Charles Krug 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir

I* can’t give you one of the pretty “wine as seen from below” pics because attempting to do so caused me to drop my phone, which snapped itself into a bunch of pieces on the kitchen floor, which in turn made me decide that I wasn’t in the mood to fuss with it. That said, the wine is somewhere between a ruby and garnet sort of red, and the label looks like this:

Region: Carneros (a fogged-in area of Napa and Sonoma Counties)
Grapes involved:
100% Pinot Noir
Cost: $25ish
Food pairings: it’s a Pinot Noir, so as far as I’m concerned, pretty much anything goes that isn’t a giant slab of steak (because if you are eating a giant slab of steak and doing without either Cab Sauv, Malbec, or a heavy-duty stout, you are depriving yourself of one of life’s great experiences). That said, I had it with penne a la vodka, which worked pretty much fine. This would be fantastic with salmon, bittersweet chocolate, anything with wild mushrooms, and a lot of those “I don’t know what the hell to pair with it, but I’d like a red wine rather than a white” type dishes (realizing, of course, that the complementary style of white-what-goes-with-anything would be a dry-ish Riesling).

I love Pinots because they, like, they pretty much smell and taste like *everything*. So whereas a “normal” wine is a combination of a bunch of fruits, a bit of spice and a flower or two, a good Pinot Noir is a combination of all that *plus* cough drops *plus* garden soil *plus* old brown leather jacket *plus* pipe tobacco. And they have (at least in my experience) a strangely specific thin-ish and slightly scratchy mouthfeel to boot. That said, if your Pinot Noir is a basic combination of fruits and a touch of spice and has a smooth, soft mouthfeel, chances are there’s another varietal taking up space in your bottle. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing.

Anyway.

This particular Pinot Noir (of which I’ve had a touch more than a little) smells like strawberry, rose petal, carnation, watermelon, a touch of menthol, cherry, a hint of pink pepper, a touch of plum and a bit of vanilla. There’s maybe even something herbal, slightly sage-like, blended in with the menthol. It starts out quite tart and then softens as it sits, almost like it’s developing a layer of cotton candy over the top. (This does *not* mean it smells sweet.)(And yes, I do recognize that this is a contradiction, but this is also why I love Pinots.)

Flavor-wise, take a combination of slightly underripe strawberries and some tart green apples and throw it on a pile of wet dirt, rose petals, raspberries, green tea, mulberries and leather and then give it a mouthfeel that is oddly reminiscent of dandelion greens (but pretty much awesome). It’s lightweight and crisp and only lightly scratchy, and the aftertaste is long and almost straight red apple (like a Macintosh or a Jonathan). Or maybe apple cola – the longer I let it hang out before taking another sip, the more I find a cola note. Specifically Coca Cola instead of Pepsi.

So that’s that. I hope your 2011 ended happily and that your 2012 is off to a banging start. Smooches, y’all.

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*In true blogger fashion, I ought to give you some sort of excuse as to why I haven’t been around, some sort of rounding-out-of-2011 sort of thoughts, and some sort of welcome-to-the-new-year sort of thoughts. Suffice it to say that the end of 2011 was extremely flipping busy (because the holidays are when everyone in this country feels it something akin to their patriotic and economic and familial duty to drink a LOT of wine) and that I’ve spent the first week and a half of 2012 working, catching up on sleep, sitting in product meetings and generally letting my brain return to some semblance of its normal (if it has one) self. That said, we’ll continue with reviews in an otherwise uninterrupted fashion unless some sort of after-2am drunkeness inspires me to write some sort of “how 2011 changed my winedrinking life and made my career fabulous and interesting”-type navelgazing post.
For your sake and for the sake of my hit count, I hope I don’t get that drunk. I can navelgaze with the best of them, but I doubt anyone else really wants to read it. This isn’t a livejournal.

2009 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir

Region: Willamette Valley, OR
Grapes involved: Pinot Noir
Cost: $17-20-ish
Food pairings: salmon, grilled veggies or chicken, sushi (maybe? like tuna-heavy sushi more than crab), strawberries (I’d imagine – I *hate* strawberries so I’m not going to verify), lighter cheeses
Etc: the vineyard is certified sustainable and Salmon Safe 
Rating: 87 – Wine Enthusiast

This is a fun wine – it has, flat out, the strangest tannin structure I’ve ever come across. I’ll explain in a moment.

Scent-wise, this is mostly cherry with undertones of vanilla, leather, violet, stuff like that. Like any good Pinot Noir, almost any scent you can think of is hiding in there somewhere – Pinots tend to be a wine snot favorite because of their complexity.

Flavor-wise, the cherry (think bright red cherries – not maraschino, but something bright red rather than dark or golden or sour) is the centerpiece, surrounded by violet leaf, rose petals, and a touch of earth and sage – it’s kind of like the wine equivalent of being in a flower-strewn cherry orchard. It’s light-bodied, light enough that it would be fantastic with seafood.* As any good Pinot Noir should be, this wine is quite dry.

