Everything Wine blog

Get to know the grape: Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is loved by many wine enthusiasts for its light to medium body, red fruit flavours and hints of spice and often makes an appearance around festive holiday dinners as it’s known for being turkeys’ wine pairing of choice. Beyond its ability to play nice with rich and flavourful meals, the French native is one of the most romanticized red wines in the world with festivals thrown every year in the grape’s honour and even an Oscar winning film dedicated to it, check out “Sideways”, set in California wine country.

Originating in France’s Burgundy region, Pinot Noir is now produced in many wine regions around the world; however, many wine buffs still view Burgundy as the mecca for Pinot Noir. Burgundian style Pinot Noir is acclaimed for its ripe red berries, sweet dark cherries and hints of mushroom with forest floor while other popular varieties from Sonoma, California and Willamette Valley, Oregon varieties typically show raspberry, allspice and Darjeeling tea.

Despite its expressive characteristics and worldwide fandom, Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow and is susceptible to rot and uneven ripening to do its thin skin and tightly packed grape clusters. To avoid sunburn, delicate Pinot Noir grapes enjoy long, cool growing seasons in protected valleys and near large bodies of water—Willamette Valley lies on the same latitude as Burgundy and experiences a similar climate while Sonoma is cooler and more foggy than other wine regions in its state.

Pinot Noir is also one of the few red wine grapes that’s commonly made into red, rosé, white and sparkling wine! In Champagne, it’s one of the regions’ seven permitted varieties and adds structure to brut blends, it is the only red grape permitted in Alsace and is also becoming increasingly popular as rosé with its delicate character and crisp flavours.

Thanks to its light body, complex structure, and elegant tannins, Pinot Noir is an ideal pairing for a variety of dishes—even disproving the claim that red wine cannot be paired with fish. Fruit forward styles actually make for an excellent partner to fatty fish and seafood including scallops and lobster. More earthy renditions pair beautifully with heirloom vegetables, hearty beef Bourguignon or traditional coq au vin. So whether you’re preparing a special anniversary dinner or an easy mid-week meal, Pinot Noir is always a great choice.

If you’re new to Pinot Noir or are looking to discover your new favourite, you can shop by grape here or visit us in store to talk to one of our passionate consultants.

Not sure where to start? Check out a few of our favourite picks below:

Decoded Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

The Path Pinot Noir

Meiomi Pinot Noir

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

Le Jardin Pinot Noir

 

Back Up Two Trucks! Top 100 Tuscan Cab and 97pt Vigno!

A couple of killer wines with silly ratings have made their way to me recently, and rather than giving each wine its own episode I decided to bundle them into one grand heads-up. These are both fantastic cellaring wines at civilized price points, in new-ish categories that aren’t yet priced to their fullest potential. Let’s dive in, starting with a returning champion: 

Tolaini “Legit” Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Toscana I.G.T, Italy. A Tuscan powerhouse from the heart of Chianti Classico that – given the consistent accolades – should be priced closer to Solaia because it’s essentially the same model: Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chianti vineyard aged for 2 years in French Barriques, easily cellarable for 2 decades. We previously featured (and quickly sold out of) the stoic 2013, but this 2016 is thicker, arguably a little less angular, and should be approachable next year, this year if you wear pads. I’ve told Pierluigi Tolaini’s story before but in a nutshell: Born in Tuscany before moving to Winnipeg (the “Tuscany of Canada”, we can all agree), Luigi drove a truck there (whilst listening to a lot of American Jazz) and eventually bought the company, turning it into a trucking empire of the Canadian Prairies. Always seeking to return home, Luigi used his fortunes to buy vineyards in Castelnuovo Berardenga with the help of Michel Rolland. Now with young winemaker Francesco Rosi at the helm, the Tolaini winery began playing around with Bordeaux varieties and planted the Cabernet that became this proud creature, which Luigi called “Legit” after Thelonious Monk, whose music he loved. Deep and dark fruits like cassis and plum are held up on a ferrous platform of stemmy herbaceousness, this is very much a Tuscan wine and doesn’t seek to ape Napa or Bordeaux, although in frame it does kinda echo Saint Julien. Only released in excellent vintages (2013 was the previous one), this bottling is an event I don’t expect to see for another few years. Exclusive to Everything Wine. #13 – Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 95 points Wine Spectator, 10 cases available, $64.99 +tax 

