Quality pinot noir isn’t made to a formula, but faithfully reflects its growing conditions. Myriad styles are available, from delicate and nuanced to rich and luscious. While California’s sunny climate almost always enables the grape to fully ripen, its pinot noirs sometimes lack backbone. These three, however, are admirably structured, with enough tangy spice and tart edginess to balance their juicy red fruit flavors.
Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2016
Produced by Maison Taittinger of Champagne fame, this is a charming, florally scented wine, with accents of sage, tea leaf and Provençal herbs. Textbook Carneros, it comes across as gentle and soft on the palate, but with firm acidity, featuring a stony, almost peppery note on the finish. Salmon, anyone?
$38, Beacon Hill Wine
Robert Sinskey Vineyards Pinot Noir, Carneros, 2014
Los Carneros is the southernmost region in Napa and Sonoma, fronting directly on San Pablo Bay. Windswept and foggy, it specializes in savory, middleweight pinot noir, with intriguing tobacco and red berry fruit. Sinskey blends this using grapes from five vineyards, crafting a supple but concentrated wine, with smoky, cinnamon and ripe strawberry flavors.
Migration Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2016
Sonoma Coast is a large geographic designation encompassing a variety of zones within the county. What each shares is a breezy climate that delays harvest to create intriguing perfume and layered flavors. Migration 2016 exudes fresh black cherry, baking spice, clove and earth notes, with a silky, round texture that’s hard to resist.
$35, Boston Wine Exchange
Sandy Block is a master of wine and the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.