Here a Pinot, there a Pinot…

… everywhere a Pinot!

Admit it.  You love Pinot.  This finicky grape enjoys immense buying power pretty much everywhere it goes.  Did you know that it’s one of the most difficult grapes to grow?  Yup.  ‘Tis.  “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir,” says Andre Tchelistcheff, Vice President and Chief Winemaker at Beaulieu Vinyards from 1938 to 1973.  It seems to inspire a particular sort of passion among winemakers, probably because it is such a challenge.  Never let it be said that winemakers aren’t an obsessive bunch.  But that is a good thing for you!  Because they keep trying and trying to make the best Pinot possible.  And many times they succeed!  Like with these three Pinots that I present to you on this Monday afternoon- three recent favorites, of mine personally and of staff and customers!

First up is the Sean Minor “Four Bears” Pinot Noir, 2008 from Carneros.  We have been killing it with this wine at Cellar for a few months now.  It’s the friendliest of the three, and it really captures the sunny, warm, inviting characteristic of Carneros Pinot Noir.    I get lots of vanilla on the inhale and it’s pretty darn sexy.  A plush wine, with juicy blueberry notes, plums, laced in with toast, black tea, a little spicy nutmeg and the aforementioned vanilla.  This is a Pinot that’s been told to behave and smile- and it certainly does.  It smiles real pretty with a dimples on it’s cheeks.  At $16 a bottle, this guy is a real steal.  Wine Enthusiast gave it 91 points, to boot.

Next up is the Maysara “3 Degrees” Pinot Noir, 2008 Oregon.  I’ve been a fan of Maysara’s wines for some time now- and then recently found out two new fun facts about them- 1.) the winemakers are three sisters and they are currently the youngest female winemaking team in the country! (according to and 2.) they are certified Biodynamic and employ Organic farming methods!  So you can feel good about this purchase, especially when you can buy it for $19 at Cellar!  Maysara makes lots and lots of different wines- Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, a delicious Rose of Pinot Noir, as well as lots of different single vineyard Pinot Noirs.  This is the first release of the 3 Degrees.  (check out their other wines here.  it’s worth a visit just to see the beautiful label art and cool names).

Anywho- the 3 Degrees is a light juicy little wine- only 12.5% alcohol.  Beautiful black cherry, cream soda, hints of fir tree, and a lean tart cranberry finish make my mouth quite happy.  This wine is a touch more demure than the Sean Minor, slightly more feminine, graceful, and yet perky.  YUM.  Can’t wait for the Advintage trade show so I can revisit all the Maysara wines!

Last but not least is the Fat Barrel Pinot Noir, 2007 Willamette Valley.  This one is a cross between a Oregon Pinot fan’s Pinot and a Burgundy fan’s Pinot.  To me it smells like Oregon and sips like Burgundy.  Vanilla, raspberry, cranberry, toast, black pepper and wood are what it’s workin’ with.  The reason I think it sips like a red Burgundy is that it’s a touch more refined and subtle.  If the Sean Minor has a bright dimpled smile, than this wine has more of a wink… and than sneaks you a smile a few seconds later.  Sexy.  We only have about a case of this wine available, and you can grab one for $24 a bottle ASAP!  As an added bonus, the folks at Fat Barrel give 10% of their sales revenue to local community organizations to help those with less.  Yet another bottle you can feel good about buying!  Happy Pinot Drinkin’!


Grey Stack Rose, 2009 California

I never thought the day would come- the end of summer is *in sight*!  Granted, we still have another good 6 weeks of the heat to look forward to, but it IS in sight!  I don’t know about anyone else, but this summer has been one of the most uncomfortable that I can remember.  Constant air conditioning problems at the restaurants have not helped.  So, in celebration of the Summer of Rose coming to a close, I give you one more Rose to get you through the next few weeks!  This one is freaking fantastic, too.

Here it is on my ottoman, unglamorously posing next to my purse, headphones, and a Mr. Friendly’s t-shirt.  And yes Mom, I know I really shouldn’t sit beverages on the ottoman because they might spill.  I’m living on the edge this morning.  Hopefully no one can tell that my wine glass has some watermarks on it, too.  What can I say, I ain’t perfect.  Here’s a slightly better picture that I took at the restaurant the other day:

But dear God if this isn’t as close to a perfect of a California Rose as you could find!  I can’t think of a better way to start my Friday then with a little Johnny Cash, a pound cake in the oven, and sneaking in a little half-glass of Rose before I’m even out of my pajamas!  I mean, come on- it’s Friday the 13th!  That definitely calls for wine before noon.  Get this- only 110 cases of this stuff were made! That’s ridiculous considering it’s $18 price tag.  I know, I know… sometimes $18 seems like a lot.  Poor Grey Stack has sat completely ignored at our last two Saturday wine sales because it’s surrounded by $8-$10 bottles.  Sad, sad, sad.  It’s seriously been one of the best wines on the table and I don’t know if we’ve sold one bottle.  Don’t get me wrong- I love an $8 bottle of wine as much as the next guy, but when a wine is this good $18 is a pittance.  You won’t find it anywhere else, either.

