As this year’s crop of Pinot Noir grapes finishes turning from green to red and moves into the final stages of ripening, I am once again beginning to anticipate the delicate and complex flavors that will eventually be acquired from these beautiful and finicky grapes. This year’s crop looks good and the weather has thus far been cooperating nicely, so I can’t help but hope for another excellent, award-winning vintage.
Pinot Noir grapes are small, delicate and thin-skinned. They grow in relatively small clusters and they produce a much smaller crop than many other grape varieties. They do not tolerate weather extremes well and they need to be handled gently throughout the winemaking process. Given all of these challenges you may ask; why would we want to grow Pinot Noir grapes and then try to make wine out of them? While the process may not be simple, our answer is pretty straightforward; we toil with Pinot Noir because when it is properly nurtured, the resultant wine can be absolutely remarkable.
While Pinot Noir originated in the Burgundy region in France, local Pinot Noir from Sonoma County - and in particular the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and the recently approved Petaluma Gap appellations - are widely recognized as being some of the very best Pinot Noirs anywhere. New Zealand, Oregon and the Central California Coast from Monterey down to Santa Barbara have also gained popularity due to the elegance and quality of their Pinot Noirs.
The delicate body of a finely crafted Pinot Noir can pair very well with the texture and mild flavors of grilled pork and the mushrooms, squash and spices in this month’s recipe will meld very nicely with the wine. Local Pinot Noir often exhibits a subtle earthiness (hello, mushrooms and garlic pepper) and dark fruit flavors such as plum, cherry, blackberry and strawberry which can really enhance the pork. The velvety texture and mouthfeel of the wine will also help with the dry texture that can sometimes be found with lean pork, particularly if it hasn’t been brined prior to grilling.
Select a nice bottle of Sonoma County Pinot Noir and join me in firing up the grill and raising a glass to celebrate the coming of another harvest. When we acknowledge and revel in the changing of the seasons, we are better able to appreciate the renewal that is possible with each day, each vintage and each glass. Cheers!
Jeff James is the founder and co-owner, with his wife Judy, of Stony Point Vineyard and James Family Cellars. Their Cotati vineyard and winery have consistently produced award-winning wines. Jeff can be reached at info@JamesFamilyCellars.com or 707-548-2294. Visit their website at www.JamesFamilyCellars.com