I post this because of Michael’s posted comment. Thank you Michael. Originally published in Leonard’s Column in the North Beach Sun Summer 2005
SIDEWAYS – A different direction for Pinot Noir Sales
By Leonard Logan
Owner of Elizabeth’s Café & Wine Gallery at Scarborough Faire in Duck is a Wine writer, lecturer, National Wine Panel participant, National and Regional Food and wine judge and creator of Elizabeth’s famous wine dinners. Leonard conducts wine and food pairing and wine tasting seminars at Elizabeth’s and throughout the Eastern United States.
The movie “Sideways” didn’t win the Oscar Best Picture Award but that movie may have been the awakening bell in the introduction of Pinot Noir to the newly emerging American Wine Drinker. Pinot Noir consumption in the United States has increased over 16 percent since the film opened. The sensual description of Pinot Noir in the film has been known to all who have enjoyed this great varietal. Pinot Noir has silky textures, is supple with erotic earthy aromas. When tasted Pinot Noir displays wonderful fruit often cherries, plums, black fruit, earth, leather, mushrooms, cedar, chocolate, smokiness, violets, , among other tastes. The tannins in these wines are usually in check making Pinot Noir approachable when young. However, some Pinot Noir’s with sufficient tannins and acidity are good candidates for aging.
These wines are much less tannic than cabernet sauvignon, merlot or zinfandel. Because Pinot Noir is lighter in color and body a new wine drinker may assume these wines have less complexity which is not the case.
Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and make into wine. It is highly sensitive to vineyard terroir (soil, altitude, and position relative to the sun, angle of the slopes, weather and moisture.) It is unstable during wine making and requires incredibly limited. Complex techniques have been developed to aid the wine maker including gravity feeds to eliminate pumping, gentle crushing, limiting pumping over (pumping juice over the cap during fermentation to expedite color, flavor and tannin extraction) – everything that avoids excess handling.
The result can be one of the great wine experiences for a wine drinker. Pinot Noir needs a cool climate for optimum production of quality grapes. The premier growing area of Pinot Noir is Burgundy. There some of the best and most expensive red wines in the world are produced. All of the red wines in Burgundy, with the exception of Beaujolais, are Pinot Noir. The wines are produced in very limited quantities and are highly allocated. This means that the best wines are generally unavailable. We have featured the impossible to obtain Burgundy wines at Elizabeth’s and in the wine shop since opening the restaurant 16 years ago. The wines are food friendly and pair much better than more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux wines.
Other very good Pinot Noir wines are being made from cool climate areas in the United States, particularly Oregon, and certain areas in California, including Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley in central-southern valley, and in Carneros, Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, and the Russian River Valley in the north. The film Sideways featured wines from Santa Barbara in California. We have been offering at least 100 different American Pinot Noir’s at Elizabeth’s since opening, together with a like amount of Burgundy wines and at least a dozen by-the-glass selections. We have provided free wines tastes in the shop and served it at the wine bar in season.
We have considered Pinot Noir as the most versatile wine paired with food and have featured that wine on our two prix fixe nightly wine dinners. Because of these selections Santé Magazine recognized Elizabeth’s as the best fine dining restaurant in the United States – even admitting us into their Hall of Fame along with only one other restaurant in the United States. At our very first Wine Dinner Dave Adelsheim, a producer of great Pinot Noir in Oregon, was asked
Why people should drink Pinot Noir rather than Cabernet Sauvignon, David Adelsheim responded that Cabs are okay, but “people aren’t eating much bear meat anymore.”
. My friend George Wackenheim, who writes a wine column in New Jersey and is a frequent guest at Elizabeth’s, told me he asked Laurent Drouhin (of the negotiant firm Joseph Drouhin) if Burgundy was a better pairing with lamb than the traditional Bordeaux. He agreed, and then added that he wasn’t aware of any food that really paired well with Bordeaux!
When asked by a guest one night why Elizabeth’s doesn’t have an extensive selection of Bordeaux wines, I responded as follows:
Pretend you have just won the big lottery and now you have more money than God. You go into an automobile dealership and announce that you want to buy the best automobile with the greatest ride ever made. The dealer responds that he has the perfect automobile. A Rolls Royce limited edition Silver Phantom. But there was only one little problem – The wheels were square and the initial ride would be bumpy. However, if one were to put the car up on blocks in a climate controlled garage the wheels would become round in about twenty years and then the ride would be incredible.
We don’t buy many square wheeled wines at Elizabeth’s.
One little aside about the Sideways film. A comment is made concerning “Merlot” and Cabernet Franc ( I can’t put the quote in a family newspaper) – however, Château Petrus, considered by some wine writers as the finest red wine in the world, is made entirely from Merlot. We have the largest vertical of this wine in the Eastern United Sates aging in our cellar. The film also identifies a very special bottle of 1961 Cheval-Blanc collected and held by Miles as his trophy wine. Few film reviewers have commented that Cheval Blanc is a wine from St.-Emillon, Bordeaux – and is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This just goes to say what some Burgundy wine makers have told me – that if you hold a Bordeaux wine long enough it will taste like a Burgundy when you drink it.
Leonard Logan's passion for wine, love of good food, and knack for entertaining has garnered him a reputation on both a local and national level. As the owner of a restaurant that has won countless awards-from "The Best Fine Dining Wine Restaurant in the United States" (Santé Magazine, 2003) to "The Award of Ultimate Distinction" (The Wine Enthusiast, 2004 and 2005) - Logan has been honing his craft since his college days at Duke University as an amateur caterer for football games and college parties.