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Perfectly rendered Pinot Noir

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, and Jason Wentworth

This is the time of year when countless writers for magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs will issue their annual list of recommended wines for the Thanksgiving feast. Nearly all of these lists will include at least one wine based on the Pinot Noir grape. A simple web search of “Thanksgiving Pinot Noir” turns up dozens of pages of links to pages recommending one Pinot Noir or another for the meal. Why is this?

At its best, Pinot Noir produces wines that combine soft, ripe fruit with a fresh tartness, what Willie Gluckstern calls “the twin pillars of food compatibility: acidity and sweetness” (The Wine Avenger, 1998). Pinot, with a crisper flavor profile than, say, Cabernet or Merlot, is better at cutting through Thanksgiving’s rich, varied flavors. Pinot also has a hint of underlying earthiness that seems to really go well with things like chestnut or sausage stuffing, mushrooms, potatoes, and the turkey itself.

In keeping with the season, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted nineteen Pinot Noirs from the American west coast priced under $30 per bottle. Most of the wines tasted exhibited the red fruit character associated with Pinot, with more strawberry and cherry notes in evidence than blackberry and plum. The best wines in the tasting managed to be soft and fresh at the same time.

The staff’s top pick of the tasting was the delicious, richly flavored Morgan 2010 Pinot Noir “Twelve Clones” (SOLD OUT). The majority of the grapes used in the production of this strikingly stylish wine were drawn from Morgan’s organically farmed “Double L” estate located in the cool-ish climes of California’s Santa Lucia Highlands. The “Twelve Clones” in the wine’s name refers to the clonal diversity of the Double L plantings. As various clones of a single grape variety express subtle differences in flavor, it is thought that diverse clones produce a more complex and engaging wine.

Indeed, this Morgan Pinot exhibits an intermingling of cherry and darker fruits complemented by hints of smoke and earth as well as a suggestion of ginger on the finish. It is an excellent California Pinot Noir and a fabulous choice for an all-American meal!

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