But I guess now that I’ve talked it up, I should tell you what it tastes like! It’s a blend of 55% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 10% Viognier, just to mix it up a little.  Amazingly fresh and vibrant, you inhale a gush of fresh, juicy watermelon as soon as you take a whiff.  The kind of watermelon you daydream about in mid-February when you haven’t seem the sun in a week and it won’t quit raining. Now I’m starting to feel bad that I’m hating on Summer.  I love Summer’s ripe fruits and general carefree attitude.  But you gots to admit, these Columbia summers can be a bit much.  Back to the wine- watermelon and strawberries dominate the fruit characteristic, with hints of melon, grapefruit, and a beautiful floral bouquet thanks to the Viognier addition.  After several deep inhales, I got some lovely notes of Vanilla, too.  Natural, clean Vanilla Bean.  Yum.

Instead of a celebrity, I’m going to associate this song with perhaps my favorite Summer memory- I was thinking of it last night, and in an interesting coincidence, it just came on my Pandora station as I sit here- no lie!  Summer of 2005 at Telluride Bluegrass festival- one of the most amazing places of Earth, or at least the continental US- Emmylou Harris and … I’ll be darned if I can remember who she was singing with, but I was probably the likes of Jerry Douglas- singing The Weight as the sun set over the mountains.  I was with a good friend who had almost missed the set and I told him how glad I was that he was there for it.  He said “Me too” and gave me a big hug (mind you, he’s not much of a hugger).  This wine should make you want to “take a load off”, take a deep breath, and have people you care about around.  I really wish I had a good picture I could upload- but here’s one I found that *almost* does that moment justice…. In the meantime, enjoy some wine as the summer dies, hopefully you’ll give Grey Stack a try!  Ciao!

Vi d’Agulla Avinyo, 2009 Spain

I just love it when wine makes babies.  No, really- they can!  If you don’t believe me- you must try this Avinyo, and I’m sure you will be convinced that this wine is truly the love child of the Opala Vinho Verde and a Cava Brut.  This was truly a marriage made in heaven if you ask me!  In no way am I taking away from the genius and popularity of the Opala- it still remains my most visited and commented blog post- but kids, if you were looking for a worthy contender to match the Opala in almost every facet- this just may be your lucky day.

First, how to pronounce- it looks like a mouthful, I know-  the winemakers must have seen this coming because they have a handy little phonetic guide on the back of the bottle for us!  “Vee-da-goo-ya” Avinyo.  See- we’re only on the second paragraph of this entry and already you can sound smart when you come in looking for this wine.  Repeat a few times to yourself so it sinks in.  Vee-da-goo-ya-Vee-da-goo-ya.  It’s fun!

Next, on to this wine’s many uses.  This wine is so versatile it’s practically preposterous.  Like the Opala, it’s extremely low in alcohol- 10.5%- which makes it a perfect AFTERNOON wine!  That’s right- as the last 6 weeks of this Columbia summer is prepared to rear it’s ugly head, you know there’s nothing better than a chilly glass of white wine with lunch.  It’s aromas of spring flowers, tropical fruits, green apple and citrus zest are followed up by perfect minerality and a brisk, frothy, fizzy and thirst-quenching finish.  Perfect with any kind of light fare, in my mind- salads, anything involving citrus (ceviche, a citrus marinade or vinaigrette, etc), and I think it also a perfect apertif wine-  a clever fellow wine writer that I discovered this morning calls it a perfect “close the deal” wine.  Kudos to that one- I wish I’d thought of it myself!  Check out his website here.

Wine Advocate gave this wine a cool 88 points!  Not bad considering it’s only 12 bucks a bottle!  Gotta love that.  In case any of you wine nerds were wondering- the grape in this wine is Petit Gran Muscat- that might make it seem like it’s a sweet wine, but trust me, it’s not- it does, however, have some lovely muscat-like aromas- ie honey, flowers, etc.  But it’s allll fizzy-clean-crisp-deliciousness on the inside. 

I’m not trying to start a War of the Wines here, BUT- I do challenge all of you Opala-drinkers out there to give this one a try!  It really is Spain’s answer to a Vinho Verde, and Spain can make some good wine, y’all.  But you already know this, since you read my blog and you know that I’ve written about more Spanish wines than anything else.  What can I say?  I love ’em.  You can snag this bottle at the Wine Sale TOMORROW- August 7th for the aforementioned price of $12.  Yes, it’s two more dollars than the Opala, but still it’s a steal. 

One more thing- if you’re out and about and shopping for a sparkling wine and you see the Vee-da-goo-ya’s sister wine, the Avinyo Cava Brut– definitely give it a try, too.  It’s a consistant go-to sparkler that always scores well.  Basically these people know what they’re doing.  Hope to see lots of faces at the sale tomorrow!  And PS- we’re going to have LOTS of awesome reserve wines open tomorrow!  Paul Hobbs Pinot (94pts), Swanson Chardonnay (winery only) and I am anxiously awating the arrival of a few cases of EL NIDO this afternoon!  That’s CLIO’s big brother!  Serious stuff.  And who’d have thought- it’s Spanish, too!   Gotta come check this one out.  Cheers!