Oregon’s Pinot Noir

Col-head-ZalkinPinot Noir is a delightfully food-friendly wine. The question isn’t which foods go with Pinot Noir, but which foods don’t.

Depending on whom you ask, Pinot Noir goes with everything from steak to cake. It has a multitude of layered flavors, and great balance of tannins and fruit, that is tart but not too acidic. Its sweet notes of red and black fruits play well with desserts, and provide a pleasant contrast to salty aged cheeses and cured meats, while its rich earthy notes work well with roast vegetables.

It is light enough to go with salmon, but dark enough to stand up to most red meats. It goes particularly well with gamey meats like lamb, duck and venison. And fine, aged Pinot Noir is a wonderful thing to drink on its own.

Pinot Noir is thought to be one of the oldest grapes in the world, and it is the traditional grape of fine red Burgundy. Burgundian pinots have long been praised as some of the finest expressions of the grape. And even though it is grown across Europe, and around the world, the prestige of Red Burgundy is difficult to match. But the prices can be high. So what’s a Burgundy lover to do? Look to the state of Oregon, of course.

Oregon’s climate is remarkably similar to that of Burgundy, and this similarity has given a distinct advantage to growers. Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow. It is susceptible to mold, rot and mutation. It likes cool, humid weather, but will turn bitter without adequate sun. Oregon growers have begun making pinots in the Burgundian style, and have had great success coaxing the grape into wines with the same soft and earthy characteristics.

The most prestigious AVA (American Viticulture Area) in Oregon is the Wilamette Valley, which cuts right through the heart of metropolitan Portland and then bleeds up into the south end of Washington state. The valley is broad and shallow, bordered by the Cascades on the east and the coastal mountains to the west.

Pinots from Oregon tend to have more black fruit and dark, earthy flavors than those from nearby California. Oregon has mostly single vineyard producers and has strict labeling laws. While some cheap American pinots rely heavily on blending with other grapes, any bottle made in Oregon that is labeled Pinot Noir must contain at least 90% Pinot Noir grapes.

Oregon Pinot Noirs make a great gift. Those in the know will be familiar with Oregon’s status as a hot up-and-comer, and others will be delighted by something new and unexpected, and the connection to the much beloved Burgundian style makes them a great bet for any wine lover.

Here are a few featured Oregon Pinot Noir wines for your enjoyment:

•A to Z: Vibrant and fruity, A to Z is a blend of grapes from vineyards all over Oregon, which embodies the spirit of Oregon. Juice- and fruit-forward, with ripe tannins, notes of cherry, blueberry, mocha and spice.

•Dobbes Family: An assertive wine with flavors of stewed cherry, dried cranberry and strawberry. Hints of raspberry and cola on an acid-driven finish. Pleasant oak influence, with gentle tannins that will continue to soften and integrate as this wine ages.

•Blue Pirate: Vibrant, sweet and a good value. Flavors of cherries and violets, with raspberry, rhubarb, and a hint of vanilla. Light tannic finish balanced by lingering fruit.

•Left Coast Cali’s Cuvee: Big and bold, with rounded flavors of cherries, blackberries and orange. A hint of mulled spice balanced out by fresh notes of green herbs, mint and thyme. Delightful structure and pleasant acidity make this a great wine with food.

You can find all of these delightful Pinot Noir wines for purchase at our store, Old Greenwich Fine Wines, located at 195 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, or visit our website, Ogfinewines.com. When you stop in, we invite you to taste a number of our favorite wines while we help you find the right bottle for your palate.


Robert Zalkin is the owner of Old Greenwich Fine Wines at 195 Sound Beach Avenue. His column will be available weekly at Greenwich-post.com.

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