Garage Wine Co. Vigno 2016, Maule Valley, Chile. Our kids may never forgive us for all the Vigno we didn’t buy. Ridiculously priced for such Cellar Stars, the Vigno category (a shortening of “Vignadores de Carignan”) applies to dry-farmed, old-vine Carignan-led field blends from the Secano area of Maule Valley; it’s the most stringent appellation that Chile has, operably the only “real” one by European standards of control. Garage Wine Co.’s take on the category (from the Truquilemu lieu-dit) is freaking stunning – a very Piemontese structure supporting a bouquet of flowers and stones: violets, orange zest and black raspberries surrounded by rhubarb, gravel, smoked meat and earth, all on top of a medium-bodied, mineral frame with an acidic structure that can see through walls. The finish is long, rustic and Barolo-esque – New World freshness on an Old World castle – and though drinking with food now, will continue to evolve amazingly through 2030. There’s no way it stays this price. Carignan with Grenache and Mataro (Mourvèdre), exclusive to Everything Wine. 97+ points Robert Parker, 6 6-packs available, $89.99 +tax 

Until next week, Happy Drinking! 

Wagner Family of winemakers

With their Napa Valley roots dating back to the 1850’s, the Wagner family went on to help shape the region’s wine industry and released their first vintage in 1972 consisting of just 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspired by their family’s rich history of winemaking, Charles Wagner and his wife Lorna along with their son Chuck fulfilled their dream of starting Caymus Vineyards which remains 100% family owned.

It was their 1973 release, though, that put Caymus on the map—with rich character and complexity, their Cabernet Sauvignon had caught the attention of wine critics and earned the family acclaim and recognition. A few years later, the father-son winemaking duo discovered that a select few of their barrels were producing superior wine than the rest, giving them the idea to separate this juice from the batch and bottle it under a new label called Special Selection. This Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is what launched the Wagner family to elite winemaker status when Wine Spectator magazine awarded it the prestigious Wine of the Year award in 1984 and then again in 1990. Caymus Vineyards is the only winery in the world to have earned this highest accolade twice.

The Wagner’s didn’t stop there, though, it’s been over 45 years and Caymus proudly showcases a collection of wines that have a glowing reputation for their quality and consistency. Chuck Wagner continues to oversee the production of their world-renowned Cabernets while his own children have gone on to lead exciting new endeavours including the unique Conundrum White and Red Blends from California’s best wine regions. Other successes include the Mer Soleil range of Chardonnays, Red Schooner Malbec made from grapes grown in Argentina and then shipped to Caymus; as well as, Emmolo wines which offer a fresh take on Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

If you have yet to taste Caymus wines, you can find a selection of them on our website or visit us in store and we’d be happy to introduce you.

Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Conundrum Red Blend

Conundrum White Blend

Emmolo Wine Company Napa Valley Merlot

Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc

Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay

Small Batch Series: Rhone Valley

Today I’ve got an assortment of wines from France’s Rhône valley, mostly in super small quantities. They’ll be sold on a first-come-first-served basis, unless two collectors ask for the same wines at the same time, in which case the wines will be awarded based on competitive displays of strength. In the unlikely event that those two collectors deadlift the exact same weight, the matter will be resolved in an adjudicated exhibition of interpretive dance. Should the judges reach an unlikely impasse because the scores for each performance are equal, the wines will be awarded to the winner of a game of Mario Kart – made more difficult because we’ll be using the 150cc mode, and the screens will be upside down. 

