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Oregon’s Union Wine Company won’t dazzle you with the complexity of its wines, but they are well-made, clean, refreshing — and affordable. One line even gives you a choice of containers.
Union makes three brands of wine. The Underwood label is the least expensive and offers pinot noir and pinot gris in a bottle or a can that you can pop like a Pepsi and chug like a Corona. Kings Ridge is a step up, and Alchemist is the top label.
Overall, these are good — not "wow" — wines that are reliable, pleasant drinking and just generally well-made.
2012 Union Wine "Underwood" Oregon pinot noir ($5 per 375-milliliter can). Pretty good pinot with pungent, rooty aromas and a touch of pastel-like grapey-ness at the end.
2012 Union Wine "Underwood" Oregon pinot noir ($11). The bottle version is fairly close to the canned one, though perhaps it has a bit more-rounded cherry flavors.
My Pick of the Litter: 2012 Union Wine "Underwood" Oregon pinot gris ($5 per 375-milliliter can). Lots of soda-pop spritz helps make it a very refreshing, pear-flavored wine with some pineapple and lemon tastes blended in.
2012 Union Wine "Underwood" Oregon pinot gris. ($11) The bottle version doesn’t have the spritz, but it does have the balanced pear flavors and is very pleasant drinking.
2012 Union Wine "Kings Ridge" Willamette Valley pinot gris ($13). Another pear-flavored gris with a layer of chalky creaminess. Well-balanced and enjoyable.
2012 Union Wine Kings Ridge Willamette Valley riesling ($13). An interesting wine in that it has less of the typical riesling tastes, yet it provides the pleasant fruitiness one gets in biting into a white grape with some kiwi fruit flavors blended it. Good acidity and good balance.
2012 Union Wine Kings Ridge Willamette Valley pinot noir ($16). Enjoyable cherry flavors with a hint of graphite and some creaminess in the finish — nice drinking without being complex.
2012 Union Wine Alchemist Willamette Valley pinot noir ($23). Good fruitiness with cherry and cola flavors, some creaminess, long on the palate. Lightish in body, but still very flavorful.
Oregon’s 50 Best Wines of 2016
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Columbia Valley, Oregon, $35
A speed racer. Black currant. Joyful and sexy. Fruity without being jammy. A “Mediterranean diet” wine: nibble and drink, nibble and drink. Pair with: a mezze platter
8. Et Fille Wines
2013 Heredity Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $34
Brandied cherries. Spring herb garden. Clean mushrooms. Violets. Pair with: steak tartare
9. Furioso Vineyards
2014 L’Altra Linea Furioso Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $45
Toasted brown bread. Nutmeg and the rest of the baking spice drawer. Salted caramel. Pair with: deep conversations
10. Statera Cellars
2014 Corral Creek Vineyard Chardonnay.
Chehalem Mountains, $35
Mango. Green apple. Cool, fruity, and funky—with a wild streak. A modern New World wine, not trying to be Old World. Pair with: fish tacos with grilled pineapple
11. Björnson Vineyard
2013 Edward Pinot Noir.
Eola-Amity Hills, $40
Black tea and black olives. Herbaceous and complex. Pair with: osso buco
12. David Hill Vineyards & Winery
2015 Estate Gewürztraminer.
Willamette Valley, $18
Rose petals. Lychee. Classic, approachable. Aromatic without being perfumey. Pair with: Thai food
“Spice and floral notes with tropical aromatics and crystalline purity make it a really appealing gewürztraminer. Pair this with PaaDee’s chicken wings.”—Ksandek Podbielski, co-owner and wine director of Coquine
13. Willamette Valley Vineyards
2014 Estate Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $30
Inky dark. Plums and Chinese five spice. Shiitake mushrooms with soy. Pair with: Szechuan-style chicken
14. Beaux Frères
Yellow apples. Elegant. Muscular and rich, weighty without being heavy. Pair with: weeknight roast chicken
“This is for lovers of California white wines—a gateway drug to well-made Oregon-style chardonnay.” —Thomas Hebenstreit, wine director of Imperial and Headwaters
15. Coeur de Terre Vineyard
2013 Tallulah’s Run Reserve Pinot Noir.
Plums with cinnamon. Cola. Eucalyptus. Mint. Black earth. Pair with: Thanksgiving turkey
16. Seven of Hearts
2013 Rattlesnake Road Vineyard Tannat.
Columbia Valley, $29
Marionberry and plums. The bigness of cabernet sauvignon with the finesse of cabernet franc. Suave, broody, and inviting. Pair with: smoked meats and a cigar
17. Luminous Hills
2014 Estate Pinot Noir.
Structured, spicy, and deep. Hibiscus and dark blackberry. Musky and heavy. Pair with: roasted duck
18. Timothy Malone Wines
2015 Medici Vineyard Riesling.
Chehalem Mountains, $18
A pleasing balance of acid and sweet. Wet stone. Germanic style. Pair with: salty hard cheese and charcuterie 19.
19. Tyee Wine Cellars
2014 Estate Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $28
Strawberry jam. Prawn shells. Black olives. Licorice. Peppery nasturtium leaves. Pair with: roast chicken and artichokes
20. Maison Roy & Fils
2013 Petite Incline Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $35
Mossy earth. Plum sorbet. Campfire smoke. Pair with: s’mores, tent-side
21. Cowhorn Vineyard
2014 Marsanne Roussanne.
Applegate Valley, $35
A sweater-weather white. Ripe pear and apple. Pleasing nuttiness with bright acid. Pair with: roasted pork with saffron
22. Merriman Wines
2013 Estate Pinot Noir.
Hibiscus flowers. Cranberry and black cherry. Coastal air, briny and bright. Pair with: Dungeness crab
23. Division Winemaking Company
2015 Division-Villages Les Petits Fers Gamay Noir.
Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley, $22
Savory strawberry and bold black pepper. Buoyant and balanced. Pair with: braised beef and roasted squash
24. Longplay Wine
2013 Lucky 13 Pinot Noir.
Chehalem Mountains, $42
Spicy. Hitchcock films. Rosehips and tobacco. Makeout wine. Pair with: duck fried rice
25. Bethel Heights
2014 Casteel Chardonnay.
Eola– Amity Hills, $75
Minerality and spice. Hint of vanilla. Pair with: anything creamy and rich at St. Jack
26. de Lancellotti Family Vineyards
2014 Famiglia Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $40
Floral. Strawberry cotton candy. Wet earth. Butterscotch. Pair with: barbecue burnt ends
27. Maison Roy & Fils
2013 Incline Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $58
Clean and friendly. Ripe strawberry and tart cherry. Wet hay. Age-worthy. Pair with: grilled salmon
28. Franchere Wine Company
2014 Havlin Vineyard Grüner Veltliner.
Willamette Valley, $18
Pluots. Cardamom. Ginger skin. White soy sauce. Pour for: lovers of fino sherry
“This is great for people interested in trying something a little more experimental and esoteric.”
