Suggested Retail: $17
“Opting for a bottle of Pinot Noir is a worthwhile choice, even if only as a diversion from your more usual experiences in the Cabernet or Merlot categories. However, there’s so much more reason to explore this beguiling grape variety.
”Native to Burgundy, Pinot Noir has found some fine expression in California in the past (legendary Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff, famed for his Cabernet Sauvignon, was said to have been extraordinarily proud of the 1945 vintage Pinot Noir he made for Beaulieu Vineyards). However, Pinot Noir is a difficult-to-farm grape and is particularly sensitive to the site in which it is grown. It likes cooler climes. As the years go by, California is learning which are the better locations to grow this finicky grape and are ‘dialing it in.’
“This week’s ‘Pick,’ the 2018 Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir from J.Lohr Estates, comes from two regions within Monterey County, Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands. Vineyards in each location are subject to morning and evening fog, but experience warm afternoons. Each of these areas makes a separate contribution to the personality of the wine, according to Steve Peck, J.Lohr’s Director of Winemaking. The Arroyo Seco grapes comprise roughly 75% of the blend and contribute an ‘Old World expression of the grape, with hints of earth and blue sage,’ according to the winemaker, while the Santa Lucia grapes ‘bring silky layers of strawberry-driven red fruit.’
“We’ll not contest the winery’s take on which vineyards bring which aromas and flavors to the finished product, but it sounds reasonable to us. In general, we’ve found Pinot Noirs from the ‘Old World’ (Burgundy) tend to express more of the herbal, earthy side of things and that same variety grown in California provides a stronger fruit expression.
“The more money you spend on a bottle of Pinot Noir—wherever it was vinified—the more likely you’ll get a complex, nuanced product. Our Pick ($17) isn’t pricey as this variety goes, but it’s a solid showing and gives some of both those herbal/woodsy aspects, as well as California fresh fruit and power. We concur with the winery description referencing earthiness, sage and strawberry and dried cherry fruit aspects.
“Pairing Pinot Noir with food can be a fascinating experience. ‘Red meat/red wine’ is more than just a bromide. It isn’t bad advice. You could drink this wine with a big steak or other beefy dish, but it’s more adventurous to try another meat (or fish). Pinot Noir and duck is a great choice, but more familiar entrees of pork and even salmon would be potential companions for the Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir.”