviews. I hope it encourages you to give Grenache a first, second, or third try. Grenache really has everything it needs to be the next Rockstar wine, what will it take to push it over that edge? I've included some Grenache based blends here as well and while that might make for a more interesting wine from the winemaker, or wine geek perspective I do not believe that these blends really will help broaden Grenache's consumer base. Syrah and Mourvedre just are too assertive and frankly interfere with the expression of Grenache's purity of fruit in my opinion. I see the future of Grenache, the success of Grenache based on that purity and accessibility. I see the future of Grenache as a varietally labeled wine.
Click here to learn more about Grenache and the best wines to buy.
Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth
Forget Pinot Noir: Grenache Is Finally Getting The Respect It Deserves
When you write about booze for a living, people treat you like a wine guide turned flesh. And the one bit of advice I’m asked more than any other is this: “What’s the best pinot noir under $50?” My answer is always the same: “Grenache.”
One of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world, grenache has been rooted in Australian soil since our earliest winemaking days and has been woefully underappreciated for too many years. But that’s changing.
This is a golden age of grenache, a blessed time when insightful and progressive winemakers are giving it the respect it deserves.
It’s the variety’s propensity for perfume and juicy suppleness that invites comparisons with pinot noir, but the difference is, grenache can thrive in places where pinot would simply lose its shit.
In sun-drenched Spain they call it garnacha and it’s the most planted variety in the country. It prospers through southern France, in places like Languedoc-Roussillon and the bottom half of the Rhône Valley, and is at the heart of one of the world’s great appellations, Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Here in Australia, just like unreliable energy supply and the ability to correctly pronounce words like ‘dance’ and ‘chance’, truly great grenache is a peculiarly South Australian thing.
While there are small pockets of grenache in places like Heathcote in Victoria, the overwhelming majority of plantings are in South Australian soil – and of those, the greatest number are found in urban Adelaide’s viticultural bookends, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
Both regions have a significant number of old grenache vineyards, a legacy of the early days of Australian wine when varieties useful in the production of fortified wines were favoured. Where once those vines pumped out large crops of super-ripe fruit to make port, now they’re trained for much lower yields, giving up just a few bunches of concentrated and deeply flavoured grapes.
In smart winemaking hands, this fruit produces wines with seductive perfumes, lively textures and dangerous drinkability. Now, it’s time to dodge the pinot aisle and try for yourself.
Vanguardist Grenache 2016 ($50)
The bearded, barrel-chested Michael Corbett fell in love with grenache while working in southern France, and his ardour now drives him to produce this multi-layered, beautifully balanced and gently spiced stunner from old vines at Blewitt Springs in McLaren Vale. Halfway through the first glass, you’ll begin to realise where this buzz about grenache is coming from. A star on the rise.
Simple Red Wine Spritzer Recipe
In our world, wine cocktails are always a great idea. A good wine cocktail is light, refreshing, and perfect for whatever size of party you're having because they can be made in batches. From spritzers to sangrias, wine cocktails add fun and festivity to a dinner party or brunch with little work and lots of cheers. But we're suckers for a good red wine spritzer, and we're here to convince you why a red wine spritzer should be your signature drink at your next gathering. Get ready to be convinced by these yummy-fizzy concoctions!
Are Red, White, and Rosé Wines Different?
Many people believe that red wine is made from red grapes, white wine from white grapes, and rose from pink grapes. We're going to put a colossal F for false on that claim! What is true is that all wines are made from grapes. The fundamental distinction between the three is how they are created, and particularly during the fermentation process.
White wines come from white and even occasionally black grapes. During the wine creation process, the juice is separated from the grape's seeds, and skin and only the juice is used to make wine. When making red wine and even rose, the grape skins and seeds are not removed as they are in white wine creation. Instead, they are kept inside the stainless steel vats with the juice while they ferment. It is the skin and seeds that create the color, and richer flavor in red and rose.
The differentiation between red wine and rose is the length of total time the juice is spent with the skins and seeds. While red wine spends an extended length of prep time, rose's juice is a short period, just enough time to get its beautiful pink coloring.
Do Red Wine Cocktails Exist?
What a silly question! Of course, they do, and we're here to tell you that they are lovely! We are such big fans we've written quite a few blogs on this type of cocktail! Check out these blogs (after you're done reading this one, of course): Red Wine Cocktails: 3 Winter Drink Recipes To Savor, What To Mix With Wine: Making The Perfect Cocktail.
The truth is, when it comes to wine, there are no limits — you can combine every kind of wine with every beverage that you can think of to find the perfect balance. But some combinations are more iconic than others: sangria combines red wine with fruit juices, sugar, and brandy, while kalimotxo mixes Coca-Cola and red wine both of these cocktails should be added to your must-try list!
What’s a Red Wine Spritzer?
Spritzers, such as Aperol Spritz, are great if you're in the mood for a glass of wine and want it to be a satisfying drink without worrying about overdoing it. By mixing the soda water, sparkling water, Sprite or seltzer you're using to dilute the wine, you can customize your drink and satisfy your cravings. Not only do they taste great, but also they're fun to make and lower in calories.
When making a wine spritzer, whether it be white wine spritzer or another type of spritzer, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is selecting a wine that you enjoy — bad wines should never be used because, let's be honest, they won't get better with a splash of club soda or La Croix!
As you start to make more and more spritzers, you'll start building your new recipes to fit your cravings and crafting your own sparkling wine. The only key to a good spritzer is producing a balance between the wine, bubbles, and other ingredients. Essentially, your mission is to prevent non-alcoholic ingredients from stealing the spotlight! Pair it with some good food and get ready for a fun night.
Which Red Wines Are Yummiest in Spritzers?
The best wines for spritzers are those with plenty of fruit flavor, little tannin, and fruity aromas. We suggest Port, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Greneche. And an extra personal suggestion from us: stay clear of premixed spritzers these have an artificial taste and don't make for delicious drinking.
