Have you seen the movie Sideways?
I know some of you may think it’s a silly question, considering that this is a blog about wine.
I ask again…
Have you seen it?
Released in 2004, the Academy Award Winner (best adapted screenplay in 2005) follows two buddies as they go on a road trip through Santa Barbara’s wine country. Miles, the main character, is obsessed with Pinot Noir. Obsessed! He won’t shut up about it.
That being said, probably the most famous line from the movie can be found here (edited for the purposes of keeping this blog family friendly)…
In the following months and years, many a wine folk began to speculate that Miles’ love of Pinot Noir and disdain for Merlot had changed consumers’ perceptions of the two grapes. They believed that the average wine buyer would go into a store thinking, “If Miles isn’t drinking any F-ing Merlot, then I ain’t either.”
Then, in 2008 The American Association of Wine Economists published this paper from Sonoma State University, showing that the “Sideways Effect” was a real thing. Not speculation. Not a belief. A real phenomenon.
Truth be told, The Sideways Effect didn’t have much of an impact on Merlot sales declining… though they have gone down. The greatest impact was on the increase in Pinot Noir price and case sales.
That makes sense to me.
To a new wine drinker, Merlot has a bigger name. Pinot Noir, on the other hand, was for a long time a lesser-known hipster type of varietal. Once Sideways opened the door to Pinot Noir, and people began to realize how delicious it was, sales went through the roof… Along with the price of the delicate grape.
Today, it is tough to find a good bottle of Pinot Noir under 15 bucks. And, dare I say it, not even worth your money to gamble on a bottle under 10. Today, the “value” is found in the 15 – 25 dollar range. Even nuttier than that, the big boys of Pinot Noir are in the 45 – 80 dollar range.
We are talking about Pinot Noir, right? The “Black Pine” (translated from French) is one of the lightest, most delicate red wines that you could possibly drink. Most are ready to drink the day you bring it home, and you wouldn’t want to cellar any of ‘em for longer than 5-7 years (and that’s pushing it).
But I have to say…
Pinot Noir is delicious.
It’s one of my favorite grapes.
The problem is that they are so expensive, it would cost a fortune to taste ‘em all.
That’s what I thought…
Last Saturday, Kara and I hit up Cin-Cin Wine Bar in Los Gatos to do a little Pinot Noir tasting. For 35 bucks, we got to taste the best Pinot Noirs from several distributors in the area…
Plus there was food!
Here’s how it all went down…
Pelerin 2008 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $29): This is an EARTHY pinot. Lots of mushroom with a hint of rosemarry and bacon. 90 points.
Pfendler 2008 Pinot Noir (Petaluma Gap, Sonoma $40): Right away, you get to know how versitle a grape this is. The Pfendler tastes nothing like the Pelerin. This has loads of bright red fruit on the palate with a smokey finish. 89+ points.
Ryan 2009 Silacci Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Range $42): This is a well structured, well made Pinot Noir. It tastes expensive. The problem is that it’s not my cup of tea. Unlit cigar (nice) with bright red fruit (nice). It just didn’t work for me. Still a good Pinot… Just not what I’m into. 88+ points.
Cipaiaux Cellars 2009 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $44): Bell pepper and leather. Nice. 89 points.
Chateau de Beauregard Bourgogne Rouge 2007 Memoire du Terrior (France $24): The more I get into all these big, bold, wines, the more I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of a nice, light, Burgundy. Light strawberry fruit, with good acidity and minerality. 88+ points.
Firesteed 2007 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley $25): Sweet tarts and nerds for days. This is a fun one. 89 points.
Mohua Pinot Noir (Didn’t catch the vintage = ( Central Otago, New Zealand $23): Bright fruit with good acidity. 88+ points.
Papapietro Perry 2007 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $46): Candied strawberries and smoke. Very balanced. 90 points.
Emeritus Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley $32): This is loaded with DEEP fruit flavors. Bright red fruit and berries. Hella smoke. This is a very nice bottle of wine. Very nice! 91 points.
Easton 2008 Pinot Noir (Sierra Foothills $28): A light Pinot Noir with hints of bacon smoke. 88+ points.
Paoul Hobbs 2009 Crossbarn Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $34): This wine has a smokey nose with tons of ham on the palate. Very nice. 89+ points.
La Follette 2009 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast $28): Smokey nose (there’s something about table 3). There is a nice sugary strawberry fruit with pork and tomatoes. Dope! 90 points.
Soter 2009 Mineral Springs Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton $45): Sugary bright fruit. Mushrooms. Bacon fat. This wine was delicious! 92 points.
Table four, here…
This is my jam!
Louis Latour Santenay Rouge 2005 (France $23): This was a fun bottle. You are not going to find many 2005 Pinots just lying around. Bright cherry fruit with a lively acidity and cinnamon and clove spice. 90 points.
Faiveley Mercurey Rouge 2008 (France $24): This was one of the more tannic Pinots of the day. Good strawberry fruit. A very laid back wine. 89 points.
Argyle 2009 Nuthouse Pinot Noir (Dundee $61): Quite possibly the best Pinot Noir I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The gentleman serving the wine informed us that the Nuthouse vineyard used to be a nut farm. In the wine, you can definitely taste the earthy flavors from the soil. There is a bigtime macadamia and marcona almond presence in the mid-palate of this wine. Plenty of herbaceous notes on the finish… particularly rosemary. You have to try this. 93 big ass points.
Thomas George 2009 Pinot Noir (Russian River $41): This wine was a real crowd pleaser. Sun-dried tomato with tons of herbs. I loved this one too. It reminds me quite a bit of the Pinot Noir of Willams-Selyem. Very awesome! 92+ points.
Paraiso 2009 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands $23): This is a DARK Pinot. Smokey and rich. 88+ points.
This is the La Rochelle table.
This is also when time started to run out for the event, so we had to speed up our tasting…
La Rochelle 2010 Pinot Noir Rose ($19): Grapefruit. Nice. 88+ points.
La Rochelle 2008 Dutton-Campbell Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45): Buttery. 90 points.
La Rochelle 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($72): Buttery with balance. The most expensive wine of the day. Good, but NOT worth it. 90 points.
With one minute left, we skipped table six.
Au Bon Climat 2009 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County $25): This was the only wine left at table seven, but I am glad we got to try it. The Au Bon Climat is exactly what I expect a Pinot Noir to taste like. Light, bright strawberry fruit. Dope acidity. Balance for days. Nothing major. Just goodness. Get yourself this 9o point wine. Enjoy it now with someone you care about… like I did.
For those counting, that was 22 wines we tasted… all Pinot Noirs.
After that much wine, the only thing left to do is lay down on the couch…