By Gina Birch (USA Today & News Press.com)
"Last Friday was National Pinot Noir Day. All day and into the weekend I was teased and delighted by photos on social media of the delicious pinots friends and strangers were celebrating with.
Pinot noir is one of the most versatile food wines thanks to its acidity, fruit and medium to low tannins. Characteristic flavors include cranberry, cherry, raspberry, vanilla, mushroom, cola and wet earth, among others.
When considering these attributes it’s easy to see how it could pair so well with such a wide variety of foods: salmon, duck, mushroom sauce, risotto, roasted vegetables, Gruyere cheese. At a table full of people with entrée choices spanning a wide range, pinot noir can make almost everyone happy.
A temperamental grape with thin skin, growers and wine makers often refer to it as the heartbreak grape. As with most things in life, not all pinot noirs are created equally, especially considering where the grapes are grown and who is making the wine.
And unfortunately in most cases with this wine, you almost always get what you pay for.
Burgundy is the mother ship when it comes to pinot noir. It’s the only red wine produced in this region of France. It’s also the origin of almost all of the pinot vines planted in the U.S.
You may have tasted wines from other parts of the world and heard them described as Burgundian in style. Pinots from Burgundy tend to smell both earthy and floral, like violets. They have fresh red fruits, minerals, and most of all balance. Burgundies are considered graceful and they get more so the longer they’re in the glass.
Oregon is on the same parallel as Burgundy, and Willamette Valley is one of the most highly regarded areas in the U.S. when it comes to pinot noir.
The wines produced here are typically light in color, tart, earthy and delicate in structure.
California pinots are darker and more fruit forward with dark fruits and vanilla. The state’s growing conditions are warmer and drier than Willamette and Burgundy. For some of the best pinots in California look to Sonoma and the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. The areas get the cool air and fog that make these particular grapes happy.
For red wine lovers stifled by the Southwest Florida heat, pinot noir is perfect year round and even better with a little chill on it; a 65-degree range will do.
From the Santa Lucia Highlands is a small production wine that has a mouthwatering blend of plum, blackberry and cherry, with lovely lingering spices on the finish."
Steve McIntyre (viticulturist, founder of McIntyre Vineyards) has extensive experience in California’s Central Coast. As owner of Monterey Pacific, his team farms 12,000 acres in Monterey County, and he has planted or farmed nearly a quarter of the vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.
In 1987, Steve purchased an 80-acre site first planted in 1973-acre. This McIntyre Estate Vineyard is the source of some impressive Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Steve also bottles a larger appellation blend Chardonnay, an old vine rosé, and a Merlot sourced from Arroyo Seco, among others.
This was my first time tasting McIntyre Vineyards’ wine, and I found them delicious, vibrant, showing a tasty mix of rich fruit without being too overt or emblazoned with new oak. They seem like solid examples of the high quality Chardonnay and Pinot that always excites me about the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2014 McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Medium gold. Aromas of buttercream, rich yellow apple, quince paste, salted almonds and biscuits. Full and round, creamy but moderate acidity, yellow apples and baked pears with hints of limes. Graham crackers, almond, sea salt, honeybutter, lots of deliciousness but it stays vibrant and none of the flavors are too overt. (88 points IJB)
2014 McIntyre Vineyards Chardonnay Estate- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Medium gold color. Nose shows bruised apples, pear nectar, along with white and yellow flowers, sea salt and crushed chalk. Rich and creamy with moderating acidity, the honeyed apple and baked pear fruit is mixed nicely with bright yellow floral notes, along with almond butter, graham cracker, hints of sea salt and chalk. Bold but balanced, and straight delicious, a little more verve and chalky notes than the non-estate Chardonnay. (89 points IJB)
2016 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Pale copper color. Smells of strawberries, watermelon, chalk dust, lemon zinger tea. Pleasantly plump on the palate but bright acidity. Crisp, chilled strawberry, cranberry and wild raspberry fruit, laced with complex notes of lemon verbena, mint, honeycomb, wild flowers and chalk dust. Delicious, complex, long finish. Impressive depth and complexity on this Pinot rosé. From a 45-year-old, own-rooted vineyard, this is a serious rosé that leaps out of the glass. (88 points IJB)
2014 McIntyre Vineyards Pinot Noir- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Bright ruby color. Aromas show a nice mix of tart red cherries and rich black cherries along with rhubarb pie, roses, clove and tobacco. Medium/full-bodied, velvety tannins, vibrant acidity. Saucy but tangy fruit (black cherry, raspberry, some strawberry jam), with clove, cinnamon, cedar, violets, all woven in well. Lovely stuff, this could soften for a few years but no guilt about drinking it right now. (90 points IJB)
2013 McIntyre Vineyards Merlot Kimberly Vineyard- California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
Deep ruby/light purple color. Pretty aromatic display of red currants, deep black cherries, violets, sweet pipe tobacco, cola. Full-bodied, velvety tannins, moderating acidity, doused in black cherries, black currant and raspberry jams. Violet petals, loamy soil, soy and mushroom, charred herbs, vanilla, savory spices, all of these add complexity and serious deliciousness to this Merlot. At least five years (likely more) of development, but delicious now, too. (90 points IJB)