Tasting Notes: The Path Pinot Noir

I typically shy away from wine with Asian food. I don't know what it is about the flavors, but I usually decide that beer is the way to go. However, there are times you are just really wanting a nice glass of wine with dinner, even if you're having an Asian dish! Because of this, I starting researching what people recommend with Asian flavors. Spicy dishes are you usally told to pair with off-dry Riesling. For dishes with umami flavors (soy, oyster sauce, ginger, etc), I read that fruity and low tannin reds work well. Their specific suggestions were California Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Based on this, I decided to tackle the wine section at Whole Foods while picking up my other groceries and came across this lower-priced Pinot.

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The Facts

  • Producer: The Path
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: $12.99

Cherry, cherry, cherry! While I've had some California Pinot Noir with darker fruit notes, this one was tart cherry through and through with some cola notes. There was also a hint of earthiness , but nothing like what you'd get from Burgundy or Willamette. It had a good weight to it, as I sometimes find Pinot Noir to be too light bodied and thin for my taste. As to be expected, there was lower tannin and bright acidity. I had to agree with the article I read that the fruit-forward nature of this Pinot went well with our soy-ginger chicken. While there are Pinot Noirs I prefer more than this one (see this post), the convenience of having a tasty, easy-drinking option at the grocery store we visit almost daily is nice and the price is right.

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Two Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving is next week! I can hardly believe it. Kevin and I celebrated early with his family and my parents since everyone will be all over the place this year. I always like setting a pretty table and using our wedding crystal! In case you missed it, last week I put out a little Thanksgiving Wine Guide to help with pairing options. This week, I actually have two specific recommendations (a white and a red) that I think would be great accompaniments to your Thanksgiving dinner, assuming it's a traditional one. Both are from the United States, too!

Acrobat Pinot Gris

In my guide, I stated that a Chardonnay was a classic pairing. However, when I was researching pairings, I saw several references to Pinot Gris as well. I'd never bought a Pinot Gris before, so I was excited to give it a whirl this year. First, you may be thinking, what is Pinot Gris? Pinot Gris is more commonly known as Pinot Grigio! Same grape, just different name and different styles. This article from Wine Spectator describes it very well, but the short hand is that Pinot Gris is usually richer and creamier while Pinot Grigio is crisp and clean. 

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The Facts

  • Producer: King Estate
  • Region: Oregon
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: Pinot Gris
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: $14.99 

The wine is a dusty, pale gold color. Even from the beginning, it looked slightly different from the Pinot Grigios I have had in the past! The wine smells of peach, lemon, and something tropical... pineapple, perhaps. It is very pleasant to drink! It's got a nice, balanced acidity. It cleans your palate without it being so mouth puckering (like a Sauvignon Blanc, for example). My mom, who has an aversion to a lot of acid, even liked this one! I got the taste of apple and pineapple, but there was also a creaminess of texture. No oak or vanilla, in my opinion, but the texture was definitely there. This would go so well with the all of the creaminess at Thanksgiving dinner (hello, gravy and mashed potatoes!). Finally, it should be noted that it was a Wine Enthusiast 2016 Best Buy pick, and received 91 points from them. I don't always live by point ratings, but I'd have to agree with their opinion on this one!

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Samuel Robert Winery Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir

If you read my review of the Ropiteau Pinot Noir, you know I'm skeptical of inexpensive Pinots. That doesn't mean I'll stop trying because just like with Cabernet Sauvignons, I'm on the hunt for delicious and affordable options. I saw this Samuel Robert Pinot at Total Wine, it had a good rating from Wine Enthusaist, it was on sale, and it was a pick of one of the staff members. I was sold!

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The Facts

  • Producer: Samuel Robert Winery
  • Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $14.99 

I was extremely surprised by the nose. It smelled so complex for only $12.99 (I got it on sale, and I think it still is)! There was cherry, of course, but also some cinnamon and a hint of earthiness or decaying leaves. "Decaying leaves" doesn't sound good when reading it, but you know that smell of fall? I personally love it. When I tried the wine, it was less bold in flavor than I expected based on how the wine smelled. The spice was missing on the palate, but there was some good cherry and cranberry flavor. The fruit flavor and acid was well balanced, not being jammy or too thin. If you can catch this on sale at your local Total Wine with a coupon or in-store promotion, it is definitely a great bang for your buck! Even at its full price of $14.99, I think it's a great value. I really enjoyed my small tasting glass and am looking forward to opening the full bottle later! For now, this is the best Pinot Noir I've had recently for less than $20, so I'm giving it four bunches.

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Tasting Notes: Ropiteau Pinot Noir

I'll be honest: I'm always very skeptical of "cheap" Pinot Noirs. Why? Because Pinot Noir is a very tough grape to grow and its flavors are very nuanced; therefore, I feel like the higher price you usually see for quality Pinot Noirs is justifiable. So, when I see a Pinot for under $10, I have low expectations. I definitely judge a book by its cover. But, I saw that this one was on Total Wine's list, and they're usually on point. For $10, it was definitely worth a try!

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The Facts

  • Producer: Ropiteau Freres
  • Region: France
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $9.95

As soon as I poured it out, I thought, "Man, this going to be light." It was a pale ruby color*... think a transparent purple-red. There wasn't much on the nose, but then again, I wasn't using a varietal specific glass. I had this on Halloween and had to get in my last use of my jack-o-lantern wine glasses! Sometimes festivity should outweigh practical. Anyway, the wine was straight tart cherry. It was more mouth drying than I expected since I find Pinot Noirs to be more acidic than tannic, but I kept getting that mouth drying sensation. Unfortunately, my expectations were accurate. The wine was one-note, thin, and just not very fun to drink. Did it taste BAD? No, definitely not bad. I just wanted more complexity and earthiness to go with our mushroom wild rice soup (YUM!), but perhaps that's too much to expect from a wine under $10. 