A port spritzer is the best way to drink Port and enjoy the delicious taste of Portugal free of the weight and, of course, the red-wine teeth! Even better, there is little to no prep time when using this incredible cocktail recipe.
The Gamay Noir is an easy-to-drink spritzer wine. It's perfect for summer nights or afternoons — and it's a great way to get the taste of red wine without all of the intense flavors. Its hints of tart cherries and wild strawberries create a light, refreshing drink that pairs well with cheese, bread, salmon, roasted duck, and pizza.
Packed with complex flavors, including cherry, mushroom, raspberry, and forest floor, Pinot Noir is incredible as a spritzer.
A wine that has an unmistakable candied fruit roll-up and cinnamon flavor, Grenache is medium-bodied and higher in alcohol than other red wines. Making a spritzer with Grenache is an easy way to enjoy its delicious qualities in a lighter, hotter weather fashion.
What Are Some Easy Wine Spritzer Recipes?
Red Wine and Cola
Hear us out: mixing red wine and Coca-Cola is called "kalimotxo." In the 1970s, this drink was iconic and spread across Spain's borders to become one of its most well-known international beverages. It is a concoction that contains equal parts cola and red wine with ice and a squeeze of lemon. Essentially, it's an easy alternative to sangria that won't make you seriously regret your decisions the following day.
Made with tonic, pomegranate juice, and a splash of lime juice, Pomegranate Spritzers are an easy cocktail that can be enjoyed every season. You can dress it up for a holiday gathering or dress it down for a cocktail best enjoyed by the pool! While there are numerous other recipes for this cocktail, the Pomegranate Spritzer is usually Pomegranate juice combined with vodka and red wine.
Red Wine Berry Spritzer
A red wine berry spritzer is a refreshing cocktail that is always cool, calm, and collected. Packed with strawberry and blueberry flavor, it's the ideal cocktail when you're trying to watch calories and carbohydrates but get your drink on!
25 of the Best Pinot Noirs for 2020
Ever since Paul Giamatti waxed poetic about the “thin-skinned, temperamental” Pinot Noir in the 2004 film “Sideways,” the noble grape has seen its popularity with wine drinkers skyrocket. Pop culture stardom aside, there’s a lot to know and love about Pinot Noir: The fickle and terroir-driven grape is admired for such qualities as its deep red color, notes of luscious berries and smoke — and, sometimes, prohibitive prices.
Yes, because Pinot Noir is difficult to grow, the cost of a good bottle will often reflect that — but that doesn’t mean finding a quality, affordable Pinot is impossible. In the past six months, VinePair has tasted and reviewed a range of exceptional Pinots, many of which are surprisingly affordable (even the worthy splurges come in under $100).
Below are 25 of the best Pinots Noirs you can buy right now, arranged by review grade and price. All reviews were written by VinePair tastings director Keith Beavers.
This Is The Last Corkscrew You’ll Ever Buy
Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 (A+) ($39)
This is one hell of an American Pinot Noir. Sticking your nose in the glass will give you pause as you’re like, whaaaat?! It smells like cherry cola, cinnamon, and a forest in autumn. The palate is so soft you’ll want to chew on it. The mouthfeel is so silky and delicate that I would just straight-up cold max relax with some nibbles and good friends. That’s if you even want to share.
Archery Summit Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (A+) ($45)
Before you take your nose out of the glass you will have swooned, moaned, and cursed a couple of times. This is a true American, nay, Willamette-style Pinot Noir. It’s the kind of Pinot that says I am not a Burgundy, I’m all Oregon ya jerks! With focused sour cherries and a touch of coconut, the nose is heady and will draw you in like a siren song. The palate is fleshy, fat, and chewy (you will really feel like you want to start chewing the wine), and will sit on your palate long after the first sip. This wine is only available on the winery’s website, but if you were ever going to give in and do e-commerce this is definitely worth the price (shipping included).
Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (A+) ($50)
What are you doing reading what I am typing? You should be out trying to find this wine instead, because it is one of the most beautiful Pinot Noir wines from America currently on the market. And once you buy it, get ready to not share. Inside this bottle there are aromas of cherries and cinnamon with some mushrooms, but that’s not important. What is important is that this wine will physically affect you. It’s chewy, soft, supple, and just soaks into your palate. Your endorphins will fire off, and you’ll swoon. Buy it now.
Cakebread Cellars Two Creeks Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 (A+) ($51)
Ever smell a big fat nugget of drippy cannabis? Stick your nose in this glass and you’ll know what that’s like. I have never smelled a Pinot like this. Under that intense cannabis aroma is roasted coffee and dried cherries. It’s nuts! On the palate you just want to chew the wine because it’s all fleshy and viscous. This wine is intoxicating before you’re intoxicated.
Peter Zemmer ‘Rollhutt’ Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($19)
YO! This wine is awesome! Go find it! It is a soft, elegant style of this grape not often seen outside its home in France. From the hills of the Dolomites comes this beautiful wine with dark cherry aromas and slight hints of coffee folded into fresh soil. The mouthfeel is a soft cumulus cloud of awesome on the palate. And it’s under $20!
Siduri Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($26)
Great Pinot Noir from this region tends to be a bit pricey, so it’s nice to have a wine like this with a somewhat softer price tag, and a ton of balance and complexity. It’s like smelling cherry cola made from real cherries in a hipster Brooklyn incubator food complex sitting next to freshly turned soil. Speaking of hipsters, there’s a skosh of roasted coffee beans as well. The palate is bright but really lays into your palate with a nice, long finish. I just want to crack this wine open (screw cap) at sunset and share with good friends.
Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($39)
This is how it’s done! This wine is such a great example of why Russian River Pinot Noir fans lose their minds sipping bottles like this one. The balance is impeccable. The fruit is elegant yet powerful, filling your palate and brain with broad, harmonious aromas of cherries and cinnamon, with a whiff of white pepper and autumn leaves. And all those descriptors I just mentioned are cool and all, but what really matters is how this wine makes you feel. It’s a goddamn pleasure to drink.
Domaine Matrot Auxey-Duresses 2016 (A) ($40)
Channeling the Beaune for real, this wine is heavy on the nose and light on the palate. The nose is dense, all about dark cherry, vanilla, cloves, and other baking spices. It’s a nice swoon. On the palate, though, the wine floats. The mouthfeel is lithe, with a velvet quality. For $40 it’s a great intro into the delicate power of this area of Burgundy.
Big Table Farm Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($48)
I feel like this is the kind of Pinot that made us fall in love with this region. It’s bright, and filled with cherries with a hint of smoke. The palate is vibrant but deep enough that you just want to chew on it. With a slight chill the wine sings a tune — or is that me — bringing out the subtle tannin structure framing the wine. It’s pricey, but damn, if you are having a splurge night, you can’t go wrong here.
Angela Estate Abbott Claim Pinot Noir 2015 (A) ($57)
Hosting a fancy dinner party and looking for a bottle to impress your friends? This is the one. You could get all geeky and mention that it’s a blend of three different Pinot Noir clones (Pommard, Dijon 777, Dijon 115), or perhaps talk about its “Burgundian” character but really, you should just let the wine do the talking. Complex and nuanced, it has a really inviting nose that includes aromas of tart red berries, dried leaves, and freshly turned earth. The red berries continue onto the palate, which is textured and mineral-rich. Serve with beef Bourguignon for a match made in Pinot heaven.
Domaine Matrot Blagny La Piece Sous Le Bois Premier Cru 2016 (A) ($60)
It’s three years old, and needs more time, but is drinking fine right now. This is a deep, thoughtful Pinot Noir with dark cherry and blackberry notes along with some savory gooseberries. The tannins are still a bit ornery but the fruit comes through nicely on the palate with, of course, perfect acidity. It’s not a bad price for a wine made from a small plot of land.
Domaine Bernard & Thierry Glantenay Les Santenots, Volnay Premier Cru 2016 (A) ($85)
This is a wine that Miles was talking about in his monologue in “Sideways.” This is the kind of wine you want to breathe a bit, but not miss a sip of while it’s evolving under the influence of oxygen. It is hella delicate and elegant, with a mouthfeel that wants to lift off your palate and hover into your senses. Dark cherries mingle with subtle vanilla and clove spice that’s woven into the core of the wine. It’s pricey, but if you’re special occasion-ing this is one to consider.
Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir 2017 (A-) ($15)
It’s not easy finding a good Pinot Noir for a weeknight under $20, so this is a nice go-to. It’s juicy and grippy and smells like cherries and cinnamon along with the fresh soil from your garden. It’s buoyant on the palate with a tart fruit core. This is a great bottle to share with friends or have a few glasses with just you and Netflix.
Calmere Estate Winery Pinot Noir, 2016 (A-) ($30)
I’m like, 15 percent alcohol? Really? Wine’s like, yeah. I’m like, I don’t get it on the nose or palate. Wine’s like, I know. I’m like, damn. This is such a balanced and powerful Pinot Noir. The nose is earthy and bright, with the aroma of red berry fruit and a forest in October. It grips your palate, but doesn’t overwhelm. I’m like, if there’s a Pinot Noir out there for a big ol’ steak, this is it. Wine’s like, bring it on.
Bravium Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 (A-) ($31)
Even with a low alcohol level this Pinot Noir really packs a punch. The fruit is tart, but balanced, with a fruity core you want to chew on. The classic aromas of sour cherries and some vanilla from oak really round out the wine, with an added savory subtle cinnamon bonus. Medocino’s warm days and cool nights come through in this wine.
Fort Ross Winery Sea Slopes Pinot Noir 2017 (A-) ($32)
You’re picking mushrooms in a forest in October while licking cherry lip balm off your lips. That’s the nose of this wine. This is a great American Pinot Noir. It’s balanced, and a little grippy, with round acidity that lifts off the palate. The price is right for a gift for a gracious host (only if they pop it stat #feelme), or to bring out during game night or a wine and cheese get-together.
Domaine Matrot Monthelie 2016 (A-) ($43)
Affordable for the region and packs a broody Noir punch. Dark cherry fruit along with fresh soil and a touch of vanilla greet you on the nose. The palate has a nice tannic grip for a Pinot that is welcoming in a wine from a region known for its lean reds. It has a classic label, is crowd-pleasing, and won’t price you out for your next intimate dinner party.
Oceano Spanish Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 (A-) ($45)
Wow. This wine is delish! It’s a bit pricey, and only available online, but damn this is good. It has that Central Coast style with juicy cherry cola fruit and a hint of cinnamon. On the palate you just wanna chew on it with its fleshy, viscous mouthfeel. This is a bottle to pull out with close friends and legit light meats like duck or herb roasted chicken.
Sokol Blosser ‘Goosepen Block’ Pinot Noir 2017 (A-) ($85)
Pinot Noir can age and this is a bottle that proves it. There is magic here but not for another year or so. Behind ornery tannin and some shy fruit you can smell the future, when the wine will be ripe with cherry fruit and earthy soil. If you pop it now it will breathe and be just fine, but if you want to know how this grape evolves, wait a year or two and this bottle will show you.
Peregrine Mohua Pinot Noir 2017 (B+) ($21)
Want to venture outside of your regular Pinot place? This bottle is a good introduction to the style of Pinot Noir that can be found in Central Otago, New Zealand. It has rich, tart cherry feels with a slight vegetal note (kind of like the bitterness of radicchio). The mouthfeel is viscous and makes you want to chew on it. It’s soft, but has depth, and would pair well with a lamb dish or on its own, just chilling with good friends and a cheese plate.
Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre Rouge 2016 (B+) ($26)
This is a solid Pinot Noir from Sancerre. It’s a little rough around the edges, as the tannin is still a bit ornery, interfering with the core fruit that brings beautiful cherry and earth aromas. I am sure with a year or so in bottle this will polish off a bit. It’s drinking fine now, and could do well at a dinner party, but might also be a great gift to a wine lover for them to lay down for a while.
Siduri Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2016 (B+) ($31)
For a Pinot Noir with as much alcohol as a Napa Cab this wine is pretty damn balanced. There is no heat coming off the surface of the wine in the glass and it smells like a campfire from a few miles away along with ripe cherries. The palate is viscous and I want to chew it. That subtle campfire vibe hits on the palate as well, making for a very enjoyable wine that might sneak up on ya with that ABV.
Fel Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2018 (B+) ($38)
Do you dig big wines, but want to experience Pinot Noir, knowing it’s lighter in style? This is a great transition bottle, and it even goes with steak. It is soft and plush, but deep and sweet. The alcohol is high-ish, but that doesn’t take away from the balance. It’s a bigger Pinot, but if you’re baby-stepping down to a lighter red, this is a good start.
Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2017 (B+) ($39)
This is a solid and available Sonoma Pinot Noir. It’s the kind of bottle you bring to an intimate dinner party with good friends. It is rich but balanced, still showing it’s a Pinot, if you will. The nose will remind you of cherry cola and a smack of vanilla and the palate has a nice weight without being too much. If not a dinner party, this bottle would also do well at a wine and cheese party or as a wine club addition.
Sotheby’s: Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2017 (B+) ($40)
This is a rich, dense Sonoma Pinot Noir. The fruit is dark and there’s a grip on the palate. It would be a nice gift for a gracious host or to bring or pull out at a dinner party. It has the acidity to jive with a wine and cheese party, and the fullness to live up to whatever meat dish if offered at a dinner party.
This story is a part of VP Pro, our free content platform and newsletter for the drinks industry, covering wine, beer, and liquor — and beyond. Sign up for VP Pro now!
The Pull of Place
If you listen to the wine sales crowd, all you hear about is the power of brands. "Look at Australia," they crow. "They're beating the bejeezus out of Bordeaux. Brands are the way of the future. The French idea that place is everything is passé."
Yet if you visit the wine districts of California's Central Coast -- Santa Barbara County, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, Monterey County -- you'll discover a completely different wine reality. In a nutshell, they're pulling themselves apart, torn by the pull of place.
I recently spent three weeks intensively visiting dozens of wineries in Central Coast. And it's stunning to see how much has changed.
Take Santa Barbara County, for example. Ten years ago, everyone there talked about themselves as "Santa Barbara County." No more. Now, three separate wine nations have formed: Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley. Santa Rita Hills is a choice example. Located west of Highway 101, it's in a cool, ocean-influenced zone with calcareous soils (limestone, chalk and clay). A decade ago there were just three notable vineyards in the zone: Lafond, Babcock and Sanford & Benedict.
Since then, some deep pockets decided that Santa Rita Hills was the place to plant Pinot Noir. So they installed the new Dijon clones and new rootstocks. Santa Rita Hills wines are different from -- and competitive with -- Pinot Noirs grown elsewhere in California. Wineries such as Foley, Fiddlehead, Sea Smoke, Sanford, Gainey, Melville, Fess Parker and Brewer-Clifton are issuing Pinot Noirs that are deeply colored, intense, fragrant and compelling.
This is a world apart from neighboring Santa Ynez Valley, which is warmer. It sees its future in creating Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Grenache. Wineries such as Carhartt, Tensley, Stolpman and Beckman are issuing superb Syrah. There's great Grenache (Beckman is the leader), Merlot (look for Carhartt) and Cabernet Franc (Bedford-Thompson), as well as Bordeaux-type blends (Stolpman).
And then there's the cool Santa Maria Valley, which is the workhorse zone, famous for its rich, opulent, tropical Chardonnays and less inviting Pinot Noirs with unappetizing vegetal notes, camphor and tomato. (It's a clonal problem, it turns out.) As soon as the public tastes the new Pinot Noirs from Santa Rita Hills, consumers will likely spurn the Santa Maria Valley Pinots in favor of the new beauties on the block.
Is it unfair? Yes and no. Santa Maria Valley only needs to replant to the newer clones to get back in the game. But that takes time (and ambition). In the meantime, Santa Rita Hills will acquire cachet while Santa Maria Valley will first have to shrug off its old image.
Farther north, in Paso Robles, you've got what might be called the "great east/west schism." Highway 101 has become the convenient, if hardly exact, dividing line. East of that magic marker, many of the vineyards are vast, quite warm, and in service to big brands (J. Lohr, Meridian, Fetzer). The quality, actually, is surprisingly high, including soft, richly fruity Syrah and Cabernet.
But west of Highway 101 is a world apart: much cooler with more calcareous soil than I've seen anywhere else in California. (Everybody can show you petrified whale bones!) Actually, east of 101 has some of this soil too, but less so.
You know what's happened, of course. Small, highly ambitious wineries have emerged west of 101, creating distinctive, limestone-inflected wines. You've got the showcase Justin Winery, which makes most Napa Valley wineries look shabby chic. A revived Adelaida Cellars will make a major mark in the next few years with its new vineyards. Saxum, a micro-winery, makes one of the finest Syrahs I've tasted from anywhere. Not least is Tablas Creek, created by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame and their importer, Robert Haas.
Is there a Paso Robles anymore? Not really. The east-of-101 crowd resents how they are seen as working stiffs while the west-of-101 set gets the uptown image. It's not fair, but there's also no denying that two different wine worlds do exist, legitimately based on soil and temperature.
