Pinot noir has been the hottest thing going since Sideways hit the big screen. I still have not seen it, but anything that turns the masses on to great wine can’t be all bad. Pinot is arguably the most versatile of all grapes. It can go from sparkling wine to rosé, from a light fruity summer red to a rich, lush, powerhouse, and holds its own in each category. French pinot (burgundy) is distinct and different enough from “new world” pinots that I’ve not included them here.
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Catena Alamos 2003 (Mendoza, Argentina), $10.99
With a nose of berries and spice, this light-bodied and easy-to-drink wine will not break the bank. It’s hard to find competent pinot noir in this price range.
Kim Crawford 2004 (Marlborough, New Zealand), $19.99
This wine smells like cherry pie right out of a hot oven, and that has to be good. The fruit is rich, ripe, and young—well balanced with just enough oak to temper it. Enjoy it with poultry or a grilled tuna steak.
Saint Gregory 2002 (Potter Valley, California), $19.99
Organically grown. More Burgundian than the rest, with raspberry and a bit of earthiness on the nose. It’s medium bodied and offers a silky finish. I would suggest sipping it with some funky cheeses and a good friend.
Beran 2001 (Willamette Valley, Oregon), $14.99
This wine has a little more going on, with rich unfiltered blackberry fruit, chocolate, and mint to balance out what tastes like a long time in oak. Try it with some pâté or grilled lamb chops. Typical Willamette nose of cherry and smoke.
Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve 2002 (Willamette Valley), $49.99
This is a serious wine, from a winery owned by Minnesota expats. To those who think pinot is wimpy, it’ll prove them wrong. The taste is complex and goes on and on in a diversity of flavors—berry, chocolate, oak, and spice. The longer it is in your glass, the more it changes. Pair with food that has big flavor, such as beef tenderloin, or even flourless chocolate cake! I would love to cellar this for five years.