—Jessica Hereth, wine director of Olympia Provisions
29. Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards
2014 Reserve Pinot Gris.
Willamette Valley, $28
Farmyard flowers in the rain. Creamy lemon brioche. Bitter almond on the finish. Pair with: pizza bianca
30. Domaine Drouhin Oregon
2014 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.
Dundee Hills, $45
Graham cracker. Cherry cola. White pepper. Pair with: pork and mushrooms
31. Holden Wine Company
Willamette Valley, $23
Tart cherry and violets. Balanced aromatics: fruit, floral, wood. Pair with: prosciutto and peppered salami
32. Willamette Valley Vineyards
2014 Estate Chardonnay.
Willamette Valley, $30
Caramel apple saltwater taffy. Creamy with ripping acidity. Vanilla and white flowers with an underlying salinity. Pair with: oysters
33. Love & Squalor
Willamette Valley, $20
Grapefruit zest and crabapple. Mouth- watering acidity that makes your mouth pop. Earthy. Textural and aggressive. Pair with: choucroute garnie
34. Cana’s Feast
2015 Redman Vineyard Arneis.
Ribbon Ridge, $20
Green apple. Quietly floral. Everyday, summery wine. Flinty, like shattered rock dust. Pair with: linguine and clams with a caprese salad
35. Winter’s Hill Vineyard
2013 Block 10 Pinot Noir.
Dundee Hills, $49
Savory. Bay leaf and tomato. Lime zest and green pepper. Suede. A love-it-or-hate-it wine. Pair with: Tuesday-night pizza
36. Trisaetum Winery
2015 Pinot Noir Rosé.
Willamette Valley, $24
Gulpable. Cranberry apple cocktail. A rosé with dreams of being a red wine. Serve it cold and chug it. Pair with: fried chicken
37. Cowhorn Vineyard
Applegate Valley, $35
Jasmine-flavored Shock Tarts. Orange blossoms. Spicy and floral. Full of personality. Pair with: crab cakes with aioli
38. Day Wines
2014 Cancilla Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Willamette Valley, $40
Black tea and black cherry. Dr. Pepper. Fish sauce and seaweed. Pair with: Pad see ew
39. Longplay Wine
2015 Distortion Pinot Noir Rosé.
Chehalem Mountains, $20
Strawberries. Dusty rose petals. Prickly acidity. Pair with: porchetta sandwiches
40. Statera Cellars
2014 Johan Vineyard Chardonnay.
Willamette Valley, $35
A Netflix-and-chill wine. Wet rocks behind a waterfall. Tart lemon. Clean and refreshing. Pair with: Game of Thrones
41. Viola Wine Cellars
2014 Dugger Creek Vineyard Barbera in Barrique.
Walla Walla Valley (Oregon), $32
Succulent and savory. Red berries and soft herbs. Pipe tobacco. Made for year-round drinking. Pair with: your Friendsgiving potluck
42. Elk Cove Vineyards
2014 Mount Richmond Pinot Noir.
Plum and nectarine. Black cherry. Big and robust. Pair with: grass-fed-beef burgers
43. Coeur de Terre Vineyard
2015 Rustique Rosé.
Delicately savory. Salted watermelon. Barbecue ready. Pair with: ribs and watermelon feta salad
44. Ore Winery
2014 Griffin Creek
Vineyard Sangiovese. Rogue Valley, $28
Inky and mercurial. Steak-house wine. Bravado. Tart red fruit and spice. Pair with: black pepper steak
45. Maison Roy & Fils
2014 Petite Incline Pinot Noir.
Pitch-black, ripe black currants and blackberries. A big red lover’s pinot—the new ‘Welcome to Oregon’ wine. Pair with: dark chocolate
46. Clay Pigeon Winery
2015 Maresh Vineyard Pinot Gris.
Dundee Hills, $19
Green apple, with a touch of sweetness. A wine geek’s pinot gris with a nod to the Alsatian style. Pair with: Thanksgiving’s first courses
47. Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards
2013 Timnah Bloc Prayer Rock Vineyard Tempranillo.
Umpqua Valley, $29
Long and strong. Keeps you coming back. Pair with: late-summer barbecue
48. Woven Wineworks
2014 No. 4 Covey Ridge Vineyard Pinot Gris.
Willamette Valley, $20
Grapefruit. Mild citrus. Nutty richness. Pair with: picnic in the park with friends
49. Franchere Wine Company
2014 Havlin Vineyard Syrah.
Willamette Valley, $24
Bright, dark fruit. Tart acidity. Leather. Earth. Pair with: lamb gyros
50. Rock Point Wines
2014 River Rock White.
Rogue Valley, $11
Roses and hops. Ocean air with a touch of sweetness. Drink on a hot day. Pair with: an ice cube
This Year’s Tasting Panel
Anne Scalamonti (Departure), Valerie Carrasco (La Moule), Colin Howard (Oso Market), Salvador Bethencourt (Roe), Ksandek Podbielski (Coquine), Carrie Wynkoop (Cellar 503), Drew Duggan (Andina), Cana Flug (Besaw’s), Brent Braun (Castagna), Lynn Helmel (Irving Street Kitchen), Thomas Hebenstreit (Imperial & Headwaters), Jessica Hereth (Olympia Provisions)
Dessert wines to drink after dinner
Wine is rapidly becoming the drink of choice among Americans. Not only is the number of people drinking wine increasing, the number of wines on the market is also on the rise. Experts estimate that, by 2015, Americans may even drink more wine than the French! No doubt you are familiar with the usual reds and whites, but did you know that there is also a category of wines that are sweet enough to replace your favorite dessert? Dessert wines are luscious after-dinner drinks that will linger on your palate more deliciously than any mousse, cake or pie. You’ve got to try one! Read on to learn more about these lovely sweet wines.
Dessert wines bring a novel and luscious end to a meal
Debra and Keith Gordon, authors of Wine on Tuesdays, are passionate about wine and want to foster your passion too. They believe wine is fun, fresh and meant to be enjoyed at all times – that includes at dessert.
Sure it’s easier to order the cheesecake, chocolate mousse or apple pie, but chances are you’ve already had them a time or two. What’s novel about that? Why not savoringly sip a sweet, full-flavored dessert wine, instead?
