Taste of Wine: Pinot Pleasure: What’s in your cooler?

Yes, it’s another column romancing the virtues of the most exotic red wine of them all, Pinot Noir. If I asked for a count of Pinots in your cooler, how many would I see? My bet would be very few. Not that Pinot Noir isn’t doing well in the marketplace … it is! It’s just that when it is purchased, it’s not laid down in a cooler for a few years like some other reds, it is consumed. It goes so well with such a variety of meals, and tastes so wonderful as soon as the cork is popped, there is no need to wait for another day.

It has been called “the Queen of Red Wines,” and a grape of perfumed aroma and delicate finesse. It bears the genetics of old world French Burgundy, and is one of the basic grapes used in the making of Champagne (the other is Chardonnay.)

Pinot Noir is not a forgiving grape. It is a finicky grape and is grown and harvested successfully in only a select number of wine countries, which does not include any south and east of San Luis Obispo in the Central Coast of California. The Oregon coast does well as it’s on the same global path as Burgundy in France. The wine is low in tannin and silky to the taste, which makes it a favorite with most women and men who find the muscular, acidic tannins of Cabernet or Syrah too astringent.

A recent Friday night tasting at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas with Nathan Sneller, who has a grip on favored Pinot Noir, found seven selections to taste. There were three from Oregon and four from California, a fair balance.


Nathan Sneller of Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas pours a select group of Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon at their popular Friday night tastings.

Nathan Sneller of Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas pours a select group of Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon at their popular Friday night tastings.

My favorite of the group was the 2014 Tyler “Old Vine” Pinot from the famed Bien Nacido Ranch from Lompoc in the Central Coast of California. ($67.) Old vines are those 30 years or more and provide rich concentration to the taste of the wine. Sneller revealed that, “Pinot Noir on a price basis is Meritage’s top seller. We sell a lot of it to younger wine lovers who enjoy pairing it with a wide range of foods. It has less alcohol and its flavor is locked into an exotic style.” Check out other wine tastings at meritagewinemarket.com.

Sugar content in wine is a source of considerable conversation, as excessive sugar could be a health problem.

Sugar content in wine is a source of considerable conversation, as excessive sugar could be a health problem.

Doug Wiens on sugar in wine

Doug Wiens, the successful winemaker at Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula, recently wrote an  article on wine and sugar content in his newsletter that I thought I’d share with you. In it he states that all wine contains sugar. In dry reds it usually is quite low.

Dessert wines, he reports, are high on sugar, at times 10 to 20 percent sugar. There is not much in the way of sugar standards in wine here in the U.S. In Europe they have controlled standards that are measured and are lower than the U.S. percentages.

In California, all sugar comes from grapes themselves. Winemakers can manage this sugar, some of which gets consumed by yeast during the fermentation process (conversion of sugar to alcohol). Wine grapes are  sweet, usually 18 to 25 percent sugar when harvested. Residual sugar is the term used for that amount of sugar left when the wine is bottled. The higher the alcohol level, the sweeter the wine, like in Port wine. The winemaker may adjust the residual sugar through techniques to smooth out and soften the acidity, especially for consuming at a wine’s younger age.

We have condensed this informative article from the Wiens Family Cellars newsletter. Its website is wienscellars.com.


Wine Bytes

  • Celebrity Cruises has connected with wineries and special events to offer a one-of-a-kind “Leading Edge” Mobile Cinema Tour in select Southern California stops and elsewhere. This is a state-of-the-art custom-built 91-seat high definition mobile cinema including a 3-D animated reveal of Celebrity’s newest class of ships. Inside guests will enjoy beverages and gourmet truffle popcorn. Dates are complimentary although there may be a charge for festival entrances. See this show at the California Wine Festival  Saturday April 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. in Lantern Bay Park; the Newport Beach Film Festival April 20 to 27; and the California Wine Festival July 14 at Chase Palm Park in Santa Barbara. Details at com/edge/mobile-tours.
  • The Best of North County will be presented by San Diego Magazine in the Paddock  at the San Diego County Fairgrounds on April 21 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The top restaurants, breweries, wines and businesses in North County will participate. The cost is $80. Log on to com for further information.
  • North County Wine Company in San Marcos is bringing in noted winemaker from Coho Winery, Gary Lipp on April 21. Gary has made wine for some of the Napa Valley greats. Cost is $20 to taste through the five-wine lineup. Gary will appear from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For details, call (760) 653-9032.
  • Seasalt Seafood Bistro has Beringer wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma in a fine wine dinner, at 6 p.m. April 27. Entrees include Pan-seared Lamb Lollipop with a leading Beringer blend. Call at (858) 755-7100 to RSVP.



Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at http://tasteofwinetv.com.  And reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.


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