April 2015 Wine & Cheese Club

April 2015 Wine & Cheese Club: Pinot Noir, Three Ways

We hope you enjoy this month’s in-depth look at Pinot Noir’s intricacies. As we all start to thaw out from the winter behind us and dust off our favorite spring menus, it’s time to celebrate with this ultimate expression of the season.

Also, please join us for our first wine tasting of the year! Our Spring Wine Tasting will be Saturday, April 25th from 11:00-3:00 in front of the store. As always, it is completely free, and there’s no need to RSVP- just show up and enjoy! Bring your friends, and if you can’t make it please spread the word.


Chris & Megan Marolf
Old World Market

Pinot Noir, the “Winemaker’s Wine”
Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes to grow, but one of the most rewarding for wine connoisseurs to enjoy.  A little background knowledge of winemaking in general (and Pinot Noir specifically) is needed in order to fully appreciate this infinitely variable varietal:

  • Pinot Noir is thin-skinned and therefore favors cooler climates. Why? If it becomes too ripe (due to overly favorable/warmer temperatures), the grapes will burst on the vine, ruining the year’s crop. This careful attention to the ripeness means the sugar content is kept in check, creating more vibrant style of wine that showcases more delicate flavors and pairs well with food.
  • A wine’s color and tannins (the qualities that dominate red wine’s general characteristics) come from the skin of the grape, not the juice as many people think. The thin skin of the Pinot Noir grape is the cause of its lighter color and more delicate tannins, because the ratio of skin:juice is less than other red varietals. Its sensitivity to climate and location means that it is the grape that best shows the sense of terroir, a wine’s expression of the land in which it was grown.  For these reasons, producing a fine Pinot Noir is considered the pinnacle of the craft by many winemakers.

In Burgundy (Pinot’s homeland), the tradition focuses upon soil and climate rather than the qualities of the grape variety itself (this is, after all, the birthplace of terroir). Burgundy is legendary for the way subtle differences in terroir are reflected in Pinot Noir wines made there.

The effects of terroir aren’t limited to Burgundy, of course – every region has its own particular terroir, and these are reflected in its wines. Although many winemakers outside of Burgundy try to emulate the style, other regions have their own individual expressions and interpretations of the variety.

Kali Hart Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2012
The 2012 Talbott Pinot Noir, Kali Hart is made from 100% estate-grown fruit from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. It is sourced from vines ranging from ten to forty years old. Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is situated on 585 acres in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 13 miles south of Monterey, California. The well-drained vineyard features sparse soils comprised of sand, gravel, and granite. These soils reduce yields and create rich, concentrated flavors in the grapes. The vineyard receives morning sunlight from its east-northeast exposure, and lives much of the time in the cool fog and wind from the Pacific Ocean. With a long, cool growing season, the grapes develop the character, intensity and depth of flavor for which the vineyard has become famous.

It has a beautiful, deep ruby color with bright fruit aromas of cranberry, currant and plum, as well as hints of vanilla. The crisp red fruit flavors continue on the palate, where they are accentuated by soft, smooth tannins. The finish is long with lush fruit and hints of vanilla and French oak.

Cheese Pairing: Fontina Val D’Aosta
This is truly authentic, artisan Fontina made in the valley of Aosta in Northern Italy, close to both the French and Swiss borders. This raw cow milk cheese has a washed rind and a dense ivory paste. The flavor is mixed with fruity, lactic, creamy, mushroom nuances appearing in layers. This is a special OWM feature brought in especially for wine club- the 20# wheels are the perfect size to share with groups of more than 50 people!  When paired with the Kali Hart Pinot, the cheese’s earthiness accentuates the same quality in the wine, bringing these aspects out from behind the more present fruit flavors. It’s a “like with like” pairing strategy, but the focus is on flavors found more in the wine’s background when tasted on its own.

Bronis Pinot Nero 2012
The Oltrepo Pavese DOC is in Northern Italy, near Milan, and borders Piedmont (home of Barolo, Barbaresco, and Barbara, amongst others).  Although the area is the Pinot Nero capital of Italy, temperatures are warmer than typical for the varietal. As a result, it has no trouble ripening, thus reducing the acidity. When you taste it, this riper fruit and lower acidity shows itself as a softer, heavier, more fruit-forward expression of the grape.  We get elements of soft strawberry and even blueberry jam.  This wine is “fruit forward” without coming off as sweet and heavy.  There’s an interesting tension (in a good way) that comes from pushing the grape to its limits- growing the grape as if it’s a big, tough wine, but in the bottle it ultimately shows the restraint that is inherent in the varietal.

Cheese Pairing: Batista
As is typical for Italian wine, the Bronis Pinot Nero can’t fully be appreciated without a good food pairing.  This Italian-inspired goat’s milk Caciocavera (pronounced KASS-e-o-kah-VER-ah) has much in common with a quality Provolone or Mozzarella. It’s creamy, clean, with a nice dose of that goat’s milk tang.  When paired with the wine, that tanginess covers some of the fruit, brings the wine’s spices to the forefront. Suddenly, there’s a whole other side to the wine’s flavor profile.  The pairing also mutes some of that tang, which bring out a fruitiness in the cheese that’s hard to detect otherwise.

2014 Martin Ray Rosé of Pinot Noir
Nothing says “spring is here” like rosé!  Unless you’ve been living under a box of grocery store wine for the past decade, you probably know by now that pink wine does not equal sweet wine. Rosés are their own broad category, just like whites and reds, and they are made from practically every varietal out there. All wine grape juice is essentially clear, and the color is attained through the grape’s skin.  Rosés are made (at least in part) with red wine grapes, but the pink color is created by leaving the juice in contact with the skins for less time. This wine is produced by saignee method, in which the grapes are crushed to a stainless steel tank, then allowed 6-8 hours of contact with the skins to achieve optimal color and flavor extraction.

The 2014 vintage was challenging due to drought throughout California. However, when it comes to grape growing, struggle often produces more vibrant, concentrated flavors, due to smaller clusters and lower yields. Aside from the drought, it was ideal growing season with moderate temperatures and weather conditions throughout, allowing the vines to stay healthy and maintain concentrated flavors and exceptional quality. Harvest started about two weeks earlier than usual and finished three weeks earlier, so it was a significantly shorter season than usual!

This is a rosé that certainly rides the line between red and white wines.  Borrowing words used to describe white wines, there are tropical and citrus notes such as blood orange, kiwi, and passion fruit, coupled with more delicate aromas of watermelon and orange crème. Like most Pinot Noir (the red kind) from the Russian River Valley, we also get some cola, baking spices, and a pinch of black cherry as well, although in more muted amounts. It has well-balanced, refreshing acidity around the edges and a clean sharp finish.

Cheese Pairing: Entrepinares Semi-Soft Goat Cheese Our white wine subscribers are receiving a series of riffs on Manchego over the past few months. In February, raw milk Manchego was paired with the Footbolt Shiraz. March saw Iberico (sheep/goat/cow milk pressed in a similar mold) paired with the Lion’s Lair White. Now we wrap up this series with a semi-cured goat’s milk cheese that appears strikingly similar to these other two cheeses. The Spanish seem to get good use out of their Manchego-style basket weave cheese molds… We love goat cheeses with rosé, and this smooth, round-flavored version is a great match stylistically to the Martin Ray. The cheese is bright enough to celebrate the wine’s white wine characteristics, but rich enough to stick to the wine’s red wine “bones.”

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