Or you could just buy them the fastest. We begin: 

NORTHERN RHÔNE 

René Rostaing La Viaillère 2016, Côte Rôtie AOC. From a lieu-dit to the north of the appellation comes this herbaceously floral, objectively pretty Syrah (100%) from 100+-year-old vines, approachable and balanced, despite the firm tannins. I use “René” Rostaing so everyone knows which house I’m talking about, but in truth the winemaking duties have passed to René’s son Pierre, who carries on his father’s practices of older barrel use (only 10% new oak at any time), whole-cluster pressing and (along with Jamet) traditional, long fermentations. René inherited the La Viaillère plot from his famous father-in-law Albert Dervieux, and this 2016 drinks like a tea party: bright red fruits, lavender and jasmine notes over a firm, full core. Hella concentrated, these ancient vines produce few grapes and the production is miniscule. 96 points Vinous, 94 points Robert Parker, 5 bottles available, $169.98 +tax 

Pierre Gaillard “Rose Pourpre” 2017, Côte Rôtie AOC. I’ve never tasted a Rôtie quite like this deep, savoury beast – it’s like espresso beans staged some performance art with a herb tapenade then set themselves on fire. Much longer a farmer than winemaker, Pierre helped plant the vines for Guigal La Turque vineyard back in the day, but he pretty much spends all his time now in the granite/schist-y Cote Rozier lieu-dit (adjacent to La Landonne, surrounds it, in fact), where he makes contemporarily dynamic Syrah like this top cuvée called Rose Pourpre, an assemblage of the vintage’s best barrels. Holy schist, this is a big wine, living up to the ‘rôtie’ (roasted) moniker with its south-facing slopes and toasty barrels. Good to go but dense enough to bunker for a decade. I was only allocated one 6-pack of this. 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $172.98 +tax 

Domaine Barge Côte Brune 2016, Côte Rôtie AOC. 3rd generation Julien Barge now runs the show at the domaine that his grandfather started in 1929 (although Barges had been farming that hill for others since 1860). His father was the first resident of Ampuis (the oft-overlooked village at the foot of the hill) to go to winemaking school and his grandfather was the first to bottle Côte Rôtie on-site (as opposed to selling the fruit down the river to be bottled by Négocients). Arguably in the zone now, soft espresso notes lift the bright red fruits above the present cedar and molasses aromas, with white pepper rounding off the medium-full body. By dint of concentration this’ll bunker like a hermit, but those who cannot wait shall not be punished. 96 points Wine Spectator, 95 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $184.98 +tax 

Domaine Jamet Syrah 2018, Vin de Pays Collines Rhodaniennes IGP. Fill your house with this and ye shall never be lonely. I keep telling people that there’s no “hack” to northern Rhône wines, you get what you pay for, no shortcuts – well, this wine handily undermines that statement. Using high-planted young Syrah vines from the outskirts of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu, Jean-Paul, Corinne and Loic Jamet have managed to bottle the basic soul of the valley without the structure of the more totemistic cellaring wines. White pepper and gravel notes surround the crushed blueberry and cranberry vibes, the tannins support but don’t poke out, and this is an immensely drinkable affair. A great movie trailer for how the sun-kissed 2018 vintage will treat the northern Rhône’s appellation wines. This is all I’ll get for this year, so don’t be bashful. 92 points Robert Parker, 6 6-packs available, $42.98 +tax 

Xavier Gerard Côte Châtillon 2018, Condrieu AOC. The Official Viognier of the Pleasure Dome, produced by young Xavier Gerard, who inherited his family’s holdings around Condrieu that used to supply Jaboulet. His best vineyard is this Côte Chatillon, perched mid-slope overlooking the village, and 2018 blessed this site with the Awesome Wand® – the wine is bursting with buttery pear, jasmine and spicy notes, with the body showing the extra heft that a year in old barrels can add. This Condrieu doesn’t have to try to be a sexy beast, it just has to roll out of bed. No ratings found as of yet. 6 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

 