So, if you thought Americans were different from the French, think again. There's no resisting the pull of place -- which is just what the French have been telling us all along.
Robb Recommends: A Groundbreaking New Pinot Noir From One of the World’s Top Winemakers
Philippe Cambie is the Grenache whisperer. He has made 15 wines that earned a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker, consulting on a vast array of vintages, most widely in his home base of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where he&rsquos become known as the master of the region’s favored varietal. Through 2018, though, Cambie had never made a Pinot Noir. What would lure a Rhône Valley winemaker to Burgundy&rsquos red grape and Oregon and California&rsquos famously pure voice of terroir? Well, in Châteauneuf they call Grenache the &ldquoPinot Noir&rdquo of the region, and Cambie simply couldn’t resist the chance to apply his Grenache-whispering skills to Pinot stateside.
The likeliest partner in such a venture was his friend Adam Lee, widely known as a Pinot guru through his Siduri wines and newer Clarice brand. Considering that Lee is a veteran of the variety&mdashfrom Santa Barbara County up through Monterey, Sonoma, Mendocino and Oregon&rsquos Willamette Valley&mdashI had to ask him: Did the West Coast need another Pinot-focused winery? What could you add to the lexicon, to the range of the wine here, with Beau Marchais (the brand Cambie and Lee launched)? And why concentrate on California? He took the last one first. &ldquoHistorically, the French winemakers who have come to the New World to work with Pinot Noir have headed to Oregon,&rdquo Lee says. &ldquoPresumably that&rsquos because the climate is viewed as more similar to Burgundy. But Philippe is the finest producer of Grenache in the world, so getting his interpretation of somewhat warmer-climate California Pinot Noir only made sense. I&rsquom hoping it leads consumers to consider Pinot somewhat differently.&rdquo
Taking their direction from Cambie, these first Beau Marchais wines&mdashone from Monterey County&rsquos Santa Lucia Highlands and two from Santa Barbara&rsquos Sta. Rita Hills&mdashstretch Lee&rsquos typical lean-alcohol, structured profile. They&rsquore riper and richer, with upfront deliciousness across the board. The Beau Marchais 2019 Sobranes Vineyard Pinot Santa Lucia Highlands ($95) combines haunting florals, black tea and blackberry confiture with a plush and velvety mouth-feel. The 2019 Clos Pepe Vineyard Ouest Pinot Sta. Rita Hills ($95) opens with pine forest and ocean salinity before melting into juicy cherry and blueberry with underlying warm baking spices&mdashstructured and vibrant, as well as ripe. And the 2019 Clos Pepe Vineyard Est Pinot Sta. Rita Hills ($95) leads with lovely minerality and savory tobacco and licorice, then exudes sweet fruit&mdashblack raspberry, strawberry, and cherry&mdashover fine tannins. This is a long, opulent, textural wine.
Photo: courtesy Dianna Novy
Lee is quick to describe how these wines veer from his own traditional patterns. &ldquoI&rsquom really working with Philippe&rsquos winemaking protocol&mdashwhat he has done to make some of the finest wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape&mdashand the world, quite frankly,&rdquo he says. &ldquoSo everything, from the time on the skins (much longer than what I usually do), the amount of whole cluster (less than on my wines), ripeness levels (a bit riper) and barrels chosen are different.&rdquo All of this, Lee admits, has pulled him out of his comfort zone&mdashstagnation he even calls it. &ldquoLooking at Pinot Noir through Philippe&rsquos eyes has allowed me to view the grape differently. It&rsquos almost like being a kid in a candy story, looking at things anew again.&rdquo
For his part, Cambie sees the project through a personal lens. &ldquoIt&rsquos the story of a Franco-American friendship,&rdquo he says. &ldquoI love Pinot, and particularly the great American Pinots. The proposal to make a Pinot with Adam seemed obvious to me. We all have a vision of the elaboration of wines, but a team vision will always be more efficient. This project was a dream come true.&rdquo
There&rsquos irony in the outcome here. Under the direction of one of France&rsquos most-respected winemakers, the inaugural Beau Marchais Pinot Noirs, in a sense, carry more New World character than most of Lee&rsquos former West Coast versions do. But they&rsquore beautiful and nuanced, balanced in their richness&mdasha welcome addition to the lexicon.
Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir
Last week, a colleague at my day job started picking my brain about wine. She told me that she recently graduated to pinot noir after years of drinking nothing but Champagne and disgustingly-sweet riesling. OK, I embellished with the “disgustingly-sweet” part, but that’s basically what it sounded like she was drinking. And then she told me about her favorite pinot noir, which I can’t remember the name of but it sounded like something with a cute label and lots of residual sugar—not my cup of tea. But it was a good reminder to me of the perspective of the everyday wine consumer.
As someone who tastes different wines every day and travels the world tasting some of the best wines out there, I have a different perspective than the average wine consumer. But that’s not where I started. When I first started writing about wine I was wowed by fruit-bomb wines, loaded with residual sugar, that tasted good despite being unsophisticated and out of balance. I can still understand the appeal of those wines, and occasionally I’ll still drink them. But I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become a wine snob. I often hear wine bloggers say that they’re “taking the snobbery out of wine.” Bullshit! If you critique wine, you’re a snob. Those of us who wax poetic about wine are all wine snobs and we’re all quite ridiculous to make such a fuss about wine.
But most wine consumers aren’t that fussy about their wine. They want something that tastes good to them. They often want to become “more knowledgeable” about wine, but ultimately if a wine tastes good to them it’s good enough.
Getting back to my colleague, she wants to broaden her palate and explore new wines. So she challenged me to find a new pinot noir for her that will be balanced, complex, interesting, tasty and affordable. (Again, I embellished a little bit, she just asked to find her “another pinot noir”).
