It may be December and it may dark at an ungodly hour but it’s still fall and fall is all about pumpkin right?
Well pumpkin and and squash… because squash is a pumpkin right?
But really what I want to talk isn’t squash but California PINOT NOIR from unlikely places and pairings to go with them.
How unlikely? How about like the Sierra Foothills. Like Richmond near San Francisco. Like Lake County.
More than any other red wine lover, it seems to me that Pinot people have very strong opinions about what is and what isn’t good Pinot.
And a lot of times, what is and what ins’t good Pinot has to do with wear that wine came from. Some people are Burghounds — their pinot noir must come from Burgundy, France.
Others insist on the Petaluma Gap, that almost mythically cold and harsh area where the Pacific ocean breezes rush from the coast to Sonoma. Others are fans of pockets of Napa, while others swear by the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara which again is windswept by cold Pacific breezes. Famously finicky, famous Pinot Noir is found in hot California near the cold coast– the closer the better it seems! In Oregon also, some of the most important Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley is blessed with cold air from the Pacific.
But people are making pinot noir in some unlikely places as well– and they are well made and well received too as the three wines in this blog post attest.
And with what did we pair these pinots from unexpected places?
Sue was basically an Iron Chef tonight. I didn’t get to the store, and gave her a few ideas of what we had laying around the house and in the garden, and that’s how she invented the instant pot pumpkin, mushroom, farro, risotto dish which she then stuffed into par-cooked acorn squash! That turned out unbelievably good and went so well with Pinot Noir and would make a great dish for the holidays — and it’s vegetarian too!
2015 – Boeger Pinot Grande – High elevation El Dorado Pinot Noir – 14.1% alcohol
sample for my review consideration
I was at Boeger on a press trip following the Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento where we were served wines you would expect from that area. But I also learned they were growing Pinot noir there also, and I scored a bottle to take home.
Color – Very pretty in the glass, rhubarb, with a clear pink rim
Nose – Musk and dried rose petals, carnations and mint, then a bit of ripe plum
Palate – Cranberries, with a dry menthol finish. Dry earth, We felt that it was surprisingly delicate for an El Dorado wine. Like a bale dancer, light but strong. Gene Kelly of a wine. Milk chocolate covered almond on the finish. at the very end of that finish.
Pairing – So so wonderful with fresh tomato basil salad. There is an umami richness that matches that of a Pinot Noir. Good with the pate, but not as good as with the salad. This wine did not like the rich creamy brie as well as the others. This is a more delicate wine. It likes the fresh flavors of the garden harvest. We grilled an eggplant, put a bit of the tomato on top and it was the perfect marriage. Sue did not care for this wine with the pumpkin risotto dish thinking that it was too sweet when paired together. I actually liked it thinking of candy apples. Sweet with the sharp apple flavors. Sue felt that this was more of a first course Pinot Noir. It loves fresh bright flavors. Serve it with a fresh tomato basil salad or an eggplant bruschetta. The eggplant and fresh tomato brings out the fresh fruit in this wine.
2014 – Perfusion – Pinot Noir – Richmond Ca – 14% alcohol
sample for my review consideration
This is a seriously unexpected place to find wine. Richmond California? Yet if you think about it, the only reason the Bay Area doesn’t have more vines is because the hills are covered in houses, freeways, and other forms of human development.
Color – This translucent wine is like a plum with a brown tinge, with a violet rim
Nose – A lovely profession of florals, earth, herbs and fruit. Mint, sage, chaparral, ginger flower, cranberry, Dr. Pepper, earthen loamy soil
Palate – Medium bodied, tart, tons of herbs, menthol, eucptyluputs, chaparral, sage, rhubarb, cranberry, nice earthy richness
Pairing – Loves the salad and loves the basil, whatever you may have for a meal, add some fresh basil if drinking this wine. As we have said time and again. Pinot and pate just go together, the acidity handles the fatty richness of the pate. It is just so good. Fabulous with the triple cream brie. There was a bit of tarragon in the risotto that came through with this wine more than the others.
2012 – Calvino Jones – Pinot Noir – Anderson County –
I loved this label so much that I didn’t really care what was inside; I was buying it! But when I learned that it was a Lake County Pinot Noir, I knew I had to buy it even more. Lake County used to be part of Napa County and there are many similarities to the part of Napa to the far north where it gets really hot making it a great place to ripen Cabernet. Which would make you think it would be TOO HOT for pinot noir. Guess again!
128 cases produced
Color: Pomegranate, bright fruit, some density, not too translucent
Nose: Like you’re in the crush pad — bright, vibrant, smells like fresh crushed grapes, pomegranate
Can’t believe this is a 2012 — so alive, so bright, so beatitufl
Palate: YUM! Tart, bold, not a pinot noir for the light hearted, not delicate, but robust, fruit on the front of the palate, then menthol mid palate then linger with all three elements —
Pairing – Great with the pate, not brilliant, but great. The camembert and the bread were a perfect match. Fabulous with our mushroom pumpkin farro/risotto meal. Great with the pate which is no surprise for a great Pinot Noir. You would not normally pair a fresh tomato basil salad with a Pinot Noir, but because the tomato are garden grown and fresh, and are topped with fresh julienned basil, the wine just goes with this combination.
What? No pic of the pumpkin mushroom risotto? Two of my favorite things pumpkins and mushrooms 😋 These wines did come from unexpected areas.
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I know! I didn’t really like any of the photos… but I’ll review them again and see if there’s one worthy of sharing… because they really came out attractively! As you know, it can get kind of crazy when trying to do so much at once — notes, tasting, photos, food!