View Full Version : Pinot Noir

10-19-2002, 10:42 AM
Warning, some British car content, but mostly wine related.

I thought you guys might be interested in this wine collumn and this authors
twisted view of British cars... he had a Spitfire at one point in his life and
I suspect it wasn't a pleasant experience.

This Article was featured last week in the Georgetown Sun Newspaper.
Georgetown is located in Central Texas and is also home to "Sun City"
Georgetown. I work for a Wine wholesaler and Bill is a local wine merchant
that has a side gig writing a collumn for our paper.

Note: My cars are not rusty and the Healey has never left me stranded! The
TR-6 is another story as far as breaking down, but I've never had to call a
tow truck!

Pinot Noir
Capricious *****!

We all know someone who has a hobby that we just don't understand. Maybe
they collect beer caps or are in the process of making a giant ball of tin
foil. A guy I know is into old British cars with names like Austin-Healey,
M.G., and Triumph. Even when they were new they broke often, the convertible
tops leaked, and they seeped oil.

Age has not helped these cars. But British car guys can justify anything:
strobe effect headlights are challenging, towing charges are good for the
economy, and an electrical fire adds excitement. British car guys admit that
the cars are lousy but love them for their "character".

The wine world is afflicted with a varietal that has similar "character",
Pinot Noir. It is fickle, sensitive and thin skinned. Everything affects it.
The barometric pressure, the temperature, the phases of the moon. It may not
catch fire like an oil leaking Triumph but it is as unpredictable as the
weather in Central Texas.

The French will tell you that Pinot Noir reaches its pinnacle only in
Burgundy, the area they call Bourgogne. While they are probably right, these
wines make that old Triumph look like the epitome of dependability. More bad
news is that truly great Burgundy is spectacularly expensive. I don"t mean a
little expensive. I mean a hundred bucks gets you into the ballpark with many
at 200 or more. Much more.

So why would someone spend so much money for something that is so erratic?
Well, quite frankly, I am not the guy to argue the point. I think it is
insane to spend 200 bucks for a wine that might suck. Why people do so is
obvious though. When Pinot Noir is great, there is nothing better that spills
from a bottle. Nothing, nada, zilch. The problem is that it is so elusive.

Trying to find a great Pinot is like finding a stock that will gain value.
Sure, with a bit of luck, you can find good Pinot. The truly great stuff, the
stuff that creates Pinot freaks, is exceedingly rare.

Despite what the French might tell you, they are not the only ones who make
great Pinot Noir. In fact, Pinot is made all over the world. The reason that
such is true is really because of hope. (Winemakers are romantics.) Hope that
they can create something truly enchanting, which sadly, is an infrequent

One has to be a real optimist to grow Pinot Noir, for it susceptible to nearly
every affliction that can attack a grapevine. They bloom early, so spring
frost can harm them. Pinot is a favorite of the Sharpshooter Leafhopper,
which spreads Pierce's Disease, and can kill a whole vineyard. After Pinot
Noir vines fully mature they almost always get Leaf Roll Virus. They tend not
to be vigorous, so their sparse foliage makes them susceptible to bird attack
and sun damage. The grape's thin skin means that too much rain makes for
weak, insipid wines. Lack of rain results in poor quality raisins. The only
thing that one can offer in Pinots favor is that it is resistant to the

Oregon will argue, but California produces remarkable Pinots at a greater rate
than any other area. They too have spotty results. In a recent article a
well-respected wine writer remarked that out of the 315 California Pinot Noirs
that he had tasted in the last year, only 21 were outstanding.

If you forced me to name one dependable producer, I would have to name
Truchard Vineyards. Tony and Jo Ann Truchard have done something unique.
Unlike the seemingly unrelenting flow of Californians moving to Texas, they
are Texans who moved to California. Their vineyards are in the cool Carneros
region of Napa Valley. While they sell most of their grapes to other
producers, they make a small amount of their own wine. Truchard Pinot Noir is
almost always excellent. It is a $40 wine but that does not seem so high
after pricing less consistent Burgundies.

A good area to get Pinot Noir from is Santa Barbara County. The legendary
winemaker, Andre' Tchelistcheff, predicted that Santa Barbara would become
famous for Pinot Noir. He was right. Among the best are Au Bon Climat,
Sanford and Longoria. None are cheap but they can be counted on as much as
any Pinot producers can be.

Now comes the time when I usually offer a recommendation but I am not going
to. The killer, awe-inspiring, over the top Pinot is far too elusive. After
all, as finicky as Pinot is, if the tire pressure was too low on the tractor
that hauled the grapes, the wine might turn out to be less than spectacular.
Then you would feel cheated, even though I warned you about Pinot's nature.
In the end, I'd end up with pitchfork in my forehead, and you'd end up in the
crowbar hotel. Ugly stuff.

If your curiosity gets the best of you, please tread carefully lest you catch
the Pinot bug. It can easily become an obsession, because the dream of the
perfect wine has its allure. On the other hand, chasing the capricious Pinot
is better than busting your knuckles trying to fix a rusty old Austin-Healey.

[ 10-19-2002: Message edited by: Basil ]</p>

10-19-2002, 11:19 AM
I can see his point, but once you have drunk the wine it is gone, and you have to start all over again. Once you bust your knuckles fixing the rusty Healey it stays fixed. Also, you don't have to store it in a cool basement, you can get out and use it. Often! Like a never-ending supply of fine wine, only without the drawbacks of over-indulgence. graemlins/pukeface.gif