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The Long and Winding Pinot Road, Part VIII

It was 1993 and I was hosting Super Bowl of Pinot Noir II. It was a time when the wine cognoscenti were become awakened to American Pinot Noir. American producers were beginning to wave the flag proudly, sticking their chests out, proclaiming how good home-grown Pinot Noir from California had become. The event that turned Pinot Noir’s future happened in the early 1990s and involved a ten-letter word. Several of California’s most notable Pinot Noir winemakers became winegrowers. This one word led to a revolution in philosophy and practice and the results led to quantum leaps in quality over previous coarse, dark, overripe efforts of a few years prior. The most talented workers in American wine now wanted to craft it and the most enlightened drinkers wanted to consume it.

Super Bowl II of Pinot Noir, “Second Encounter of the Pinot Kind,” was held at the now shuttered Gustav Anders Restaurant in Orange County, California. I had searched far and wide to find the best from the 1991 vintage and the lineup was memorable: 1991 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (first vintage), 1991 Ponzi Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 1992 Beaux Freres Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (first vintage), 1991 Saintsbury Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir, 1991 Schug Heritage Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir, 1991 El Molino Napa Valley Pinot Noir, 1991 Rochioli Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 1991 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and 1991 Sanford Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.

My wine drinking buddies, most of whom had been raised on California Cabernet Sauvignon were a little surprised by the full, deep, rich scents and flavors in Pinot Noirs that seemed lacking in extract, body and color. They found Pinot Noir very hard to say no to, seduced by its sensually indulgent nature that melded delicacy and intensity like no other grape varietal they had experienced. … … … … . To be continued.

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