Thursday, October 19, 2006

Into the Abyss: Enjoying It So Far

In the beginning of fall, I start to feel the chill. It may be the grey days contrasted with the brightly adorned trees or the beginning of classes, but I feel less carefree and more brooding. Okay, I guess not brooding, but more thoughtful and mindful of life’s lovely complexities. A wine season has changed for me, and we’re moving out of crisp white, pink, and bubbly into the season of vino tinto. I had a great time with white wine this summer, primarily due to my two forays into Old Mission Peninsula’s lovely, lovely whites. Also my obsession with Viognier. All the pale thoughts aside, I decided that I couldn’t gulp the massive reds quite yet. The purity and simplicity of the Chambourcin at work always makes me hunger for something light, yet complex—with character.
I have always wanted to get into the trendy world of Pinot Noir, having already fallen in and out of love with Pinot Grigio/Gris, and in love with the summery Pinot Blanc. After Sideways I felt like everyone would be getting into Pinot (Noir, please include the surname) and that I would have to backlash into disavowing the Noir all together so as not to seem too awfully trendy. Pinot Noir, you have seduced me. Not at first, and it took some time, and I understand all of your shortcomings, and choose to be wise and invest. After tasting a few horrid French vin d’pays Pinot Noirs, and a few mediocre but quite pleasant Oregon and New Zealand specimens, I remained on the hunt. Now that the weather is colder, I knew I needed some transition. Pinot Noir has been said to be the red wine that drinks like a white wine. (By the way, I hear Viognier is the white that drinks like a red…whatever the hell that means.) So I thought, Pinot Noir, it’s you and me.
Scene: Marty at Big Red Liquors, “big Big Red” as I call it to my friends. So I’m wandering the shelves distracted by new wines, wines I’ve had (that number keeps growing), and wines I wish I could buy (Champagne, Chablis, and Burgundy). Finally I belly up to the little tasting bar and taste a few (not so great) wines before asking the lady for recommendations for a good Pinot Noir. She recommends one immediately, and the price is definitely right at: $15.99. I snatch it up, not before oogling the Rosenblum Petit Sirah and Viognier (Well, I bought the Viognier 2005 Rosenblum Kathy's Kuvee, hedonistically delicious, of course.) Sigh. I love Rosenblum. Back to the point. The Noir.
2005 Row 11 Pinot Noir “Vinas 3”
The winemaker, illusively named “Ricardo d” calls this wine not so much an expression of the vineyard and clone, but an expression of the grape. Ricardo has reportedly worked for many wineries sourcing grapes and whatnot and therefore has had time to pick out the best vineyards for his wines. Not just the best vineyards, but the best rows of vines—hence, Row 11. Unlike the rest of Ricardo’s selections, “Vinas 3” is a blend of grapes from different appellations: Santa Barbara, Russian River Valley, and Monterrey—three excellent growing locations. I say that because I loved this wine! Tres amigos (myself included) had some pizza after work and indulged. We all agreed that this lovely wine was deeeeeeeelish.
Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Apellation: Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Monterrey
Alc.: 14.2% (Still a teensy high in my book.)
Look: A very pure cherry-red. Like a seductress’s lipstick.
Smell: Again, cherries, like a cherise liquor, or a cherry candy. With a little faint spice hiding there.
Taste: Guess? Cherry syrup—in the best possible way. This candied cherry flavor was a nice, lip-smacking purity, with a little more complexity by way of a tiny spice (maybe just the alcoholic heat) on the finish. Although this wine may seem simply flavored, without any great complexity, it was extremely hard to resist. I mean, I could imagine opening a bottle for just little old me. Yum, yum, yum. Pour this for any doubters of Pinot Noir, this is yummers.

Moving on to a different style. I read the San Fran Chronicle’s wine section religiously, and remembered reading about Oregon Pinot Noir, which has been getting tons of praise (or press) lately. One of their most highly recommended wines was a measly $18 at big Big Red last spring, so I snatched one up. It survived the Big Move to this new house, and was sitting comfy on my wine rack until my friend Amy decided to make me (an amazing) dinner. And boy did I deliver.

2003 Rex Hill Oregon Pinot Noir
The “lowest tier” of the Rex Hill line. I like this Rex Hill because the price is right, it’s not to flashy, and the also make an unoaked Chardonnay. Anyway, this little guy is of a much different character than the Row 11. More Oregon, more rustic, more of what I need on a cool fall day with a little roasted butternut squash.
Varietal: 100% Pinor Noir
Apellation: Oregon
Alc: 13.5% (around there, I forget)
Look: A slightly more brick red, not as crystalline as the previous Pinot Noir, and more of a earthy tinge to the red. Looks like a dried cherry a bit.
Smell: Oh my! I got a little dried cherry, cranberry, earthy smell, a little pumpkin pie spice, and, best of all, the nose evolved over the night, and eventually had this awesome campfire autumn aroma.
Taste: Similar earthy cherry-ness, with a little baked cherry pie flavor, crust and spice included. Incredibly balanced and has a lovely personality. Not as hedonistic as the Row 11, but a little more beautifully expressive of the oak and the smoke and great with fall fare. I say this wine is fall in a bottle. Drink it—now
Kudos to Rex Hill for posting fact sheets on all of their wines. Very detailed--I see that they made some 375 ml bottles of this beauty. Must get my hand on those.

I loved both wines quite a lot, the Rex Hill, I would say is more of a sit alone with one person kind of wine, and the Row 11 should be drank with friends, and more of a cocktail wine. Both great, both I think I’ll buy again—maybe today. He he.
[Update: I did buy the LAST bottle of 2003 Rex Hill Oregon Pinot Noir today. There was a rack with a few bottles of the 2004, which I've had and was a nice wine, but I fould one last 2003 among them! I also bought a Burgundy from the Ladoix appellation, which IS in the Cote D'Or.]