SOUTHERN RHÔNE 

Rotem & Mounir Saouma “Omnia” 2017, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. Sourced from all 5 of the AOC’s communes (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Courthezon, Sorgues, Bedarrides and Orange) and produced by the husband-and-wife team behind Burgundy wunderkind Lucien le Moine, this “Omina” (Latin for “all”) shows respect for tradition by walking around it and not bothering it at all. Unapologetically contemporary, powerful and precise, this (mostly) Grenache is entirely whole-cluster pressed before spending 2+ years in anything that holds wine: big barrels, wee ones and cement. What we get is modern fruit over classic structure, showing the softer, elegant cherry notes from the whole-bunch method before sucker-punching with weight and wood tannin – I’d like to see a couple more years on this to allow both camps to negotiate a peace treaty. Fantastic wine, vanguard CdP, it likely won’t remain at this price. 96 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $123.98 +tax 

Domaine des Sénéchaux 2016, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2016 AOC. Now owned by the Cazes family from Bordeaux’s Lynch-Bages, this 70-year-old house in the Bois Sénéchaux lieu-dit (translates to “Sheriff’s Wood”) follows the more classic CdP composition (47% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 19% Mourvèdre with help from those rounding-error grapes like Vaccarèse) but with modern fruit extraction. The Grenache is aged in traditional foudres but the other grapes spend time in the year-old barriques from Lynch-Bages. While this kind of time-jumping can be meh in off-years, it really comes together in stellar vintages like 2016: space-age cherry cola and lavender mingle with medieval garrigue and kirsch elements, the medium-full body has great energy and posture, it drinks tastily now but has 10 years in the tank if you wish. 95 points Jeb Dunnuck, 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $61.98 +tax 

Domaine Santa Duc Les Saintes Vierges 2015, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. One of the most eyebrow-raising things about the Chateauneufs from Santa Duc is that the winemaker isn’t from there: Yves Gras cut his teeth in his hometown of Gigondas (other side of the valley), but his CdPs drink like a local made them, not like a “yep-we-got-one-of-those-too” Chateauneuf from a larger Rhône Négocient. Sourced from the Saintes Vierges lieu-dit on the eastern extreme of the AOC (adjacent to La Crau) on a plot Yves owns and runs, then aged in foudres and terracotta, this 2015 features a duet of raspberry and blackberry over a core of ripe plums and opulent licorice, the structure supports but doesn’t poke out, and we are already pretty much in balance. Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise – no Syrah. 95 points Robert Parker, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $84.98 +tax 

Chateau de la Font du Loup “Le Puy Rolland” 2018, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. 100% Grenache. Named after the lieu-dit just south of Saintes Vierges where the estate is situated, Font du Loup (named after the natural springs that wolves used to drink from) owns a small vineyard planted in 1905 exclusively on north-facing sand called Puy Rolland. Given the aspect and the difficult soil, the Grenache ripens more slowly and is harvested a clear 2 weeks after all surrounding estates, but unlike their more oxidative neighbour Henri Bonneau (who trains Grenache to kill), Puy Rolland is a study in elegance. With the help of Philippe Cambie (one half of Halos de Jupiter), Anne Charlotte Melia-Bachas weds the increased phenolic ripeness to a Burgundian, delicate frame, showing boysenberry, lavender, anise and chocolate cherries over fine tannins and a round footprint. This is unique stuff, a new experience even if CdP is old hat for you. 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $87.98 +tax 

Lou Coucardié 2010, Costières de Nîmes AOC. A powerhouse in its prime, I had this vintage brought in again just for me. Made by Michel Gassier (the other half of Halos de Jupiter), this is an inverted CdP blend (60% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 10% Syrah) from the southernmost Rhone region, but since these vineyards are near the north of the Costières de Nîmes appellation (just behind Tavel), the large stones (“Gallets”) and iron-rich clay resemble Chateauneuf soils pretty closely, just in a hotter setting. The extra heat units can squeeze a bit more ripeness out of the monster they call Mourvèdre, but this is still a bruiser: heavy plum and blackberry notes throw burning coffee beans at each other before getting swallowed by a lake of dark chocolate – in fact, everything about this is so dark it’s surprising that The Cure didn’t sing about it. The several years in bottle have sanded the edges nicely, but it will always have edges, the beast sheds not his spikes. 94 points Robert Parker, 3 wooden 6-packs available, $57.98 +tax 

