California and Oregon Pinot Noirs, with their broad range of styles and prices, make excellent foils for the seasonal cuisine of spring. With lamb, fish, and lighter fare supplanting hearty deep-winter food, Pinot Noir becomes the obvious choice for pairing with almost any dish. We asked our panel of six Pinot Noir loving sommeliers to recommend their favorite spring wines.
Nicole Dishman, General Manager and Wine Director, Viognier, San Mateo, California
In her role as wine director for Viognier, Dishman is responsible for running all aspects of the beverage program, including keeping on top of the restaurant’s more than 1,100 labels. Located above the iconic Draeger’s Market in San Mateo, Viognier has been a premier dining destination in the Bay Area since opening its doors in 1997. Dishman is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers.
“As favorites, I have selected a wine each from California and Oregon that are helping create the standard for what American Pinot can be. Both are hand crafted and really speak to the soils and climate where they were raised.”
Donum 2006 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir
This wine is a perfect match for someone who likes a ripe opulent style Pinot Noir with a good acid cut. Expect dark cherry and plum, black raspberries, cola nut, fresh turned soil, cinnamon and allspice with a plush velvet texture. This wine captures the very best of Carneros.
Artherberry Maresh 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
For a more delicate impression of Pinot Noir, I like this wine from the red volcanic soils of Oregon Dundee Hills. Bright red berries, tart red cherries, cranberry, secondary notes of sassafras and oven dried tomato, cedar and rose petal, with terrific acidity. It shows the delicacy and grace that make Oregon’s cool climate Pinot so captivating.
Arthur Hon Wine Director, Sepia, Chicago, Illinois
Hon has been a member of Sepia’s team since the 2007 opening. He brings a natural affinity for creating a sensory experience through food and wine. “Creativity and passion don’t always have to be complex or come from afar,” he says. “Simpler is always better.” Arthur is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for the advanced level exam in 2011.
“One could argue that to pick out an American Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast as a favorite is nothing out of the ordinary, and almost an expected choice. Yet, Claude Koeberle's craftsmanship is definitely anything but predictable. What excites me the most about this Pinot Noir is its seamless marriage of the New World expression and the Old World sensibility.”
Soliste 2007 Sonoma Coast Sonatera Vineyard Pinot Noir
This wine showcases the distinct flavors of a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir—bright red fruits, rose petals and cracked pepper, with the veil of a seductive Chambolle-Musigny. The unique characters of his Soliste Pinot Noir bridge the best of both worlds without losing its sense of place. A delicious American wine that should simply be categorized as Soliste and nothing more.
Sasa Sinanagic, Lounge Manager, Lockwood & Potter’s, Palmer House, Chicago, Illinois
Sinanagic, a native of Bosnia, started his career at the classic Maritim Hotel in Würzburg Germany. At the Palmer House, Sinanagic ensures that Lockwood and Potter’s maintain high hospitality standards by working with management staff to develop their leadership skills. Years in the industry have taught him trends come and go, but excellent service brings people back.
2008 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
This wine has a very remarkable character, with a great cherry and vanilla nose, representing the New World style Pinot Noir, and a slightly fragrant and inviting quality. The palate shows reserved but layered fruit, with a complex blend of acid and tannin throughout. Amazingly balanced, with a nice mouth and lingering finish, it is a great food pairing wine with good aging potential.
2005 Domaine Serene Evenstadt Reserve Pinot Noir
This wine has been described as very elegant and refined Pinot Noir, with trace notes of sandalwood and a lovely cherry core. The fruit is immaculate, the concentration focused and lengthy, and the flavors are so artfully blended that the wine is seamless and perfectly balanced. Although it is drinking like a mature wine, there is every reason to cellar wines such as this. This is surely a Burgundy style Pinot Noir that will develop over time.
Michael Scaffidi, Wine Director and Sommelier at Plume Restaurant at The Jefferson, Washington, District of Colombia
Scaffidi was recruited to develop a cellar worthy of a president at the newly renovated historic The Jefferson hotel. He uses Thomas Jefferson’s travels and experience as the basis for the hotel cellar both in Plume, the acclaimed dining room, and Quill, the lounge. “In the dining room, it’s not about me. We have 1,300 wines, and I love them all. My job is to find out what you will like.”
“What I love about the Peay family is that they adore wines from all over the world. Some wineries are not as open to exploring and learning. The Scallop Shelf vineyard produces wines with extraordinary finesse and elegance.”
Peay Vineyards 2009 Sonoma Coast Estate Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir
On the nose this wine has aromas of violets, hen-of-the -woods mushrooms, cranberries, and baked cherries, with a flavor of toasted currants and raspberries. On the menu, I would pair it with either our bacon-wrapped monkfish Genobloise with white bean and garlic custard, brown butter, lemon and capers or our filet of prime beef with truffled potato mousseline and bone marrow.
Ian Blackburn, Learn About Wine, Los Angeles, California
Since Learn About Wine was established in 1995, Blackburn has worked on building it into the leading source for wine education and events in Southern California. He has taught classes at Cordon Bleu, Cal Poly Pomona, and UCLA, and was trained as an educational ambassador for the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Region of Champagne.
“When I started selling wine in the 1990s, a wine list likely had one obligatory Pinot Noir listed. Today, its now time for the artist. The category had to take shape for the artists to come in and take it higher. Two artists in Pinot Noir that I buy to drink and feel are really key wines on wine lists are Eric Kent Wines in Russian River and Riverbench in Santa Maria Valley. Both producers are making stylish wines that have finesse, richness and polish, and that drink well young. Neither is making large quantities that are priced low and stacked high at retail.”
Eric Kent 2009 Sonoma Coast Small Town Pinot Noir
The wine has a dark purplish-ruby color and a wonderfully expressive nose of clove, cola nut, bay leaf, pine needles, cherry, mixed berries and candied fruit. On the palate, it shows broad and rich flavors of black cherry and briary, spicy berry chutney, with an apple skin and earth layer adding complexity.
Riverbench 2009 Santa Maria Valley One Palm Pinot Noir
This wine has a dark cranberry color and hints of mature red fruits—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry—on the nose, followed on the palate by a dusty quality that brings in elements of earthiness and mushroom, giving it a bit of Old World sophistication.
Dan Mages, Sommelier, Urban Farmer, The Nines Hotel, Portland, Oregon
Mages has had a successful career in Portland as a top-notch sommelier. He has built some of the most acclaimed wine lists in the city by focusing on developing relationships with stellar wineries and by listening to what varieties of wine interest his customers. His keen passion for wine knowledge and discovery keeps him busy on the job and during his days off, where is can often be found scouring the Oregon winegrowing landscape.
“In choosing wines, I focus first on the winemakers and then on the region and the vineyards. Two of my favorites are Anna Metzinger at Archery Summit and Lynn Penner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.. My choices are each unique in their own way.”
Archery Summit 2009 Dundee Hills Red Hills Estate Pinot Noir
The magic of this wine, which is from a warm vintage, is its luscious fruit and very impressive structure drawn from the 100% volcanic soil of the Dundee Hills; a perfect combination. It shows ripe black fruit and spice on the nose, and tart black cherry, gingersnap, and a briny quality on the palate.
Penner-Ash 2009 Willamette Valley Dussin Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir
With the estate wine, Ash combines her talents with the unique soil types of jory (volcanic) and dell pine (sedimentary) soils. I particularly enjoy the complex layers of fruit and the exceptional length of this wine. It shows black cherry, black currant, and rose pedal on the nose, and dark chocolate, cassis, and vanilla on the palate.