New World Techniques Meet Pinot Grapes

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.

Richard Stavek PN 2016

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 Marigny Pinot Noir Rosé 2018

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.

Love For All Things Bubbles

It might have been 92 degrees last Wednesday but since then fall has settled in, seemingly for good. However, one of the wine drinking constants from season to season are sparkling wines. They hold up against the sunniest of day drinking endeavors and against hearty foods, if you know which ones to buy.

Outside of Champagne and other AOC requirements, there really are no rules as well. Any grapes can go. They can be single vintage or a blend of years. Round and chalky, lithe and acidic, or fun and fruity. They also happen to be fun. Who can resist the corking popping sound that gets a dinner party started?

For this week’s wine tasting, we’ve set our sights on France and Spain, two of the obvious powerhouse regions for all things bubbly. The results did not disappoint, as we were able to drink something wickedly savory, strikingly fresh and tropical, and left-of-field resembling a wheat beer. We hope there’s something anyone can enjoy for your upcoming dinners or seasonal soirees.

Bodegas Cueva, Brutal Ancestral, 2018

Bodegas Cueva, Brutal Ancestral, 2018

Our first sparkling wine takes us to the Valencia, Spain region, which is situated in a coastal region in the southern half of the country. The winemakers have entered our radar in recent years and we were especially excited to see a sparkling wine under the Brutal moniker featuring Moscatel and Macabeo.

When you open the bottle, you notice a strikingly fresh and powerful wine, with notes of elderflower, melon and pineapple on the nose, with a hint of candied sweetness. The palette is notably fruity, with these tropical fruit notes settling in. A honeyed citrus quality is one of the most delightful aspects of this wine, bringing a counterbalance between the more driving acidity and the juice from the fruit.

This is the embodiment of a Sunday Funday wine and we’d recommend buying multiple bottles because it’s going to go fast.

Chateau Barouillet, Splash, 2018

Chateau Barouillet, Splash, 2018

For our second sparkler, we head to France, just outside of Bergerac in the southwest portion of the country. The label is obviously a draw for this wine: a pop art scene sets a tone for a uniquely beer-like wine that follows upon tasting.

We don’t quite understand it but we recognize that not everyone enjoys wine. The world of beer can be a draw for those not privy to all things grape. Splash, however, manages to balance the greater complexities of wine with the crushable, wheat friendly beer characteristics. Made from 100% Semillon, it smells decidedly like lemon and apple with rich wheat notes that are balanced by fresh acidity and mineral structure. It is slyly sophisticated, striking such a nuanced balance between textured and effervescent.

La Combe Aux Reves, La Flûte Agitée Blanc, 2016

For our final wine, we head further east in France to Revermont, which is located near the France-Switzerland border. This one, the most aged of the bunch, is also the most savory as well. It possesses a broad and rich weight that others lack. It might be for everyone but those that can find solace in savory characteristics will love this bottle.

The nose smells like dried hazelnuts and the lightly nutty qualities carry into the palette. It’s not flat, of course, as an energetic acidity builds as the wine opens up. This is further developed by an encompassing mineral structure that provides a grip outside of typical tannic structure. There is not a lot of fruit in this wine, though this isn’t a bad thing. In contrast, the savory qualities seem to dominate, playing for sensations in all parts of the mouth.

This is the most “fall” of all sparkling wines and best suited for those with more adventurous palette.

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