 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Le Colombier Vieille Vignes 2015, Vacqueyras AOC. 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $40.98 +tax 

Ferraton Patou 2013, Cornas AOC. 94 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $69.98 +tax 

  1. Guigal La Landonne 2014 Cote Rotie AOC. 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 98 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $499.99 +tax 

Tardieu-Laurent 2017 Côte Rôtie AOC. 96 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $118.98 +tax 

Saint Cosme 2016 Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC. 96 points Robert Parker, 10 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Ferraton Les Dionnieres 2012 Hermitage AOC. 94 points Wine Spectator, 10 bottles available, $121.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking! 

Planet Pinot

What follows is a collection of amazing Pinot Noir from all over the globe. Since this country usually gets short shrift, alphabetically, let’s go backwards and start with: 

USA 

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2018, Santa Barbara, California. A true American Classic, and a wine that has vexingly eluded me until now. Only reason this doesn’t cost twice as much as other estate-grown Santa Barbara wines is that Jim Clendenen – the law-student-shaman-Pinot-dancer who owns and runs ABC – bought all his land back when there was nothing in Santa Barbara but Ronald Reagan’s horses (Santa Barbara has since risen to produce some of California’s best Pinots and a famous Anti-Merlot movie). This is generous, evocative, balanced Pinot; as ripe as it is, it retains elegant acidity and never crosses over into Belle Glos richness. Blackberries and cloves stirred with strawberries and green tea. Fantastic Pinot, fantastic value, exclusive to Everything Wine. 2 cases available, $46.98 

DuMol Highland Divide Pinot Noir 2017, Russian River Valley, California. A worst-kept-secret house on a deliberate, deserved ascent. Concentrating on cool climate sites in Sonoma, DuMol’s Andy Smith has been quietly crafting sublime Pinots and Chards from some of the foggier nooks in the county, like the O’Connell and Coffee Lane vineyards that comprise most of this Highland Divide’s assemblage. Lavender and pine notes swirl into chocolate blackberries, a medium to full footprint, fresh finish. 12 bottles available, $134.99 +tax 

Carte Blanche Sun Chase Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast, California. Nathan Allen, a descendant of Clarence Dillon (of Bordeaux First Growth Chateau Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion), worked with French/American winemaker Luc Morlet to pick prime sites in Sonoma like this high-elevation Sun Chase vineyard in the famed Petaluma Gap area in the south of the Sonoma Coast. Then he hired Helen Keplinger (2012’s Winemaker of the Year) to work her alchemy in the cellar - If this were a movie pitch it’d get greenlit in a second based on personnel alone. This 2016 is swimming in brilliant red fruit with sagebrush and violet, drinking lushly with just enough lift and tension on the mineral finish. Exclusive to Everything Wine. 95 points Jeb Dunnuck, 12 bottles available, $99.99 +tax 

Cobb Rice-Spivak Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Sonoma Coast, California. Classy, restrained hedonism. A study in aromatics from father-and-son team David and Ross Cobb and their family friend’s vineyard inland just south of Sebastopol. Cured meats and dried flowers surround the dried cherries and rhubarb, the body is fleshy and laced with orange peel, anise and black tea. This is a lot. The finish is long and thick, with great jolt and zing. New to B.C., imported in tiny quantities. 96 points Vinous, 95+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $134.98 +tax 

Arnot-Roberts Legan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018, Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts grew up in the Cali wine business, Nathan as a barrel maker and Duncan making wine. The pair teamed up to make wine from micro-terroirs up and down the coast and the Legan Vineyard, in the mountains east of Monterey Bay, cools its screaming mid-day heat with breezes off the bay that allow a long, gentle autumn, letting the phenolics ripen without roasting the sugars. Strawberry, raspberry and red cherries lead, with citrus and herbal notes following suit. Nice balance, great finish, could be better in 2 years. 94 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $119.98 +tax 