What is dessert wine?
In a word, ambrosia. The Gordons say that there is actually no clear definition of a dessert wine, but that these sweeter, full-flavored wines provide an ambrosial completion to the meal they follow. This is unlike the more acidic, lighter wines enjoyed during a meal. Acidic wines open the palate, sweet wines close it.
Typically, dessert wines are sold in half-bottles. The smaller quantity reflects the way these sweet wines are to be drank. You sip – not gulp – small amounts of a dessert wine after a meal. And packaging the wine in a smaller bottle means there is less wine to spoil before it is all drunk.
You can purchase your own bottles of dessert wines as well as order a glass at some of the more upscale restaurants. Following are the different types of dessert wines that you can try after your next evening meal.
Late Harvest Wines
According to the Gordons, late harvest wines come from grapes that are left on the vine longer than those picked for regular wines. The grapes are able to achieve higher levels of sugar, which means they also have higher levels of alcohol.
Dessert wines pair impeccably with fruit tarts or crÃ¨me brulee, but they are just as satisfying sipped on their own.
The Gordons suggest German Auslese, Beernauslese (only produced three out of every 10 years), and Trockenbeerenauslese (which has more sugar and alcohol). Look for dessert wines made by Wegeler-Deinhard, Pauly-Bergweiler, Dr H Thanish, Selback-Oster, and Schloss Saarstein.
Late harvest wines are also available from Washington, Oregon and Virginia.
Considered a very late harvest wine, ice wines are made from grapes that actually freeze on the vine. They are picked in the early morning hours (usually between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.) and then crushed.
According to the Gordons, ice wines are even sweeter than younger late harvest wines and they are ideal for aging. Ice wines are also more expensive than younger late harvest wines.
The most common grapes used in ice wines are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon. These wines exude notes of honey, apricot, butterscotch, and spice, countered with a crisp acidity.
You will be surprised to find out that one of the finest wines in the world is made from a fungus that rots grapes. The Gordons explain that late in the growing season, Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc grapes left on the vine develop a fungus called botrytis cinerea, also known as “noble rot.”
The clusters of grapes shrivel like raisins and become highly concentrated in sugar. Once harvested, the grapes are turned into some of the most prized, long-lived wines in the world. What makes Sauternes so special is their clean flavor, complexity and balance. Their sweetness lingers on the palate long after you’ve finished your glass.
The Gordons recommend Tokaij of Hungary, German Trockenbeerenauslese, and, hands down, French Sauternes. Specifically, Chateau D’Yquem, Guirand, Rieussec, D’Arche and Lamothe. These are quite pricey, but worth the experience.
Drink your dessert
Once you start sampling dessert wines, with or without a perfectly paired dessert, you may just find that you’d rather drink dessert than eat it.
Debra and Keith Gordon want you to comfortably reach for a glass of dessert wine and enjoy it. Their book Wine on Tuesdays gives you a history of wine, explains the different varietals and food pairings, and provides shopping and ordering tips. Wine on Tuesdays is not a complicated stuffy book. It gives you an understandable approach to exploring the many types of wine as well as the confidence to buy, order and drink America’s new favorite drink.
Natalia Ortega Gil Fournier of O.Fournier
What she does: After working in human resources and as a consultant, Natalia changed it all up and went into business to start O.Fournier Group, a winery she shares with her brother and father. As the brand ambassador for O.Fournier in the Ribera region of Spain, Natalia gets to talk all wine, all the time.
Her pick: The Urban Ribera or the Spiga
Why they're so good: "To choose my favorite wine is as difficult as to choose my favorite child. The Urban Ribera is fun and direct, the Spiga is more elegant and with a richer 'conversation'&mdashevery sip smells and taste different like if the wine will want to talk to you. For a casual day I will choose the Urban, for a nice dinner with my husband, I will choose the Spiga."
The 50 Best Wines of 2020
2020 has been a year like no other at VinePair, in wine country, and beyond. But despite, or perhaps because of, the uncertainty this year has brought, the VinePair team has tasted thousands of wines over the last 12 months.
To help our readers discover wonderful new wines to help ring in the all-too-welcome new year, we’re sharing the 50 best wines we’ve tasted in 2020.
From screw-capped bottles for easy opening at socially distanced picnics, to high-end wines that can be delivered to our doors, these selections have met the unexpected needs of our newfound Covid-19 lifestyles.
This Is The Last Corkscrew You’ll Ever Buy
As travel has been restricted during the majority of this year, we’ve taken the opportunity to explore the world through wine. We traveled through Europe, stopping in Spain, Greece, Austria, France, and, most notably, Italy. In fact, three of our top 10 wines this year are from Sicily, a region that impressed us more than any other this year.
South Africa also impressed us with its offerings in 2020, with three wines from the nation making it onto our list. This comes after South African wine country was been hit particularly hard by the ongoing pandemic, and strict lockdown measures meant bans on the sale and distribution of alcohol. The bans have since been lifted, meaning that alcohol, including wine, can now once again be sold, but it is going to take some wineries a long time to recover.
Fires yet again devastated parts of California wine country in 2020. The immense impact this had on its wine regions and communities emphasizes that drinking wines from the state to enjoy and support its winemaking regions is tantamount. We’ve consumed some lovely bottles from the Golden State, from Merlot (sorry, “Sideways”), to Petite Sirah, to Zinfandel and Chardonnay. These selections show just how diverse and delicious California wine country can be.
We also continued to explore the diversity of America’s less heralded wine regions, and were consistently impressed by Finger Lakes, Oregon, and particularly, Virginia offerings.
All wines on this list have been tasted and reviewed by VinePair’s tasting panel. We compiled an exhaustive list of our favorite wines this year, then whittled it down to 50 based on quality, value, and availability in the U.S.
Though our wine reviews helped guide our initial list of contenders, the selections here encompass multiple rounds of socially distanced sampling, concluding with a final tasting and ranking at the VinePair HQ.
Here are VinePair’s 50 best wines of 2020, tasted and ranked.
50. Loveblock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($20)
Winemaker Kim Crawford left the eponymous Kim Crawford Wines behind to start this new venture, Loveblock, which specializes in organic and sustainably made wines. This Sauvignon Blanc is widely available and enjoyable, with aromas of freshly cut grass, notes of green bell pepper, and balanced acidity. This wine demonstrates the qualities that have made Marlborough famous for its Sauvignon Blanc.
