Pinot Noir

Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

Pennsylvania wine begins to hit its stride

William Penn must be smiling somewhere. With more optimism than horticultural knowhow, the Quaker son of an English admiral planted a Philadelphia vineyard of French wine grapes in 1683. They soon died off, and what wine Pennsylvania made until the 20th century was largely vinted from native labrusca grapes. There are accounts that some Pennsylvania wine was well-received in London in the 1760s, but the correspondent might have been merely polite. There's no longer any need to cut Pennsylvania wine special slack. I spent part of a week in September touring nine outstanding wineries in eastern Pennsylviania. While these nine represent just 3 percent of the Keystone State's wineries, they demonstrate that Pennsylvania has the potential to make major league wines that can compete with...Read More
Contour Pinot Noir hits sweet spot for casual red

Contour Pinot Noir hits sweet spot for casual red

When the calendar advances to September, our appetites go “click.” Immediately we start craving fall dishes that cry out for red wine. So we're already on the hunt for this year's house red. Ideally, we want a bottle with the fortitude to stand up to fall flavors—at a price suitable for everyday drinking. And because we usually drink white wine, we'd like it to display soft tannins and restrained alcohol. Give us this day our daily red. Contour Pinot Noir 2017 is a contender this year. This vintage tones down the high alcohol of previous years, coming in at 13.8%. That's still nearly two points higher than an entry-level negociant Burgundy, but it does add a nice sweet note. (Around 14%, alcohol can masquerade as...Read More
McCall Wines reflect a clean and lean approach

McCall Wines reflect a clean and lean approach

Russell McCall has been growing wine grapes on his family farm—and the adjacent Peconic Land Trust property—since the 1990s. But he didn't release a wine under the family name until 2007. Everything about McCall Wines (22600 Main Road, Cutchogue, NY; 631.734.5764; mccallwines.com) suggests patience and long-term planning. The sandy soils of the south end of the original vineyard are planted with four clones of Pinot Noir. At 11 acres, it's one of the largest such vineyards on the east coast. McCall planted Merlot in the dense, clay-rich soils of the other 10 acres of the family vineyard. In 2011, he acquired and rehabilitated the adjacent North Ridge vineyard that had been planted in 1983 with Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon—providing the winery with true...Read More
Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

Gruet sparkling wines just keep getting better

We've been drinking Gruet wines for about 25 years now, and we hope to keep drinking them another 25. That would be something to celebrate—which is appropriate for an American winery that produces sparkling wines that rival good Champagne. Quality can always be had at a premium price, but entry-level Gruet Brut starts at $15. That's hard to beat, even if you step down to bulk-process California sparklers. The top of the line—a grand rosé that sits three years on the lees—is only $39. (Those are winery prices.) When we're in Gruet country, we always try to stop at the Albuquerque tasting room (8400 Pan American Freeway NE, Albuquerque; (505) 821-0055, gruetwinery.com). For one thing, this space has the full line of Gruet wines, including...Read More
Moshin calculates exceptional biodynamic Pinot Noir

Moshin calculates exceptional biodynamic Pinot Noir

You could say that Rick Moshin (above) is a calculating fellow. Before the proprietor and winemaker at Moshin Vineyards (10295 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-5499, moshinvineyards.com) got into the business, he was a math instructor at San Jose State. The skills have served him well. He keeps the big picture of winemaking in his head like a blackboard full of calculations while still managing to pay attention to every detail. His wines are like elegant solutions to complex problems. They have a kind of Pythagorean grace. “Biodynamic is the wave of the future,” he said when we visited him in November. He's not doctrinaire about it. The most important principles, he believes, are those that treat the soil like a living organism that constantly recycles whatever...Read More
Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Westside Road in Healdsburg is the cool end of the Russian River Valley. That's just fine by Thomas and George Baker, founders of Thomas George Estates Winery (8075 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8031, thomasgeorgeestates.com). When geography gives you cool vineyards in this part of Sonoma, you focus on the stars of Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since launching the winery in 2008, the Bakers have assembled four select vineyards to grow both varietals. These small-lot artisanal wines tend to spotlight individual vineyards, although the winery does make one blend from each grape. The winery tunnels into the hillside beneath the Baker Ridge Vineyard. Although the operation does have some stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, the dominant vessels are concrete eggs. The vessels have been gaining...Read More
Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

The success of the 2004 film Sideways made California Merlot unpopular for a while. But the dip in that red's reputation might have made helped clear the way for the winery and tasting room at Comstock Wines (1290 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-723-3011, comstockwines.com, tastings $20-$50). The photo above looks out the back of Comstock's tasting room to old Merlot vineyards. (That's a blue heron flying over the vines.) Many more vines were sacrificed to clear ground to build the winery, tasting room facility, and wine club residence. But not too many. Founded in 2012 using much older vineyards, Comstock still makes an outstanding Merlot that shows the restraint of the cooler Dry Creek Valley climate but bursts with black currant and violets. Currently producing...Read More
Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

The small red industrial building on the Timber Crest Farms property that houses Kokomo Winery (4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-0205, kokomowines.com, tastings $10-$25) is deceptively modest. The winery was founded by Erik Miller in 2004, who named it for his Indiana hometown. The vineyards date much, much farther back. Some Zinfandel plantings on the estate are more than 150 years old. Partner Randy Peters, a fourth-generation grape grower, has tended other vineyards here since 1974. He grows about 70 percent of Kokomo's fruit in all three Healdsburg appellations: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley. We say the building is modest because the wines are anything but. Miller's philosophy of winemaking is terroir-driven. “The special thing about wine is that it showcases...Read More
1865 wines push Chilean boundaries

1865 wines push Chilean boundaries

As the planet's temperature rises, wine regions creep into zones once considered inhospitable for Vitis vinifera. Chile is no exception. Matias Cruzat, the young winemaker for Viña San Pedro's 1865 brand (sanpedro.cl/en/1865-single-vineyard), casts the newer cold-climate vineyards as “seeking Burgundy in Chile.” To his credit, Cruzat isn't imitating the Burgundians. But he has steered the 1865 wines toward a balance between old and new world styles. Bargain-priced in the $12-$18 range, these are nonetheless premium wines. (Viña San Pedro's entry-level wines sell under the GatoNegro label.) Cruzat's reference to Burgundy refers to the newest 1865 single-vineyard wines: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Elqui Valley. “It is really the southern end of the Atacama Desert,” he points out. The region has grown grapes since the...Read More
Bassus Pinot Noir from Utiel Requena exudes elegance

Bassus Pinot Noir from Utiel Requena exudes elegance

Regular readers might recall our summer series on the wines of D.O. Utiel Requena. By and large, those wines represented intriguing expressions of the Bobal grape. The wine we're talking about today was an outlier. Made by Bodegas Hispano+Suizas (bodegashispanosuizas.com), Bassus is the only 100 percent Pinot Noir wine carrying the D.O. Utiel Requena imprimatur. As we tried to figure out what kind of food would go with it, we came across Alia Ristorante (395 Shirley St., Winthrop; 617-539-1600; aliaristorante.com) in Winthrop—a peninsular village east of Boston's Logan Airport. Best of all, Alia (as the chalkboard sign outside indicates) is a BYOB restaurant. Chef-owner Saeed Lahyani named the place for his hometown on the outskirts of Casablanca in Morocco. He has a pretty impressive culinary...Read More