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The Prince’s Style

Since genetically we all possess disparate palates and therefore taste wines differently, the wines reviewed and recommended in the PinotFile are only a starting point for your own exploration of Pinot Noir. Like any wine critic, I do have my biases and my preferred style. However, I can appreciate all styles of Pinot Noir and I welcome diversity. I like to use the analogy of a suit maker. You may engage a suit maker to craft a fine suit for your personal configuration. When finished, the suit may not fit perfectly, but if the suit is very well made and the craftsmanship is evident, one can still admire it. Similarly with wine, a Pinot Noir may not conform to your personal stylistic taste, but you can admire the winemaking skill reflected in the finished product. It is senseless to disparage wines you personally do not like. You may like peas while others hate them. I disdain blue cheese and my wife adores it.

I want to lead you on the path of discovery, but not do the discovery for you. You must explore, experiment, and find out what is magical for you. Mine is but one opinion, admittedly based on extensive experience, but not infallible or almighty! A Prince I might be, but I do not rule the world of Pinot Noir. Explore the kingdom and revel in the diversity.

Finding good Pinot Noir today is not a difficult task. Consistency and excellence has never been better. Falling in love with Pinot Noir is easy to do, but as Cathleen Francisco has pointed out, “a tempestuous love affair it will be.” Pinot Noir changes in the glass from minute to minute. It is a chameleon, altering its aromas and flavors in the bottle from day to day, week to week. It can be showy one day, shy and withdrawn the next and is never the same. You must be a patient suitor able to welcome all the faces of Pinot Noir. The best advice I can give you is to get to know the producers and winemakers and develop a bond. Establish a loyalty for and an insight into the wine you are drinking and you will amplify your drinking experience. Don’t expect the same wine every vintage and relish in the spirit and character each year brings. Remember, it is the same composer, but never the same song.

Most of you who read the PinotFile regularly will not find the following information a surprise. Here is my personal stylistic preferences in Pinot Noir:

    I look first for balance. Alcohol, acid, tannins and fruit all in harmony.

    I prefer complex aromas with no alcohol intrusion and complimentary oak.

    I delight in lively acidity.

    I am seduced by soft, velvety textures.

    I am impressed by wines that gain power and interest in the glass over time

    I like wines that show well the next day from an opened bottle indicating they will age very well.

    I prefer wines that are food-friendly.

    I like refreshing and juicy wines that make you want to take another sip.

    I prefer wines that are around 13.5%-14.0% in alcohol - I can drink more without getting sideways and these wines stand more on the grape than on the sweetness of alcohol.

    I find lighter-colored wines are more to my fancy.

    I prefer elegance and finesse, the calling card of fine Pinot Noir. Wines that are lacy and delicate, but hit you like a revelation. Sexy but in a slightly rough and erotic way.

    I really like wines that leave you searching for words. As winemaker Veronique Drouhin stated so eloquently: “There are lots of good wines in the world that give you pleasure. A great wine gives you emotion.”

I usually taste wines in flights of six to eight in the morning when my palate is fresh in a quiet and peaceful setting. I use Riedel Vinum Burgundy glasses or Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses only. The wines are opened at cellar temperature (55 to 60 degrees). I do several passes through the wines over 90 minutes, spitting along the way. I then swallow some of each wine. If the wine still seems closed, I will resample it in the evening or re-cork it and taste it the next day. I often re-taste the better wines with food at lunch or dinner. I will taste a second bottle if there is a question about the integrity of the bottle opened (if a second bottle is available). I do not taste blind, relying on my personal integrity to honestly report my findings. My wife (pictured below at last year’s harvest) often adds her opinion as well. As you know, women have great palates.

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