Orin Swift “L’Usine” Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, California. Inspired by Andy Warhol and his iconic art studio The Factory, l’Usine is accordingly packaged quite artfully (theses could be written about Orin Swift’s labels) and the juice inside warrants it. Winemaker Dave Phinney isn’t trying to trick you into thinking this is anything but Californian Pinot, it’s lush and chocolatey with blackberries, dark cherries, sandalwood and a touch of dirt, with enough lift to dance lightly over a lingering finish. Sourced partially from the Sea Smoke vineyard, medium bodied with full intensity, exclusive to Everything Wine. 93 points Robert Parker, 93 points Wine Spectator, 4 6-packs available, $99.99 +tax 

Nicolas Jay Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, McMinnville, Oregon. Bright/dark exoticism from the windy Van Duzer Corridor. Nicolas Jay is the American project of Meo-Camuzet – one of Burgundy’s forever houses – farming in one of the densest crus in the Willamette. The Momtazi vineyard was planted by Moe and Flora Momtazi, who had a long family history making wine in Iran before fleeing after the Revolution to the US. Classic McMinnville AVA severity forms the core of this crammed Pinot, with deep stone fruit alongside the cherries and roses. 95+ points James Suckling, 94 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $173.98 +tax 

St. Innocent Zenith Vineyard 2016, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. A gorgeous, fruity mess. I met Mark Vlossak a few years ago, a man short in neither talent nor opinions, and in one hour I was up to speed on the geological history of the Willamette valley. Please take my word for it, the dude knows dirt. This 2016 is the second-last vintage he made from the ripe Zenith vineyard, which is a shame cuz this is a tangled feast: roses tossed with raspberries and chamomile over a spicy cherry broth. Delicious and good to go, exclusive to Everything Wine. 93 points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $62.98 +tax 

PORTUGAL 

Casa de Saima Pinot Noir 2017, Bairrada. I can already hear the questions forming in your minds, so let me try and get ahead of this: Q: Pinot Noir? A: Yep. Q: From Portugal? A: Correct. Q: Is that normal? A: No, it’s rarely grown there, especially in Bairrada, which specializes in the dense grape Baga. Q: Why did they plant it, then? A: The French-born wife of the doctor who founded this estate decades ago only agreed to the investment if he planted a small plot of Pinot for her, so she could occasionally recharge her Frenchness, I suppose. Q: How is it? A: Killer, actually. Really good. The extraction is low and the vinification is done entirely in tank, so the expression is pure terroir, and the body and fruit intensity are pretty Burgundian, showing saline cherries, forest mushroom and licorice. Very yum, no weirdness. Q: Well hey, I’m in! How much do you have? A: I have 18 bottles available and the price is $42.98 +tax 

NEW ZEALAND 

Dog Point Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough. As tweedy and proper as the gents who borne it. A lovely, mature back vintage from some of my favourite Kiwi producers, Dog Point’s Ivan Sutherland and James Healy (the original growers of Cloudy Bay), showing tinctured, savoury notes amongst the dried cherries, burnt orange, leather and tea notes. Quite round on palate, ambulating silkily towards a soft landing. I’ve had this Pinot young, and it’s remarkable how it seems to gain ripeness with advanced age. 6 bottles available, $107.98 +tax 

Rippon Mature Vines Pinot Noir 2016, Central Otago. This is a stark, dramatic Tolkien-esque Pinot from a steep vineyard bent over Lake Wanaka, deep in the mountains of the South Island. Schist and gravel are hard to grow in, and these 45-year-old vines (some of the first in that region) produce dense, rich berries, full of structure and longevity. Accordingly, this mighty Wine-of-Rohan is currently austere, showing subtle blackberries and licorice over a taught foundation with a complex, ferrous finish. Best to treat this like a Nuits-St-Georges and bury it for 3-4 years, this will shine in your cellar like a golden ring. 97 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $76.98 +tax 

