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Prime Pinot Noirs from California

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Mark Britten, & Robert Bradley

While France’s Burgundy region is the home of the world’s finest Pinot Noir wines, it is sadly increasingly difficult to find truly compelling bottles of red Burgundy for under $30. More and more, Pinot Noir aficionados must look to the New World for characterful Pinot Noir in the $20-$30 price range. The cooler regions of California, Oregon, and New Zealand are the places to which many now turn in their search for Pinot Noir value.

Recently, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits blind tasted 26 Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon, the Finger Lakes region, and New Zealand, all priced under $30. While there were fine examples from each locale, the top two wines of the tasting hailed from California. In fact each of the staff’s top picks come from regions in California that have become associated with the production of quality Pinot.

The top wine of the tasting was the Roth Estate 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25). The Sonoma Coast, as the name implies, runs along Sonoma County’s Pacific coast. Many of its vineyards are covered by maritime fog in the morning and late afternoon. The cooling effect of the fog helps to create an ideal environment for growing quality Pinot Noir.

The Roth Pinot displays a lovely intermingling of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla underscored by a hint of the beetroot character so typical of many classic red Burgundies. Aged for 11 months in French oak, it’s light on its feet and does not come across particularly oaky.

The tasters’ second pick was the Lincourt 2012 “Lindsay’s” Pinot Noir ($20), produced from grapes grown in the Sta. Rita Hills located in Santa Barbara county. The hills run from east to west and are nicely cooled by the breezes that roll in from the ocean.

The Lincourt Pinot is full of red fruit aromas and flavors aided and abetted by hints of pepper, cedar, and fennel. Both it and the Roth, while delicious on their own, will partner remarkably with dishes such as roasted turkey, root vegetables, and mushroom dishes — yes, think Thanksgiving!

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