This wine is my first stab at meeting this challenge. It will be a touch lighter than what she’s used to, but it still has plenty of fruit and some spicy aromatics to make it interesting.
Sometimes when I pour a pinot noir it looks far too dense, but this one is just right with a light red appearance. The nose is well balanced and beautiful offering strawberry, raspberry, nutmeg, cedar and violet aromatics. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s harmoniously balanced. The palate is also quite nice, although a touch more concentration and density would have made it better—and I do mean just a touch. But the flavors are all good, such as cherry, raspberry and cranberry. There is a hint of bitterness on the finish, which I could do without. Good acidity, good mouthfeel. Overall, it’s a good, medium-bodied wine that’s best with food.
Wine: Kim Crawford
Variety: Pinot Noir
Find Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir with Snooth
What To Drink Now: Thanksgiving Pinot Noir
There are many options to go to when planning your Thanksgiving wine to pair with your Thanksgiving meal, but for me Pinot Noir is always a solid go to which will suit both the meal and your dinner guests. Somewhat like a Labrador Retriever, Pinot Noir (especially New World Pinot) is a super likable, friendly wine that has the ability to please just about any palate and pairs well with everything from roasted turkey, to cranberries, to sweet potatoes, to pumpkin pie. Here are a few suggestions that will make you thankful for Pinot. If you just insist on serving a spicy Zin, Syrah, Beaujolais or Grenache on this special day I will have a list of others up soon, but for now it is all about Pinot. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.
Etude Winery, may be best known perhaps for their Heirloom wines, but just the basic Etude Estate Pinot Noir from fruit grown in their Carneros, Napa Valley vineyards enahnces any dinner table any time of year, but particularly with the Thanksgiving meal. From cool, maritime influenced fruit, and created with the belief that the winemaking happens in the vineyard and not in the winery, the Etude Pinot Noir is filled with concentrated cherry, blackberry and red berry jam flavors enhanced with touches of soy, star anise, clove and slight minerality from the clay and gravel soils of Carneros.
Etude founder Tony Soter, left California for Willamette Valley to start Soter Vineyards, creating the winery in 1997 with the help of his wife (and Portland, OR native) Michelle, and their children, believing the Willamette Valley soils of their sustainably farmed 240 acre Mineral Springs Ranch in the Yamhill-Carlton District was ideal for creating his next great Pinot Noir wines. The Mineral Springs Ranch (green label) Pinot Noir defines the area in a glass – ripe, red cranberry, pomegrantate and persimmon fruit, balanced but present earthiness, lush tannins and a sikly, lingering finish.
Also in Oregon, Adelsheim was one of the first and remains one of the most celebrated wineries in Willamette Valley. Their Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir a perfect go to wine if you are looking for a well-rounded, elegant and always delicious flavor profile that has been made from a blend of the best Pinot Noir barrels since its first bottling in 1986. Filled with strawberry and raspberry notes married with sweet baking spice, cedar and just the right balance of earthiness.
The Jory soils of the Dundee Hills in Willamette Valley are known to produce earthy, mineral rich and refined Pinot Noir. Two excellent examples come from Domaine Serene with their Evanstad Reserve and Winderlea, with their Ana Pinot Noir, both some of the best from the Dundee Hills, balancing fruit with spice, and spice with earth to create luscious, interesting and always tasty Pinot Noir.
The sustainable and biodynamic vineyards of Benziger Winery make many great wines including their Pinot Noir from Russian River, easily one of the best areas in the world for growing Pinot Noir, though often more fruit forward and fresh than those of Willamette Valley. This one is filled with layers of red berry, currant, vanilla and spice with good tannin, texture and balanced acidity, making it a great food wine.
Also from Russian River I was recently introduced to a new winery, Inman Family Wines owned by winemaker Kathleen Inman, making nicely aged Pinot Noir (17 months in partially new French barrels) from grapes picked at three different times to ensure the ultimate ripeness was achieved when they picked. This is a big wine, yet still elegant and sillky as you would expect from Russian River fruit. Filled with ripe fruit, wild roses, black tea and anise with touch of chocolate and cedar on the finish. Rich, textured and refined, a great new Pinot Noir find.
In addition to those from Willamette, I am particullary partial to the Pinot of Santa Lucia Highlands, especially those from wineries like Miner, Vision Cellars and Siduri.
Miner Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot from the southwest facing slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains is fruit forward, spicy and always, always enjoyable. Fresh cherry and plum mix with cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar with a touch of violet and lilac floral notes for a luscious, velvety and delicious Pinot Noir.
Vision Cellars, owned by the incredible and talented, Texas native Mac McDonald, specializes in very small production, very high quality Pinot Noir from fruit grown throughout Northern California. Their Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir blends blackberry and black cherry fruit with layers of earth and spice, and just the right balance of tannin, for a wine that will pair well through the holidays with anything from the Thanksgiving turkey to the Christmas beef tenderloin.
Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir blend some of the best fruit from the area, including 33% Sierra Mar Vineyard fruit, 24% Rosella’s Vineyard, 21% Pisoni Vineyard, 19% Garys’ Vineyard, and 3% Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir. The longstanding trust and relationship these vineyard owners have with Siduri owners/winemakers Dianna and Adam Lee ensures that this prized fruit makes its way to the Siduri warehouse each harvest for them to create their award winning Pinot Noir. Filled with ripe red cherry, red plum and cranberry with sweet spice, toasted cedar and a touch of smokiness this is a Pinot that will please anyone at your table.
The cool climate of the Sonoma Coast is ideal for growing balanced Pinot Noir with character and personality. The wines of Freestone and Fog Dog, Kistler, MacMurry Ranch and David Bruce consistently deliver. I tried a new one from Jenner Vineyards recently. Very affordable for Pinot Noir (about $20 a bottle) and filled with fresh violets, bing cherry and vanilla with a good balance between acidity and tannin, making it an ideal food wine.
