Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Tractor Guy gives Pinot fans a winner
As anyone who follows wine knows, 2005 was considered a banner year for French wine, the best vintage since 1961. The result, of course, was that the price of the great French wines skyrocketed, putting them out of reach of all but the most wealthy - which doesn't include me, or pretty much anyone reading these words, I believe.
What's a Pinot Noir lover to do?
Some in the wine world say there are two kinds of people - those who drink Bordeaux and those who drink Burgundy. A sort of head-and-heart thing, Pinot Noir invoking odes to the spirit and soul. Those of you who are on the quest to find the world's best Pinot Noirs know what I mean.
But back to the wallet. If one cannot afford a Grand Cru from the great hilltops of Burgundy, it becomes essential to look elsewhere. Fortunately for us, one of the elsewheres is California.
Back in the 1960s, when the real recovery from prohibition was gearing up, the goal of many California winemakers - Stag's Leap, Chateau Montelena, the Mondavi family, to name just a few - were setting out to make wines as great as those of France, which was, at the time, the benchmark for the rest of the world.
Their successes came on the map in 1976 at the famed (or infamous, depending on your perspective) Paris wine tasting, in which two American wines scored higher than their French counterparts.
Were there some price increases? Yes, of course. At the same time, they did not, and have not risen to the stratospheric prices of France in 2005.
So, Pinot lovers continue their search. I wanted to assist them in that process with a recent discovery, an excellent Pinot at an excellent price, given its quality.
Now, as you've read here and on the front page of this paper, some wine labels and names have gotten more, well, attention-getting, as advertising in a larger and larger market becomes more essential.
The end result is that you can't judge a book by its cover. We're no longer in a world that is exclusively labeled with the names of the vineyards. This having been said, don't be fooled by the name of this excellent Pinot Noir: The Tractor Guy.
Yes, there's a picture of a tractor on the otherwise sparse label - a vineyard name and the grape. I can easily live with a tractor, given what's inside:
The Tractor Guy 2009 Pinot Noir, California (Sonoma County), $24.99, The Wine Studio, Manchester. Pinot Noir is perhaps the most finicky grape on earth - it needs warm days and cool nights so the contents inside its thin skin can reach highest quality. California, many of whose wine regions are near the Pacific, can supply this environment. This Pinot, at 14.1% abv, is purple with ruby hints, and a clean, pure nose of medium-plus intensity, fruit forward with raspberry, some hints of background earth on the nose. It's dry, as a Pinot should be, with strikingly high acidity that's mouth watering, lively, refreshing and zesty, and yet somehow stays in balance, medium tannin that is ripe and soft and also gives some good structure, medium alcohol, medium body, and flavors of raspberry, plum, and strawberry and some redcurrant hints bringing up the rear. The whole thing is a beautiful harmony, all the more striking for the acidity, with balance, good concentration of flavors, and good length, the flavors lasting right through to the finish. Buy now while you can; I don't expect it to last long once word is out. 91 points.
I see now that I haven't left room for the Italian beer I mentioned last week - but fear not, as you read this I'll be writing about the five new beers from 'na biretta.
Jim Beauregard is a local wine and beer writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.