GERMANY 

Jean Stodden Herrenberg Frühburgunder GG 2017, Ahr Valley. Ok. This is one of those instances where I hope that I’ve built up enough credibility to ask you to just trust me: this is the most incredible, expressive Pinot that I’ve tried all year. Except it’s not a Pinot. It’s a Frühburgunder, a mutation of Pinot Noir discovered in the 1500s that lives on only in the Ahr Valley in Germany and ripens earlier than Pinot (Pinot Noir, by contrast, is called SpatburgunderSpat meaning Late). But it’s workably a Pinot, they both go to the same parties. It’s intensely fragrant (strawberry, pepper, matcha), wonderfully floral (roses, jasmine) and beautifully balanced with great acidity on the long, concentrated finish, nothing weird or rustic going on, just prettiness. Like a Willamette pinot that someone threw a lamp into. Outstanding. 12 bottles available, $105.98 +tax 

Weingut Wittmann Spätburgunder Rotwein Trocken 2017, Rhinhessen. Forget the multi-syllabic German labels, this should be called I can’t Believe It’s Not Santa Barbara!! The Wittmans have farmed near the village of Westhofen in the toasty-hot Rhinhessen since the 1600s, and although their principal grape is Riesling, they make a few barrels of this ripe, unctuous Pinot, full of black cherries, plums, blueberries and vanilla bean, with a medium-full weight. Plumply gorgeous, clean and classy. If I didn’t tell you differently, however, you’d think this was great value for a premium Cali Pinot, which is easier than negotiating those bumpy German names so I’m gonna roll with that. 12 bottles available, $40.98 +tax 

FRANCE 

Lou Dumont Bourgogne Rouge 2017, Burgundy. I have found your Turkey Wine. All the characteristics of premium red Burgundy with the shape and accessibility of Oregon Pinot. Drinks handily by itself – it’s a few clicks lower on the acid-o-meter – but will slow dance with pretty much any meal you put in front of it. I’ve featured Lou Dumont’s Chardonnays but I’ve never showcased their reds, an unfortunate oversight because they make luxurious Pinots, a tad more lush than other Burgundies, although far better known in Asia than here. Mushrooms and roses lift up the prominent red fruit on the nose – the barrel isn’t hiding and that’s dandy – towards a full-ish body and a soft finish with a wee side of vanilla. Enough quality to deserve your table, but enough value that you can watch your 19-yr-old nephew chug this and feel nothing. 5 6-packs available, $43.98 +tax 

BRITISH COLUMBIA 

One Mill Road Home Block Pinot Noir 2018, Naramata. Crescent Beach ex-pats David and Cynthia Enns, the couple who founded, then ran, then sold Laughing Stock, return to the spotlight with a single wine from a single place: One Mill Road (that’s the address). This inaugural Pinot shows off its sunny perch looking over Naramata and Okanagan Lake, exuding baked red fruits, cola and cardamom over a rather unctuous body with a toasty finish. One of the more plus-sized Pinots to emerge from BC, no doubt due to the extra hours of sunshine their higher altitude affords them, and a confident return to the ever-changing local stage. 2 cases available, $49.99 +tax 

AUSTRALIA 

Montalto Main Ridge Pinot Noir 2016, Mornington Peninsula. A beautifully exuberant Pinot from the Main Ridge vineyard, south of Melbourne. The battle between the fruit and savoury notes lifts the whole of the aromatics, but the fruit edges out a victory before the medium body deploys and the herbs come back on the finish, in an almost Campari-esque way. The oak is felt but not tasted or nosed, the fruit profile is fresh and gloriously red. Good to go. 97 points James Halliday, 10 bottles available, $78.98 +tax 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Paul Hobbs Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Napa Valley. 94 points James Suckling, 92 points Robert Parker, 1 case available, $146.98 +tax 

Beaux Freres Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette. 96 points James Suckling, 95 points Wine Spectator, 5 bottles available, $160.98 +tax 

Hartford Court Land’s Edge Pinot Noir 2016, Sonoma Coast. 94 points Jeb Dunnuck, 93 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $78.98 +tax 

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