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Pinot Noir tasting pits France against Oregon

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Kelley O'Neill, Alice Peters, Bill Winston

The staff of Northside Wine & Spirits recently conducted a blind tasting of 20 Pinot Noirs from both Oregon and the Burgundy region of France. Burgundy, located in northeastern France, produces some of the world's greatest (and most expensive) wine from the Pinot Noir grape. Oregon, particularly in its northern Willamette Valley, produces what many consider some of the finest Pinot Noirs outside of Burgundy.

The wines tasted all fell under the $50 mark, ranging from $17 to $47 per bottle. The best wines, as it turns out, were split evenly between Burgundy and Oregon. Some of the tasters found it relatively easy to distinguish the French examples from those of Oregon. As a group, the Oregon wines were a bit softer, with lower acidity, more forward fruit, and were a touch less complex than their French counterparts.

Tying for the top spot was the 2005 Domaine Joseph Belland (Santenay), priced at $37 per bottle [Sku 10568].* It's a richly flavored, elegant wine with a lovely intermingling of red and dark fruit flavors, a subtle hint of new oak, and a long, lingering finish. Its fine balance and underlying soft tannins indicate that while enjoyable now, the wine may improve with a few years in the bottle. The wine's quality is partly a reflection of the vintage, as 2005 is a very fine year for red Burgundy. It should also be noted that Santenay, the village where the grapes for this wine were grown, is frequently a good source for relatively affordable Burgundy.

This lovely wine cries out for a nice meal. Try serving it with simple roast chicken or coq au vin, calves liver, beef stew, or an elegant cheese soufflé.

Alas, from the Willamette Valley, the 2006 Belle Vallée Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir, which tied for first, is no longer obtainable.

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 1/21/2008.

*To purchase this wine, simply type its "Sku" into the "Find" field at the top of the page, then click "Go."

If you would like the full tasting list along with the rankings, please email us your name, phone number, city, and zip code to

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