49. Weingut Prieler Johanneshöhe Blaufränkisch 2017 ($16)
A crowd-pleasing Austrian Blaufränkisch, this wine has good acidity and medium depth. It is juicy yet spicy, and is best enjoyed chilled. At $16, this wine will please the palate without breaking the bank.
48. Sottimano Mate Rosso 2019 ($17)
This sweet and spicy Brachetto is an incredible bang for your buck. It has a grip on the palate and smells like sweet desserts mixed with herbs. It is best when chilled in the fridge, and can be paired with any carpaccio — veggie, meat, or fish.
47. Treleaven Cabernet Franc 2019
Proof that Cabernet Franc can thrive in New York, this wine from the Finger Lakes region has inviting cherry and soil aromas, and is vibrant and juicy on the palate. This is another red that’s best served chilled (and paired with a burger).
46. Cristom ‘Mt. Jefferson Cuvee’ Pinot Noir 2018 ($36)
Whether you age this for a few years or drink it now, this Pinot Noir is sure to please. It has density and lift, with great acidity and a rich fruit core. Pair it with honey-roasted duck, or drink it on its own.
45. Espectacle del Montsant 2017 ($110)
This Spanish offering is very balanced for having such high alcohol — 15.5 percent ABV, that is. It has intense black and blueberry flavors, with a slight waft of this variety’s inherent orange peel aroma. The tannins are apparent, but woven into the texture of the wine. This, along with its brilliant acidity, keeps everything in harmony.
44. Alois Lageder ‘Riff’ Pinot Grigio 2019 ($10)
This is a prime candidate for your new go-to, under-$20 Pinot Grigio. With its screw-cap bottle, ripe fruit aromas, and zippy flavor, this bottle is easy to drink and can fit almost any occasion — and would be an ideal case-buy.
43. Ridgecrest Estate Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($24)
The Willamette Valley is so much more than a Pinot Noir region, and this Grüner Veltliner is proof of that. It has a subtle depth and lovely acidity, with aromas of citrus and pear. It has a creamy mouthfeel and just the right grip on the palate. If you love Riesling, give this bottle a try.
42. Eberle Barbera 2018 ($36)
With its heavy oak influence, this is a fantastic wine for whiskey lovers. It has aromas of sweet pastries and fresh soil, subtle tannins, and a soft fruity center. This is a bottle to decant and sip slowly on a Sunday afternoon, paired with a charcuterie board.
41. Adelaida Rosé 2019 ($28)
From Paso Robles, Calif., this rosé is complex and drinks like a red wine. Fruity aromas are offset by layers of dried herbs, while the wine grips the palate and has a deep enough flavor to pair with a decadent cheese board, roasted chicken, or duck.
40. Flowers Sonoma Coast Rosé 2019 ($30)
From the Sonoma Coast, this is a great wine for summer sipping. It’s extremely refreshing and has some depth on the palate, which is unique for a rosé.
39. Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque – Fleur de Champagne Millesime Brut 2012 ($174)
Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque deserves a place on your “splurge” list (or wish list). Lychee, creamy lemon curd, and crusty sourdough flavors pop on the palate, while this is a very well-made, very drinkable Champagne. This is a prestige cuvée that’s not as well known as others — like Krug and Dom Pérignon — but is one that we think should be on your radar.
38. Beau Rivage Chenin Blanc 2017 ($28)
From Clarksburg, Calif. comes this slightly tart Chenin Blanc reminiscent of sliced apple tart desserts. It grips the palate with river-rock minerality, while green apple and lime aromas keep it zesty and bright.
37. Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2017 ($28)
Virginia wines have been a favorite among the VinePair team this year, and this bottle is no exception. This versatile Cabernet Franc is delicious both chilled and at room temperature. It has a soft, earthy fruit core and brambly blackberry aromas, along with hints of cooked meat and cracked black pepper.
36. Gundlach-Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2019 ($21)
Bright aromas of honey, pears, white flowers, and black pepper hit the nose, followed by a frothy mouthfeel and vibrant palate. This Sonoma Coast Gewürztraminer is one for dry Riesling lovers — balanced, drinkable, and a perfect accompaniment to spicy dishes like hot wings or vindaloo.
35. Bodegas Avancia Godello 2019 ($29)
Godello is an overlooked Spanish white variety that deserves a spot on your radar. If you’ve never tried it, start with this bottle. With aromas of sliced pear and a bouquet of white flowers, this wine will make you thirsty and also, somehow, quench your thirst. It is alive with vibrant acidity and the texture of tiny fizziness. The alcohol is a bit high, so we recommend pairing this bottle with food.
34. Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2015 ($21)
Drink and enjoy this red blend any season. In the summer, chill it in the fridge and its tart and juicy flavors will sing with beef carpaccio. In the colder months, sip it at cellar or room temperature and pair it with steamy venison. Either way, this wine will shine. It smells like cherries and freshly turned soil, and rests on the palate with the same. It has a slight chewy feel that can hold up to protein.
33. Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2017 ($35)
Deliciously lean, bright, and fresh, this Russian River Valley Chardonnay has great levels of acidity while rich fruit comes through on the palate, along with some oak and buttery notes to balance things out.
32. EnRoute Brumaire Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($42)
Butterscotch, banana chips, vanilla, and just the right amount of oak float on the nose of this smoothie and easy-drinking, yet complex Chardonnay. It practically begs for a California pairing like goat cheese and arugula salad with walnuts, or grilled chicken. As our tastings director says, this wine is “the future of American Chardonnay.”
31. Château Peyrassol Côtes de Provence 2019 ($35)
White flowers and strawberries leap from the glass as you swirl and sniff (do it!). The palate is structured and slightly drying, yet still juicy, fruity, and refreshing. With additional flavors of wet rocks, white pepper, and red fruit, this wine was by far the most outstanding rosé we tasted this year.
30. Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Ultra Brut 2015 ($46)
Pop this Napa sparkler when you’re craving Champagne but don’t have that Champagne cash. Or even if you do. It starts with a welcoming nose of brioche, flaky pastry and soft, earthy fruit. Following that, a firm grip on the palate, with vibrant bubbles and a heightened perception of acidity cleanses the palate. It’s a joy to drink, so don’t wait too long for the right moment.
29. Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel 2018 ($48)
From Robert Biale Vineyards, a Napa winery known for its Zinfandel, this wine is a great gift for an outdoor party or your next barbecue. It is balanced, full-bodied, and has notes of oak and ripe blackberries.
28. Ferrari Brut NV ($25)
Made with Chardonnay grown in the Dolomites, this is elegant bubbly that will make you put down the Champagne for a while. It’s also extremely affordable compared to its French counterpart, and widely available, too — meaning it can be part of any celebration, or if you’re like us, a Wednesday night.
27. Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2017 ($39)
A wonderful representation of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. It’s impeccably balanced, elegant yet powerful, and not overly acidic. It fills the palate with cherry, white pepper, and cinnamon flavors, pleasurable to the very last sip.
26. Clos Mogador ‘Com Tu’ 2016 ($43)
A great, crowd-pleasing red that is soft, going on supple, with a slight savory depth. The palate is bright, with a good level of acidity and a fruity core. It finishes with a subtle scent of orange peel and whiff of cinnamon.
25. Iconic Wines Sidekick Merlot 2017 ($18)
For those who think they don’t like Merlot: Don’t miss this. This is a great California red composed predominantly of Merlot, with 15 percent Cabernet Franc. The soft, plush textures of Merlot wash over the palate, while a warming perception of wood smoke and cedar swim through the wine, mingling with cracked black pepper. We recommend pairing this wine with a lean steak or roasted chicken. You may have to purchase this bottle online, but it’s 2020 — what are we not getting delivered?
24. Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage Calendes 2016 ($34)
An excellent example of Northern Rhône Syrah, this wine is filled with blackberry, smoke, and minerality. It’s beautifully delicate on the palate, and is quite affordable for the quality.
23. Inama Bradisismo Rosso Veneto IGT 2016 ($28)
This is the kind of wine that doesn’t come along often. It’s a unique, balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère. This deep, soulful red wine will welcome you with the subtle smell of white pepper and herbs, washed over by the sweet savoriness of aged balsamic and the tartness of currant jam. Try it with some grilled lamb, and thank us later.
22. Long Meadow Ranch Farmstead Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($33)
This is as “California Cab” as it gets. It’s balanced, with just the right level of acidity and focused fruit. Aromas of vanilla and oak are present but not overpowering. Note that you may have to buy this wine online, as it’s not yet widely available in stores. It is more than worth the wait.
21. Livio Felluga Friulano 2018 ($26)
This Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, is generous with tart fruit, soft acidity, and slight weight on the palate. It’s a wintry white, with perfumey, floral aromas followed by salty, buttery notes on the palate. This wine is sure to please Chardonnay lovers.
20. Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 ($52)
A great representation of how full-bodied California Chardonnay should feel and taste, this wine is big and grips the palate with a significant amount of acid and oak. But that intensity doesn’t overwhelm, and ends with a medium finish. If you love great Chardonnay, this bottle is worth the price tag.
19. Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2019 ($21)
The nose on this wine is full of floral, honey, and citrus notes that will awaken your senses. Punchy on the palate, it’ll make you want to pair it with a light and spicy snack, like baked fish with curry spices. Its frothy acidity is just alive enough to balance the fruity depth.
18. Mullineux ‘Kloof Street’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2019 ($17)
A South African selection, this Swartland Chenin Blanc is incredibly balanced, with great acidity and a bit of salinity. It’s an amazing value for the price, and is another variety that Chardonnay fans will be sure to love. It’s bright and fresh, and would be a great foil for anything fried, like fish and chips.
17. Chêne Bleu ‘Abelard’ 2012 ($80)
From the Rhône Valley, this Grenache and Syrah blend starts savory, with a whiff of black pepper. It’s a bit tannic, but the wine is drinking well now. Aromas of cooking herbs like rosemary and oregano, as well as brambly berries, give this wine an autumnal feel, making it an ideal pairing for a holiday meal.
16. La Cana Navia Albariño 2017 ($26)
This coastal white will please Sauvignon Blanc fans with its fruity character and pronounced salinity, but also offers the richness of a great Chardonnay. Its depth of flavor plays off the aromas of pear, honeysuckle, and white pepper. It would pair wonderfully with oysters, or linguini with clams.
15. Massaya Blanc 2018 ($17)
From Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, this is a great everyday summer white with an even better story behind it. Massaya is owned by the Sami Ghosn, whose family fled their homeland in 1975 during a civil war, leaving behind their beloved winery. He came back to Lebanon in 1992 to reclaim his family’s estate, now releasing six wines each year. It smells like a meadow and is creamy and floral on the palate. It is widely available, and pairs well with any Mediterranean food.
14. Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2016 ($44)
Hailing from Franschhoek, South Africa, this Semillon is like nothing we’ve tasted from the region. (Semillon doesn’t even feature in the top 10 planted varieties in the nation, and when it is grown, this grape is typically used as a blending variety.) This wine proves it can be delicious on its own. It is light, bright, well balanced, age-worthy, and will quench your thirst. With aromas of honey and roasted almonds, it pairs with almost anything, from light salads to heavy holiday meals. It’s time for more people to recognize the awesome things South African Semillon is capable of. (Chenin Blanc, who?)
13. Venturini Baldini ‘Ca’ del Vento’ Lambrusco Rosato NV ($18)
Put aside your preconceived notions of Lambrusco and taste this Italian sparkler. With soft, tart fruit on the palate, this wine is edging on sweet without being saccharine. It’s incredibly sessionable, and is sure to make any occasion a special occasion. Pair this wine with pizza or fried chicken to really take it to the next level.
12. Denner Vineyards Dirt Worshipper 2018 ($62)
A Paso Robles interpretation of the Northern Rhône blend of Syrah, Viognier, and Roussanne, Dirt Worshipper has the slightly meaty character of the Old World style, but adds a New World dose of oak. With a nod to its classic inspiration, this wine establishes itself as distinctly “California.” It is balanced and expressive. On the nose, it is vibrant and earthy, with a contrast of herbs and bright, fruit-forward aromas. With its peppery, oak-influenced flavors, this bottle is ideal for any lamb dish — though you might not want to share either.
11. Ar.Pe.Pe. Rosso di Valtellina 2017 ($37)
This wine represents everything there is to love about Nebbiolo. It grips the palate with bright acidity so high, the cherry aromas carry from the nose to the palate. Though we typically associate Nebbiolo with regions like Barolo, Barbaresco, and Langhe, this selection was grown in the high altitudes of an Alpine valley in Lombardy in steep, rocky soils — which means it worked hard to be wonderful.
10. Evening Land ‘Seven Springs Vineyard’ Gamay Noir 2018 ($37)
A fun, fantastic pick from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this Gamay Noir hits the nose with tart fruit and sour cherry aromas, and lands on the palate with intense acidity and a bit of sweetness. It is juicy, tart, and slightly fizzy, and would do best slightly chilled and paired with a loaded rare cheeseburger.
