A ‘Sideways’ View Of American Pinot Noir | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A ‘Sideways’ View Of American Pinot Noir


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A ‘Sideways’ View Of American Pinot Noir

Pacifica, Evan's Collection, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2010.

A decade after the Paul Giamatti film helped catapult the varietal to fame and fortune, a sampling of five kosher versions good for the Thanksgiving table.

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Ten years ago last month, Fox Searchlight Pictures released an art house film that almost overnight became a blockbuster success (grossing $110 million, in ticket sales). The film, “Sideways,” is the story of two middle-aged men on a stag weekend in California wine country. 

In “Sideways,” Paul Giamatti’s protagonist, Miles, waxes poetically about his love for Pinot Noir: “It’s a hard grape to grow. ... and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ... ancient on the planet.”  

Miles’ little speech seemingly had a profound effect of the American wine market. Within two years of the film’s release, sales of Pinot Noir wines had increased by nearly 45 percent, and prices for Pinot Noir wines increased by 7.5 percent, according to industry figures. Demand for Pinot Noir, particularly American Pinot Noir has continued to grow. According statistics from the Wine Institute, in 2012 (the most recent year for which there is published data) California wineries crushed 248,000 tons of Pinot Noir, compared to only 70,000 tons in 2004.

As the “Sideways” Pinot Noir revolution has now reached the decade mark, it seems a fitting time to check out the current releases of kosher American Pinot Noirs; particularly as Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Pinot Noir pairs so very well with roast turkey. Last week we tasted five kosher Pinots, three from California, and two from Oregon. All of them were very good, and any of them would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table.  

Prix Vineyards, Napa Valley (Coombsville), Montington Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2012. Made by Ernie Weir of Hagafen Cellars, this blockbuster of a wine has a bright ruby color, and an almost full body. The bouquet is dense and herbaceous, with elements of fennel, cloves, cherries, plums, raspberries, mocha and oak, with just a hint of raspberry liqueur. Look for flavors of cherries, raspberries and cocoa at the front of the palate, Chinese winter melon mid-palate, an herbal finish and a restrained note of oak throughout. Well structured, with nice amounts of both tannins and mineral extraction, this wine is ready to drink now, but should be able to age at least another eight years.

Score A. ($60. Available directly from the winery: www.hagafen.com, or [888] 424-2336)

Makom, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, 2013. Jonathan Hajdu, the assistant winemaker at Covenant Wines and one of the most talented young winemakers on the kosher scene, makes a small amount of kosher wine on his own under the Makom label. This dark-ruby-colored, medium-bodied wine has a fruity nose of strawberries, blackberries and cranberries, with an intriguing note of green cabbage and a hint of spice. Look for flavors of red cherries, strawberries, blackberries and oak, with a note of brown butter on the finish. Drink within the next five years.

Score A-/B+ ($40. Available direct from the winemaker, jonathan@covenantwines.com


City Winery, Ein Sof, Williamette Valley, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2011. While the grapes for this delightful wine were grown in Oregon, the wine was actually made in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. Dark ruby in color, with a medium body, this wine has flavors and aromas of cherries, raspberries, chocolate and oak, with a hint of coriander seed. Look for a good amount of powdery tannins. Drink now through 2019.

Score A-/B+ ($49. Available directly from the winery: City Winery, 155 Varick St., Manhattan, [212] 608-0555)


Pacifica, Evan’s Collection, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2010. In 2010 Phillip Jones, the winemaker behind New Zealand’s Goose Bay kosher wines, started producing kosher wines in Oregon in cooperation with kosher wine giant Royal Wine Corp. This initial vintage of Pinot Noir has now reached full maturity. Dark garnet in color, with a medium body, the wine has a bouquet that is redolent of cherries, cranberries and anise, with notes of cedar and brier in the background. Drink within the next three years. 

Score B+ ($21.97. Available at PJ Wine 4898 Broadway, Manhattan], [212] 567-5500)


Hagafen Napa Valley (Coombsville), Pinot Noir, 2013. Hagafen’s proprietor/winemaker, Ernie Weir, has been making consistently good Pinot Noirs for more than three decades. His 2013 Pinot is a dark ruby colored, medium bodied wine. The still-tight nose has elements of red currants, blackberries, star anise and spicy cedar.  While approachable now, this wine will only start to show at its best in 2016, and should then cellar well until at least 2021.

Score B+ ($28.95. Available at Skyview Wine and Liquors, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale], [718] 601-8222)

Please Note: Wines are scored on a scale of A to F, where A is excellent, B is good, C is flawed, D is very flawed, and F is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.

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