The from Casablanca Valley in Chile is fast becoming known for their juicy, earthy and slightly smoky Pinot Noir. The Morande Gran Reserva Pinot Noir highlights this with layers of ripe wild strawberry, cherry, sweet spice, fresh herbs, roses and a touch of earthy minerality.
Hajdu Winery (AKA Brobdingnagian Winery) continues to prove he has more than just a cool name
If you follow my blog at all, you will find references to Brobdignagian, Brobdingnagian, and Hajdu all over – go ahead and search! Anyway, with the number of times that I have been writing about Hajdu, and Covenant (where he is associate winemaker), I realized it was due time to talk about one of California’s best and still hidden kosher wineries.
I met Jonathan quite a few years back, but even before that I “met” him through the Weiss Brothers (AKA Shirah Winery) and Benyamin (Four Gates Winery). Hajdu is one of those consummate winemakers that has continuously, through the years, shown his mettle and amazing palate. However, before we get ahead of ourselves we need to step back and weave in the background story of Hajdu. Hajdu fell into the world of wine when he was studying archeology at University at Albany-SUNY in NY. It was there, when bored with studies of things buried deep in the ground, dating back thousands of years ago, that he found the wonderful elixir called wine in local area wine bars. This was in the late 1990s, and I find it amazing that wine bars existed in a college town so many years ago!
Well soon after school, Hajdu went to study in Yeshiva in Israel, and it was there that he met a woman, and followed her to Melbourne Australia, which turned out to be a great place to study viticulture at the Swinburne University, and to work on a few vineyards in the Yarra Valley. Things did not work out on the dating front, so Hajdu returned to New York, and one thing led to another and a friend told him about a job at Copain Custom Crush Llc in 2003. It was a great job for so many reasons, the main one being that there Hajdu honed his winemaking skills, till now he was a viticulturist, and he learned the skill of working on many small lots and crushes inside a very large wine facility, something that would come in very handy in the coming years at Covenant, but again we are getting ahead of the story.
In late 2003 Herzog was in need of more skilled hands, so Hajdu signed on – and it was at this point that one has to see the hand of God here. First of all, it was here that the Shirah/Weiss boys would eventually meet up with Hajdu, along with Jack Levin, who was part of the initial Shirah creations. This group (Levin was not yet there in 2005) was the group that created the first Shirah wine – 2005 Shirah Syrah with fruit from Alamo Creek. For the next two years they worked together at Herzog and it was that time, in my opinion, that the desire and yearn to build great wines from both Shirah and Hajdu was created.
While, Hajdu was at Herzog winery another very important coincidence occurred, it was there that Hajdu met Jeff Morgan, co-owner and winemaker of Covenant Winery. At that time, Covenant was making their 2003 through 2006 vintages in Herzog’s winery in Santa Maria, CA where the winery existed before it moved to Oxnard. It was then that Hajdu worked with Jeff on the 2003, 2004 vintages of Covenant wines in Santa Maria (where Herzog was before Oxnard) and then 2005 in Oxnard as well.
In 2006 Hajdu had a yearning to return to Israel, so he picked up and went to work in Carmel winery after talking with Sam Saroka, then the head winemaker at Carmel Winery, Saroka is now the head winemaker of Mony Winery. After a year in Israel, Hajdu returned without any real plans but in search of more than just a wine job but also a person who would eventually become his wife. However, when he first arrived in NY, he tried to line things up, but one thing did not lead to another and plans kept falling through, which was for the best in so many ways! It was in NY, late 2007 that he met his to-be wife and where he re-caught the bug and passion to create his own wines – under the Brobdingnagian label.
So, in later 2007, he flew back and forth, while dating and eventually getting engaged to his wife, to make wine in Santa Barbara CA. Having little place or money to live, he scrounged and found ways to make do for six weeks from harvest till fermentation and barreling his wines. These were the famous 2007 Grenache and Syrah that literally put Hajdu and the Brobdingnagian name on the map!
By the way, it is Hajdu’s wife whose artistic talents can be found draped all over Jonathan’s wine work (she makes the labels for his wines), and personally, the 2011 Proprietary Red wine with the turtle is one of the loveliest labels in Hajdu’s portfolio. Though they are all lovely, from the elephant riding a unicycle on the Syrah bottles, to the whale or the ostrich, they are all lovely, but the turtle steals the show for me, label wise.
So, after making the wine in 2007 and marrying in early 2008, Hajdu was still in search of a job and was talking with Morgan when it all clicked, and Hajdu was hired in 2008 to be Covenant’s assistant winemaker and its mashgiach (kosher wine supervisor) at the winery. Covenant winery moved from Oxnard in 2008, and it now needed a full-time kosher wine supervisor because the winery moved to Napa in a crush facility that was not all locked and kosher, like it was in Oxnard at Herzog Winery.
It was at this point that I really met Hajdu in person. Until this point, I knew of him through Binyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery, a personal friend and winemaker. Binyamin is one of those very unassuming but truly connected people in the world of kosher wine. Why? I think because people like him, love his wine, and like talking with him. Binyamin accompanied me down to the 2008 IFWF International Food and Wine Festival) in Oxnard, CA, the first ever IFWF. Hajdu was pouring the Covenant wines at the Herzog section. It was great to met both Jeff Morgan and Hajdu, and the Covenant wines were lovely indeed. We met again in San Jose that year, and then after that we met when I would go up to the Covenant Winery.