9. Tornatore Etna Rosso 2017 ($23)
Pinot Noir fans will covet this Sicilian red made in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, with its inviting aromas of strawberry jam and soil. This wine has bright acidity and a slight tannic grip, making it an ideal pairing for barbecue. It’s not often we come across wine of this quality at this price range.
8. Southold Farm + Cellar ‘All Things Go’ 2018 ($35)
It doesn’t get more “Texas” than this wine. It hits the nose with spicy-sweet aromas of pineapple salsa and pickled chili peppers. It grips the palate with pickley, peppery salinity and zest. We’ve never tasted anything quite like it. We can’t think of a better pairing for carnitas tacos from the spit, pineapple juice dripping, and corn tortillas hot from the grill. (Did somebody say TexMex?)
7. Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Brut Nature Millesime 2012 ($85)
This no-dosage Champagne is extremely balanced. It’s also a vintage Champagne, meaning it was produced with grapes from a single harvest — adding to this bottle’s uniqueness. We believe that this bottle represents a trend in the direction that Champagne is moving — both the wine and the label are fun, accessible, and memorable. Louis Roederer is a large, established Champagne house, yet this wine shows that the brand knows where its customers are. And at a sub-$100 price, this is a great bottle to pop for your next special occasion.
6. Thacher Shell Creek Vineyards Highlands District Valdiguié 2018 ($36)
Fans of Pinot Noir and Beaujolais looking to step outside their comfort zones will want to make this their new go-to. Valdiguié was once called Napa Gamay, but is actually from southern France. Regardless of its name or similarities to other grapes, this wine proves its own worth with notes of bright berry fruit, soil, and cinnamon vibrant acidity and balance. We recommend chilling this bottle down a bit and pairing with a charcuterie board.
5. Luis Seabra ‘Xisto Ilimitado’ Branco 2018 ($27)
This is new-wave Portuguese wine that perfectly represents the terroir in which it was made. This bottle demonstrates the amazing value of wines from this region, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It has bright acidity and minerality on the nose. The palate is briny yet floral, making this wine endlessly drinkable. If you see this wine, buy a bottle (or even a case) — this is a great wine at a great price.
4. Planeta Frappato Vittoria DOC 2018 ($22)
Planeta is a family owned winery in Sicily, focusing on sustainable winemaking practices. The family has been making some of the best wines in Italy ever since Patricia Toth became the winemaker in 2008. Aromas like rose petals, strawberries, and orange blossoms hit the nose, followed by a soft, creamy texture on the palate. One sip, and this little-known Sicilian grape just may become a newfound favorite. As it opens up, this wine continues to surprise the palate, introducing new flavors and aromas with each sip. To get the most out of this wine, we recommend chilling it before serving.
3. Giovanni Rosso Etna Bianco DOC 2018 ($34)
From the slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily, this wine was produced by Giovanni Rosso, a family-owned winery from Piedmont specializing in red wines made from Nebbiolo. However, we were impressed by the family’s white selection they are making on Mt. Etna in Sicily, offering a white Burgundy-quality wine, sans the white Burgundy price. It’s extremely balanced, refreshing, and has great acidity. With its kiss of oak, it will surely be a newfound favorite of Chardonnay lovers looking to try something different.
2. Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 ($44)
Pinot Noir from Virginia? Absolutely. Of all the wines we tasted this year, this one surprised us the most. Produced at a very small family vineyard in Amherst, Va., owned by a husband and wife who make the wine with their son, this Pinot was aged for 10 months in French oak. The palate is beautifully grippy and intense, and the finish is unbelievably bright and refreshing. This wine is the best American Pinot Noir we’ve tasted this year, and it may have been ranked No. 1 had it not been such a small production. Although this wine is DTC (direct-to-consumer) only, with just 140 cases produced, we strongly recommend you try to find it (and thank us later).
1. Alpha Estate Vieilles Vignes Single Block Reserve Xinomavro 2016 ($37)
Located in Macedonia in northwestern Greece, Alpha Estate has been creating delicious, sustainably made wines since 1997. This wine practically defines balance: The acidity is nearly perfect, letting the tart fruit flavors sing without overwhelming the palate the texture is rich yet refreshing and not overly tannic and it hugs the palate with notes of fruit and pepper. With flavors similar to Barolo, but at a much better value, this wine can be enjoyed now or aged in your cellar for a few more years. Either way, it is sure to be a memorable one.
Don't Underestimate Canned Wine&mdashHere Are 19 You're Sure To Love
Somewhere between the boxed wine of your college days and fancy bottles packed away in neat gift bags lies canned wine. The increasingly trendy boozy bev is easy to carry, usually low-budget, and makes for the perfect party contribution. From reds to whites to rosés, these are some of our favorites.
With only 100 calories and zero grams of sugar, Babe's new canned rosé with bubbles if perfect for those who prefer the light freshness of a hard seltzer. Each can amounts to one full glass of wine and has a 6.9 percent ABV. Plus, the lavender and hot pink cans are so vibrant!
Consider Beach Juice the best rosé of summer. It has the perfect blend of strawberries, cranberries, and watermelon, and is so Instagrammable.
The champagne you definitely stocked up on during college is now available in a can. Buy the classic Brut can (it has notes of pear and lemon, in case you were wondering) or the Brut Rosé can. Take it poolside, to the beach, or to a party. wherever you need a little bubbly, really.
Okay, technically this is a beer, but we're counting it because it's a rosé-style ale with hibiscus and prickly pear. It's your two fav alcoholic drinks in one!
The masterminds behind the hilarious "White Girl Rosé" bottles also have super cute cans to buy, including this Bubbly Babe Rosé. They come in four-packs, FYI!
MOVO wine spritzers add unique flavors to the wine that make them *so* refreshing. Each pack comes with Peach White Blend, Raspberry Rosé, and Blood Orange Sangria wine spritzers at just 100 calories per can.
It's cute, it's pink, and it's rosé. what more could you ask for in a canned wine? Yes Way Rosé pairs well with seafood, salad, and bbq (but we'll drink it with anything, tbh).
All Lila cans are naturally gluten-free and come in flavors like sparkling, rosé, and pinot grigio.
Portland-based Union Wine Company has the coolest packaging. The fact that it's a great tasting rosé that will convince you of the drink's post-summer potential.
You know it, you love it, you definitely drank it in college. Cupcake Vineyards has
created cans of its Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé for poolside or summer barbecue sipping. The best part of these beautiful little cans? They're filled with 350 milliliters of wine, which is exactly half of Cupcake's standard bottles. Cheers to that.
