Americans love to guzzle Pinot Grigio during those sultry summer brunches and cozy up with a nice glass of Pinot Noir as the leaves start to change color. Many of us know the now-famous jingle by Tituss Burgess about Pinot Noir during an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which turned Pinot into a pop culture reference.
For all that Americans love Pinot, however, they probably are unaware of the complexities of its varietals or natural approaches to growing and farming that dominate new world conversations and techniques. Even though some of these smaller production wines taste like an everyday, palette pleasing Pinot, the level of care put into the winemaking is to be commended.
This week we wanted to highlight a few different producers – two from the Pacific Northwest and another from Czech Republic – who are using Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other lesser known grapes to demonstrate the potential of these new world techniques for Pinot grapes.
For our first stop, we head to Moravia in the Czech Republic to meet Richard Stavek, who began his natural wine production as a leader for the region back in the mid-90s. He currently has a total of about 4.5 hectares of vines. Though he might be most well known for unique Czech and regional grape varietals, his recent foray into an under $30 bottle of Pinot Noir has been a success.
The Richard Stavek PN 2016, as the name suggests, is a single varietal Pinot Noir made from 2016 grapes. The grapes were semi-carbonically fermented and spent 10 months in large barrels. The wine is unfined, unfiltered and features no sulphur. The result is a zippy wine with a white pepper and forest floor nose. On the palette dark blackberry fruit and tart cherry notes dominate with a lifted and driving acidity. There is a grounded structure without too many tannins, causing the wine to nimbly dance into its finish. This might be a classic expression of the varietal but it executed at an extremely high level.
For our next stop, we head to Oregon, where we encounter the wines of the Willamette Valley, perhaps best known for expensive Pinot Noirs and high quality Pinot Gris. Instead of focusing on some of the fabled Pinot producers, we want to focus our attention to natural winemakers St. Reginald Parish and Minimus.
St. Reginald Parish got its attention making the Marigny Carbonic Maceration Pinot Noir, the ultimate glou glou juice that can’t stay on the shelves. Recently they have also branched out to Pinot Gris, including a skin contact version, Pinot Noir rosé, and even Chardonnay. For this week’s offering, we focus on the rosé, which was harvested early and pressed right into netural barrels for maximum freshness.
The St. Reginald Parish, Marigny Rosé 2018 might seem like something you’d hope for in the height of summer but it’s hard not to see the appeal of this wine with heartier meat dishes or as a pick-me-up on those endlessly gray fall and winter days. This is not meant to be complex sipper; instead, the fresh and lithe acidity intermingle with juicy strawberry notes and a mineral precision in this unfiltered wine. We appreciate the soft and pleasing to round things off.
We end our journey through Oregon at Minimus Wines in Carlton, Oregon. The brainchild of Chad Stock, these wines tend to push boundaries for Oregon wines can be. They tend to be boldly high ABV, use unusual grape combinations, and surprise drinkers with unusual flavor profiles across different fermentation techniques. These wines are certainly for someone with an adventurous palette and speak to the potential innovations of the Willamette Valley into the future.
The Minimus #22 Pinot 2016 blend is a bit of a doozy. In response to a pattern Stock noticed of winemakers in the area unintentionally using underripe grapes to make white Pinots, he created a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gouges that he believes speaks to the potential of grape diversity in the region. At 13.9% ABV, this is a full bodied and powerfully elegant wine. A fruity nose gives way to flavors of ripe apples, pear and straw that coat the mouth. There is a broad acidity here and just a touch of malolactic creaminess to balance things out.