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*If you've ever wondered where I get my color descriptions from, I reference the always awesome Wine Folly and their wine color chart. You can find it here

Tasting Notes: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages

A couple of weekends ago, Kevin and I did a virtual class with Elizabeth from Wine for Normal People where she walked us through how to taste wines. I have done several different classes around tasting skills, and I always pick up something new from each class. Every person has their own way of describing things, and I enjoy learning tips and tricks from all! Elizabeth is so personable and has a (for lack of a better word) no-bullshit approach when it comes to wine. Hence, Wine for Normal People. Anyway, this Beaujolais wine was the red wine selection for the class. Kevin and I were both surprised by how much we liked it, so I thought I'd share!

As a little background for those unfamiliar with the region, here are some notes on Beaujolais. There is a classification system, specifically three (or four) levels:

  • Cru Beaujolais - The highest level, and only 10 of the 96 villages are able to label their wines as such. These typically are labeled as the Cru name and the 10 villages have their own personality. To get a summary of the different personalities, check out this post from Wine Folly.
  • Beaujolais-Villages - Tier below Cru. There are 38 villages that are in this bucket, and the wines are a bit lighter than Cru and more fruit forward.
  • Beaujolais - The lowest level and most general description. I think of this as the "Kleenex" issue... all Kleenex are tissues, but not all tissues are Kleenex. Similarly, all Crus can be Beaujolais, but not all Beaujolais can be Cru. Note that wines just labeled as "Beaujolais" can vary widely in quality.
  • Beaujolais Nouveau - These wines are released the 3rd week in November. I've seen some in stores that have crazy colorful bottles. Many feel that these wines have not fully developed before they're shipped because there isn't much time between harvest and bottling. You can therefore get sort of funky notes like banana and bubble gum. 

The Facts

  • Producer: Louis Jadot
  • Region: Beaujolais, France (south of Burgundy)
  • Vintage: 2015
  • Variety: 100% Gamay
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $9.97

Edit: I also found this at my local grocery chain for $15.99.

Jadot Beaujolais Villages
  • Eyes: Lighter and more of a cherry red in color, fairly transparent. This immediately gives me the impression it'll be a lighter bodied wine.
  • Nose: Very fruit forward! Smelled like ripe red berries. Some other students picked up on a more earthy smell, but the fruit is what was most apparent to me.
  • Mouth: This is one of those wines where what you smell is what you get. It is very fruity with cherry and strawberry shining through, but don't confuse fruity with sweet. It's not sweet. I also picked up on a hint of earthiness, which is common in French wine, but I didn't feel like I was eating dirt or anything. It's had a nice medium body with good acidity. Tannin was not apparent, which is characteristic of the grape. 
  • Thoughts: This red, and Gamay in general, is a great summer wine because it's light and fruit forward. It's also best when slightly chilled, so perfect for those warmer days! I think think the fruit flavors and slight earthiness would work great with pork dishes. For die-hard cab lovers, this is probably too light, but if you like Pinot Noir or other lighter grapes, give Beaujolais a shot!

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Tasting Notes: Cloud Break Pinot Noir

If you've ever been to Total Wine, you know they identify their best sellers and best values with little tags. I always like to give these a try because unless Total Wine is lying (which they very well may be, but I'd like to think they're honest), that means these bottles are crowd pleasers and it's probably what an average browser would likely lean toward when purchasing a bottle. This bottle of California Pinot happened to be one of those best values while I was at our local store. The description on the back of the bottle contains phrases like "concentrated fruit flavor", "rich texture", and "great length". Did it hold up?

The Facts

  • Producer: Cloud Break
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $8.99
Cloud Break Pinot Noir
  • Eyes: The color is cherry or ruby red and the wine is almost transparent.
  • Nose: HELLO FRUIT. This wine smelled like all of the red fruits... strawberries and cherry especially. I wouldn't say it reminded me of jam, but more like a very ripe fruit, as if you just took a bite of the perfect strawberry. 
  • Mouth: Very light in body, same fruit forward flavor that I got on the nose. It was fairly one note and was very tart as well.
  • Thoughts: I first tried it before we ate and I found it to be what I expected of an $8.99 Pinot Noir... sort of weak. In my experience, Pinot Noir is one of those grapes that you really can't find a good bottle at a value price. At least I have yet to find one... if you have a recommendation, I'm all ears! We paired the wine with this delicious pork tenderloin recipe, asparagus, and some mashed red potatoes, and I thought that its fruitiness and acid went well with the meal.

    My next thought is that I was surprised there wasn't more flavor and depth to the wine. I did some research on the 2014 vintage in California and here is a brief summary of what I learned:

    Obviously California is a huge state with widely varying climates, etc, but overall, 2014 was hot and dry. The drought was raging on, although there were "well-timed" rains. More sun makes grapes riper, which usually lends itself to bolder flavor. The hot sun plus coolness of the night that comes from being a coastal state was great for Pinot Noir, and many find that 2014 was a great vintage. I even found one source that deemed 2014, "the best Pinot Noir vintage in over a decade" and had descriptors like dark fruit, deep, juicy acidity, and ripe tannin. 

    All of this research set me up to hope for a bigger Pinot Noir with more depth of flavor. If that is what you're looking for, don't buy this bottle. If you like light and acidic Pinot Noirs, then I'd give this one a try! For $8.99, it's worth a shot.

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