Best Overall: Dark Horse Brut Bubbles
- Region: California
- ABV: 12%
- Tasting Notes: Very fizzy, Bright citrus, Tart green apple, Poached pears
Leading the pack here is the Brut Bubbles wine from the aptly named Dark Horse. You may not have heard of Dark Horse before, one taste of this wine, and they’ll be hard to forget.
Primarily a chardonnay-driven sparkling white, the Brut Bubbles is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve the surreal freshness. You can wait for an occasion to celebrate or simply celebrate the wine itself. A lovely pairing with fried foods, this dark horse is hot to trot—be warned that this is a 375ml can, and hence HALF a bottle of wine. Don’t pull an amateur move and crush the entire can five minutes after popping the top, unless you’re planning on a post-lunch two-hour nap.
COLORADO: Balistreri Vineyards in Denver
Emma W./ Yelp
One of the best-known wineries in Denver, Balistreri is lauded for its wine-making process. The grapes are sourced from both Colorado and California to produce the signature "big reds," and the winery prides itself in fermenting the wines with indigenous yeasts to preserve the integrity of the fruits. There aren't any sulfates or other chemicals used to aid in the fermentation process either, and the wines are not filtered or fined. Instead, they are bottled by the barrel.
3 Unique Oregon Wines You Must Try This Summer
Famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Oregon wine scene has gained worldwide recognition in recent years. However, there’s more to Oregon wine than those two well-known varietals, and I’ve found the ideal winery to expand your Oregon wine horizons.
Bells Up Winery is a micro-boutique winery located in the heart of Oregon wine country.
Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Dave and Sara Specter, this winery showcases passion, expertise, and creativity in wine. I had the opportunity to visit Bells Up Winery in May 2019 and was totally awe inspired by The Specter’s approach to wine…one that pays homage to the tradition of the Willamette Valley while pushing the limits with unique, unfamiliar, one-of-a-kind wines.
Dave and Sara Specter, owners, winemaker (Dave), “Money Honey” (Sara), and visionaries behind Bells Up Winery.
A tasting flight at Bells Up will introduce you to varietals that the average wine drinker has probably never tried. Of course, there are also some standout Pinot Noirs on the menu too (my personal favorite is the Titan Pinot Noir). This summer I had the opportunity to revisit some of the more unique Bells Up wines which only made me fall in love with the beauty of Oregon wine even more.
We recently paired a bottle of Bells Up Titan Pinot Noir with an ocean view…and it was perfect.
Keep reading for information on these unique wine varietals and food pairing recommendations for each bottle!
First up, the 2019 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc.
For those who enjoy a full-bodied wine with lots of minerality, the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc is for you. The first sip is so flavorful it will leave you speechless…and then you will quickly realize how phenomenal a well-made white wine can be.
The Rhapsody Pinot Blanc features balanced acidity, tongue-tingling minerality, and flavors of citrus—I picked up on lots of lemon and lime—on the palate. The aroma is reminiscent of ripe peaches, and the mouthfeel is smooth and luxurious. There’s so much going on in this wine that every sip feels like a party in your mouth.
The pale-colored, flavor-packed Rhapsody Pinot Blanc ready to be served alongside this unique Greek-inspired dinner.
The Pinot Blanc varietal is a mutation of Pinot Noir best known for producing dry white wines. It is most commonly grown in Germany and Italy, and is often associated with Franciacorta sparklers. Pinot Blank is considered an uncommon varietal in general, so to find a 100% Pinot Blanc wine in the United States makes Bells Up Rhapsody Pinot Blanc even more special. I already can’t wait to get my hands on another bottle of this lavish white wine.
I paired the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc with a stewed Greek lamb recipe and some homemade flat breads. The rich lamb, salty olives, creamy feta, and tart lemon in the dish paired perfectly with the Rhapsody. I truly didn’t want this meal to end…and I surely didn’t want that bottle to run out!
You really can’t go wrong with a fabulous Oregon wine accompanying a flavorful meal. The Rhapsody Pinot Blanc was pure perfection! The Rhapsody also pairs very well with an episode of Schitt’s Creek, another summer obsession of mine! I just have a feeling David would be all about this Pinot Blanc…
Here’s the specs for the 2019 Rhapsody Pinot Blanc:
Production: 51 cases
Clones: 100% Pinot Blanc produced from 12-year vines
Harvest: September 26, 2019
Harvest Brix: 20.9
Cooperage: Aged sur lie 6 months in stainless steel
Bottled: March 2, 2020
Released: April 1, 2020
My next Bells Up summer sample was the 2019 Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir. This rosé is a standout not only for its flavor, but for its beautiful, unique, ruby color. I’ve never seen a rosé so vibrant as the Bells Up Prelude!
Admittedly, I love to soak in the color and aroma of this wine before ever taking a sip. The color of this beautiful rosé is a result of the liquid soaking on the skins of the Pinot Noir grapes for just 48 hours before being pressed and then undergoing fermentation. (To learn more about how rosé wines get their wide variety of hues, check out my blog post that explains the methods of rosé production here.)
Me photographing the beautiful Prelude Rosé last summer at the Bells Up vineyard. It’s been one of my favorite wines ever since!
The aroma of the Bells Up Prelude reminds me of ripe red berries, which suits the color of the wine perfectly. The first sip will showcase the flavor of strawberry layered upon subtle citrus notes. The Prelude is a full-bodied rosé, enhanced by six months of barrel aging in neutral French oak.
My featured pairing in a recent Zoom cooking class I hosted was Bells Up Prelude Rosé of Pinot Noir with my Mediterranean Farro Salad. It was a wonderful way to showcase one of my favorite wineries alongside one of my favorite recipes!
I featured the Bells Up Prelude in a recent Zoom cooking class I hosted (hello, COVID activity!), and paired this fabulous rosé with my Mediterranean Farro Salad recipe. The fruit-forward, balanced profile of the Prelude is a perfect complement to the subtle sweetness of the shrimp and the herbaceous quality of the Farro salad. (Hint: grab a bottle of the Prelude online and serve it alongside my Mediterranean Farro Salad recipe for a light, fresh, summery meal!)
For all the wine geeks, here’s the specs on the 2019 Prelude!
Production: 99 cases
Clones: 50% Pommard: 6-year vines 50% 667: 6-year vines
Harvest: September 29, 2019
Harvest Brix: 23.2
Cooperage: Aged 6-months in neutral French oak
Bottled: April 10, 2020
Released: April 20, 2020
Last but certainly not least, I pulled the cork off the Bells Up 2019 Helios Estate Seyval Blanc on a warm, summer afternoon.