As the associate winemaker at Covenant, Hajdu helped with all aspects of Covenant Winery and continued to make his own wines as well. As described here, Hajdu made a wine again in 2008 a field blend of grapes that he called Besomim with Rabbi Tenenbaum. He did that again in 2009 along with a Syrah under the Brobdingnagian (Brob for short) label. It was finally in 2010 that Hajdu returned to his Grenache roots, along with more Syrah, and his first ever Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah. In 2010 Hajdu kept the Besomim label alive and well, but the field blend vineyard was gone so he went with a blend of his three Rhone Varietals Syrah, Petite Sirah (yeah yeah not a true Rhone varietal – but it has been adopted by the Rhone Rangers), and Grenache. This was also the year that Hajdu increased his case count for 100 or so to 300 cases. That number would grow in time, but that was already a huge jump and the wines in 2010 were truly impressive.
In 2011 Hajdu started to tinker with making custom barrels, and started to work with clients to allow them to make and define blends for custom barrels that they would buy. The 2011 vintage was tough, and if there was ever a bump in the road for his wines it may have been this year. Still, 2011 was also the first year where Hajdu made his now famous – Red Proprietary blend from Howell Mountain grapes. Red Proprietary is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot that blew the doors off of my mind when I first tasted it and continues to impress. The 2011 vintage was also the year of the new Makom label, which was released with Carignan fruit. The wine was light and fruity, not the beast that Brob conjures up, or that Carmel was making back in 2006 under their Appellation label, or the Recanati Carignan from 2009. Still, it was a lovely fruity wine and one that did Makom proud. The 2011 vintage also saw another Grenache, Syrah, and an NV Besomim, which was a blend of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.
The 2012 vintage blew off the doors with both quality and unique varietals, and rivals the 2010 vintage, which was also incredible. First was the early release in 2012, of a new Makom wine made of Grenache Blanc, the first ever-kosher wine made of this varietal that I know of or care for. It was also the return of everything other than a pure Petite Verdot or Carignan, including Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, a new Cabernet Franc, another Howell Mountain, and a new Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir would come under the Makom label, along with the Grenache Blanc. The rest would go under either the Brob label or a new Hajdu label with vertical colored lines.
With all the labels and wines under control, Hajdu has now created a winery that while still small and boutique, commands the attention of many a kosher wine buyer. The wines are very Brobdingnagian in style, big and bold – but they are also controlled and show great finesse when needed. The wines are almost a sure bet, with a “miss” here and there, and even those would be wines most wineries would dream to have made! I think the label with the elephant riding a unicycle says it best – big and massive animal controlling the direction with finesse and acumen that is Brobdignagian wine is a sentence or an image!
As stated before, I had the chance to talk and enjoy Hajdu’s knowledge and abilities when I was invited to the 27 course dinner with Hajdu and Bernstein. Since then we have met on and off whether with friends or to see the winery. Still, it had been 6 months since I last tasted the wines and now that the white and rose 2013 and 2012 red wines were released it was time to meet and catch up on what has been happening with Hajdu winery.
When asked about the wines he makes – he and the Weiss boys have clear leanings to the Rhone Varietals. I think the two of them, along with Netofa Winery. are the kosher manifestation of the Rhone Rangers. Who else produces Grenache wines (Capcanes but that is all in terms of Rhone wines). Who else produces them all? Who else produces Grenache Blanc? Viognier, Roussane by the Wiess Brothers, Chenin Blanc by Netofa along with Syrah and Mourvedre. These are the real kosher Rhone Rangers, wineries with a passion of what grows well in their area and each with their own twist and passion to deliver kosher wine that is not just another Cab or Merlot. The good news is that the Rhone religion is catching on and that we will see more Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Marselan, and others. It is the success of Hajdu and the Weiss brothers, and the realization that Israel, California, and Spain are better suited for these grapes than the classic noble varieties – that has helped propel the adoption of these grapes in the kosher world. Clearly, with his expansion Hajdu has added some varietals that are not Rhone in nature, but the style of the wines are always the same, bold, balanced, with great acid. Though there is a new Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, I think Hajdu still feels the pull for Rhone and thank goodness for that, as there are so few willing to take the Rhone Ranger pledge!
Hajdu is always the consummate gentleman and winemaker, and his wife and family are absolutely fantastic. For the past few weeks I have been sick and really out of it, but I finally have come out of my haze and I called Hajdu asking if I could swing by and taste the new wines. I arrived in the evening and for the next few hours we spoke wine, tasted wine, and I had an absolute ball of a time. The fact that I have not gotten to this posting earlier is all on me and I am truly sorry for that. I highly recommend that you contact Jonathan Hajdu @ Hajduwines.com and order the new rose it is really and truly unique. The wine is up there as one of the best kosher rose wines out there! It is NOT a bleed off/saignee wine rather it is a Pinot Gris wine that blew me away. That and the next Makom Grenache Blanc are the only two 2013 wines that we tasted, with the rest being the 2012 wines. They are all wonderful, and the Grenache really needs time to express itself. The Franc is lovely and ripe the Syrah is seriously demented and sick, with an inky structure to die for. The Petite Sirah is not ready yet, for now get the wines, leave the Syrah and Petite Sirah to the side and enjoy the rest.
My many thanks to Jonathan and his wife for letting me crash so close to Passover, and for their lovely hospitality and warmness. My wine notes follow below:
Trout with mushrooms
Spring teases us here in California with a gorgeous sunny day but then retreats from an angry rain. The menu above, light but warming, strives to satisfy regardless of what the weather gods deliver. Trout preparations are normally simple to highlight the sweet flavors of the fish. With the addition of aromatic vegetables and dried mushrooms, the fish gains substance. The recipe below is adapted from the Silver Spoon, Phaidon Press Ltd., my favorite cookbook these days.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put mushrooms in a bowl, add warm water to cover, and let soak. Season the cavities of the trout with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme. Drizzle an ovenproof dish with olive oil, place the trout in the dish, and rub both sides of the trout in the oil. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, cover, and bake for ten minutes. Drain and squeeze water from the mushrooms. Remove cover from the baking dish and add wine and mushrooms and bake for another 15 minutes. Serves four.