Californian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir has the well deserved reputation of being a finicky and difficult grape to cultivate. It thrives in cooler climates like Burgundy and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but is also widely planted throughout sun-drenched California.
Pinot Noir reflects its terroir, or place of origin, more than just about any other variety. That’s certainly part of its broad appeal, and right now, there is a revolution happening in California.
In Pursuit of Balance or IPOB is a thriving group of producers founded on the notion that California Pinot Noir should be balanced, rather than decadent and lush (the prevailing style over the past few decades). Has the focus shifted? There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue.
It pays to do a little research, then, to figure out which producers are making fully ripe, high octane Pinots and those that are making a style that accents subtlety and vibrant acidity. Not that both styles can’t be great, they can be.
Richer Pinot Noir, from warmer regions like the Russian River Valley tends to exhibit more dark fruit, in general, they are fuller wines with greater concentration and higher alcohol, up to 15% ABV.
Pinots from cooler regions like Sonoma Coast are lighter bodied and display more red fruit, floral notes and have brighter acidity, often with aa dash of minerality. Alcohol percentage and even the color of the wine can clue you in when shopping.