Chilled to perfection and refreshing as ever, the Helios was a perfect mid-afternoon wind down drink. The Seyval Blanc is pale in color and lighter-bodied than the previous two wines. This acid-driven wine balances its tart mouthfeel with aromas of citrus fruit and flavors of candied lemon and bitter orange alongside subtle minerality. This wine has “day drinking” written all over it…pair it with a light snack and some sunny weather and you’re set.
The look, aroma, and taste of the Bells Up Helios Seyval Blanc is crisp, clear, refreshing, and oh-so-satisfying.
Speaking of pairings, I must admit this recommendation may seem a bit odd at first, but give it a try before you judge! I sipped my Helios Seyval Blanc while snacking on some dill pickle-flavored popcorn from Trader Joe’s. I don’t really even like dill pickles, but there was something about how the tangy popcorn played off the bright, vibrant flavors of the Helios that simply worked. Just goes to show you that not every pairing has to be fancy, right?!
There is is, dill pickle-flavored popcorn with a fabulous and totally unique Oregon wine. Wine drinking doesn’t always have to be a fancy pastime!
Seyval Blanc is a very uncommon wine varietal in the western United States. Believe it or not, it actually grows quite well in England, and also has a presence in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York as well as Canada. While Bells Up Helios Seyval Blanc is acid-driven and fruity, you may see Seyval Blanc featured in late harvest or Eiswein-style dessert wines in other parts of the world. Bells Up is home to the Willamette Valley’s first planting of Seyval Blanc, and only the second in the state of Oregon, making it a hidden gem of Oregon wine country!
View through a wine glass…I was getting a little artsy during this Helios photoshoot!
Here’s all the details for the 2019 Helios:
Production: 43 cases
Clones: 100% Seyval Blanc: 4-year vines
Harvest: September 26, 2019
Harvest Brix: 19.1
Cooperage: Aged sur lie 6 months in stainless steel
Bottled: March 2, 2020
Released: April 1, 2020
If you happen to be driving through Oregon wine country, I highly recommend a stop at Bells Up Winery.
Dave and Sara host private tastings for all of their guests on their deck overlooking the vineyard, and it’s such a wonderful experience to get to know them and their wines in tandem. If you can’t make it up there in-person, consider ordering some wine from Bells Up online. Bells Up wines are all affordably priced for the quality that you get, and they can be shipped out of state. Pair the Rhapsody Pinot Blanc, Prelude Rosé, and Helios Seyval Blanc with the foods mentioned in this blog and you’re guaranteed to enjoy all the flavor, complexity, and uniqueness that Bells Up wines have to offer.
If Pinot Noir Is Your Wine of Choice, We Have News for You
If this doesn't make you want to pop a bottle of Pinot tonight, we're doing something wrong.
What’s not to love about Pinot Noir? It’s elegant, complex, and has a well-balanced, fruit-forward flavor. And thanks to its lighter body (as reds go), many would call it the perfect pairing wine—it goes with endless dishes, from chicken and fish to truffle macaroni and cheese, mushroom risotto, and more.
One thing many of us get wrong about Pinot is that it’s inaccessible. Sure, the grapes are finicky (high maintenance and hard to grow, yes, yes), but that doesn’t mean Burgundy or bust. Pinot Noir grapes grow all over the world and produce highly worthwhile bottles of wine, each with its own unique flavor profile. "While common aromas and flavors associated with Pinot Noir are cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, as with all wines, the taste of Pinot can vary significantly from region to region, making the process of tasting and trying each one a fun process," says Jonathan Cristaldi, a sommelier and Vivino contributor. Here are the regions that grow and bottle Pinot Noir best, according to Cristaldi.
Pinot Noir from France
Deep in the heart of France’s Burgundy region is the Côte d’Or, or “Golden Slope,” which is where the world’s most sought-after Pinot Noirs are grown. Vineyards like Grand Cru and Premier Cru produce highly sought after red wines of immense structure, elegance, and complexity. Beyond Burgundy, France offers a treasure trove of excellent Pinot Noirs. For sleek, dark-fruited, earthy examples look to Alsace, while earthier styles with lots of minerality can be found in Loire. And of course, no dive into Pinot Noir is complete without bottles from Champagne. If you see 𠇋lanc de Noirs” on a Champagne label, it means the wine is made entirely from red grapes, which are typically Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir from Austria
Still a relatively young region for Pinot Noir, Austrian Pinot Noirs, known as 𠇋lauer Spätburgunder” and 𠇋lauburgunder,” are loaded with a spectrum of red berry flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and morello cherry, along with forest floor, potting soil, and plum skin notes.
Pinot Noir from the U.S.
Northern California has had a stronghold on some of the best American Pinot Noir bottlings, with Sonoma County offering a range of Pinots that are dark berried, rich, and can show impressive power and concentration. Heading south to California’s Central Coast, producers in Santa Barbara County are making waves where Pinot Noir takes on vibrant, ripe cherry flavors courtesy of warmer growing seasons, while veering into wildly aromatic and flavorful baking spice notes, blood orange, orange peel, and nicely integrated cedar spices. Oregon is another excellent producer of Pinot Noir: the combination of the cool climate and volcanic soil make the Willamette Valley an ideal region for these grapes. Lastly, don’t miss the earthy and rustic Pinot Noirs from New York State’s Finger Lakes region and the Hudson Valley, where Millbrook Vineyards and Brotherhood harbor strongholds.
Pinot Noir from New Zealand
With close to 700 wineries, Pinot Noir accounts for an astounding 72 percent of red wine production in New Zealand. That’s a lot of Pinot! As for the most notable regions, there’s Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa on the North Island, then skipping over the Cook Strait there’s Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury, Waipara, and Central Otago on the South Island. Aromas and flavors of bright cherry, red berries, plums, red florals, and baking spices all meet an array of rich, full-bodied dark berry flavors underscored by a mix of savory notes, chocolate, and earthiness as you head further south, especially depending upon the producer.
Pinot Noir from Chile
The Pacific Ocean’s icy Humboldt Current ushers in immensely cool winds, which mitigate Chile’s hot summers, meaning that its San Antonio, Casablanca Valley, and Bio Bio Valley remaining cool year-round and are well-suited for Pinot Noir grapes. Decanter critics have been big proponents of these wines, with recent reports noting the 𠇎xciting diversity” of Pinots from Chile, which tend to show cherry, red currant, and complex earthy notes mingling with sweet spices.