The grape Pinot Noir, pronounced Pee-no Nwahr, originated in France. The name means “black pine,” which describes the pinecone-like shape of the grape clusters on the vine.
Pinot Noir is most famously used in the wines of Champagne and Bourgogne, or Burgundy as much of the English-speaking world calls it, but it has traveled far and wide both in its home country and beyond. It is widely planted in other European countries like Germany and Italy, and it has become a favorite in the New World, as well.
The allure of Pinot Noir’s soft tannins and fresh acidity has enticed grape growers to plant it in almost every wine growing region. Pinot Noir is very expressive of the terroir in which it lives.
The soils, the climate, and the elevation in which it is grown can all have an impact on the grapes and the style of wine that they will produce. It can be elegant and delicate or more powerful and intense.
Aromas and flavors range from red fruit to black fruit and drinkers may find notes of chocolate, herbs, or minerality. Winemaking choices like the use of new or neutral barrels can also add nuances like smoke or vanilla aromas and flavors but also textural differences in how silky a wine feels while drinking it.
In the United States, it is most heavily planted in California and Oregon though there is also a fair amount in New York State as well. The best representations come from cooler climates with a wide diurnal swing which means a dramatic difference between day and night temperatures.
California has many premium areas for Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara to the Sonoma Coast, in Oregon, Willamette Valley has claimed the grape as their signature wine.
While duck is considered to be one of the great pairings with Pinot Noir wines, it also works well with other poultry dishes, fish like salmon and tuna, and with beef, particularly filet mignon. It also works well with vegetarian fare.
Whether shopping for yourself or for a Christmas present for the wine lover in your life this holiday season, here are ten Pinot Noir wines to drink now, some are available locally, all can be purchased from the winery websites.
Alma Rosa Radian Sta Rita Hills 2019
Find ripe black cherry with light earthy forest floor aromas that add complexity to this Pinot Noir that has a bigger tannic structure and a lengthy finish. SRP $68
Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard” 2021
From the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara, this easy drinking wine offers sweet blackberry aromas with silky tannins and a tart strawberry, pomegranate finish. SRP $25
La Follette Sun Chase Vineyard 2019
Sourced from a Sonoma Coast Vineyard, this Pinot Noir is complex and elegant with a floral violet note followed by fresh red cherry and a light herbal component, this wine is beautifully balanced with juicy acidity and well-integrated tannins, a spicy note comes into play in the lingering supple finish, only 289 cases made. SRP $65
Pellegrini Russian River Valley 2019
Black cherry and plum with notes of baking spice and caramel mix with well-balanced acidity and chewy tannins throughout the layered finish. SRP $40
Siduri Willamette Valley 2020
Red cherry dominates the aroma profile with a light floral note of violet lifting the aromatics, the fresh acidity and well-integrated tannins add structure to the lingering cranberry and white pepper filled finish. SRP $35
Stoller Dundee Hills 2021
Red cherry and baking spice on the nose with a black cherry flavor laced with a light earthy note on the palate with soft tannins and a persistent fruity finish. SRP $35
Stephen Ross Edna Valley 2019
Sour cherry flavor with dried herbs and a hint of mint lingering on the cinnamon laced red fruit finish. SRP $40
Tongue Dancer Sonoma Coast 2020
Sourced from an organic vineyard, this wine is loaded with fresh berry and cherry aromas with notes of black tea and dried leaves carried by ripe tannins and bright acidity balancing a rich yet silky texture, and a lingering ripe strawberry fruit filled finish. SRP $55
Truett Hurst White Sheep 2018
Layered aromas and flavors with cherries, raspberries, and dried flowers, lively acidity and soft tannins, finishing with a hint of baking spice in the lingering. SRP $52
Truett Hurst Black Sheep 2019
Richly flavored with mixed sweet berries and cherries with touches of vanilla bringing a mixed berry cobbler nuance to the soft yet persistent finish. SRP $52