And then there are the tannins. They’re… they’re, like, mouth-scrapey almost, but not in that tooth-coating way that means it’s impossible to rub your tongue on the roof of your mouth – it’s sharper than that, not quite so powdery, so that the wine comes across as slightly astringent. This isn’t bad (even if I’m not making it sound that great) – the feeling is really strange in a fun, different way. I wouldn’t want it in every wine, but coming across it in this was quite a bit of fun. It made me enjoy sipping it alone more than I usually do – the sensation in my mouth was so interesting that I wasn’t interested in spoiling it with food.

So, you know, grab some and enjoy. It’s not the cheapest Pinot Noir out there, but you’re flat out not going to get a cheap Pinot Noir from Oregon – they’re too good. As they go, this is well-priced and lovely to drink.

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*Because seriously, that “pair reds with meats, whites with chicken and seafood” rule is so, so tired.

2008 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir

You know what sounds good right now? Chocolate chip cookies.

Wine: A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2008
Region: Oregon. Apparently all over Oregon, from what Wine Spectator said in a write up
Grapes involved: Pinot Noir
Color: clear deep ruby red with a very slight purple undertone
Cost: $17.99-$19.99 or so
Notes from the label: I forgot to write them down before getting rid of the bottle. I’ll check at work – if there’s anything major, I’ll edit this post to reflect.
Food pairings: Chocolate would be super awesome. Or pasta in a meat sauce – like a bolognese or a pork/rosemary sauce (there’s a recipe for one in one of Lidia’s cookbooks that is pretty much tear-inducing good). I think a whole bunch of things would be good as long as they didn’t go super-duper spicy (that’s what we have Rieslings for, yes?)
Also good to know: this wine got 90 points from Wine Spectator.

My notes: I had fun with this one because there were a millionbillion things going on that were all clamoring for attention – it was overwhelming at first. Once I got settled and let it wash over me a bit, here’s what I came up with.

The nose is largely red and purple berries, pink pepper and a touch of leather.* Flavor-wise, my notes are all over the place. I finally settled on berry, cherry, a hint of pepper, a little bit of leather, and a hint of orris no paperwhite no star jasmine.** So, earthy-spicy basenotes with central fruity notes of berry and cheery and a faint topnote of star jasmine.

This wine would make a kickass perfume.

This was a medium-bodied (maybe? still sorting through that) wine with a fairly light tannin level – the tannins were there and contributing to the earthy feel, but weren’t by any means going crazy. The finish was pleasant in that sort of way wherein “pleasant” is pretty much the perfect word to describe it. It wasn’t overpoweringly strong, nor did it last forever, but it was quite enjoyable while it visited. The tannins came across more strongly in the finish than they did in the initial sip, something that surprised me and may have been one of my favorite things about this wine.

Would I buy again? Oh, hell yes. Come to mama.

Other thoughts: I’ve been on a pretty big Zinfandel (please note: NOT WHITE ZIN – the red stuff) kick lately, so I kept mentally comparing the Pinot Noir to the Zins I’ve had. The Zins are a decidedly more “red” feeling, whereas the PN came across as slightly more “purple.” The Zins are also very “jammy,” by which I mean that there’s something about them that reminds me forcibly of a jelly to be smeared all over a biscuit. Pinot Noirs, at least based on the ones I’ve had, don’t seem to have that sort of upfront WOAH FRUIT SPREAD feeling. I have no idea if that’s what other people mean when they say “jammy” in regards to wine, but it makes sense to me so I’m going with it.

Random thing I learned while reading Wine Spectator at work during my lunch break: Apparently the 2008 vintage of Oregon Pinot Noir is like the bestest of all best Oregon Pinot Noir vintages EVER GROWN EVAR so far. Given Oregon Pinot Noirs are supposed to be some of the bestest of all best Pinot Noirs, I’m throwing out there that it’s probably worth checking out a bottle or two soon. The 2008s are pretty much the fillers of the store wine racks right now, so finding a bottle shouldn’t be difficult.

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*Leather is one of those notes that I had a “ZOMG TOAST” reaction with. I know the smell of leather really well – the sort of comforting, dry, earthy-paper scent of an old leather jacket is wonderful. I’ve found it translated into perfume really well, but had never really figured out what to look for in wine. I assumed it would be something wonky or different or, well, something. Not leather-jacket leather.
However, it turns out that it is *exactly* the same sort of dry earthy-paper sort of worn brown jacket-style leather. It’s there, and when it clicked, I sat straight up and stared at the glass for a solid ten seconds. (I did get made fun of.)

Reader, I squealed.

**Seriously, specifically star jasmine. I’m sticking with star jasmine because there was something in the flavor of the wine that was strongly mimicking the scent of the perfume I had been wearing the day before, and star jasmine is a major component in that perfume. I maybe squealed a bit when I finally figured out why I recognized the scent.