Pinot noir is like that high-maintenance person in your life. When it’s good, it’s very good. But when it’s not, watch out. Quality pinots cannot be reduced to a simple formula; they all taste different based on soil and climate as well as a mix of other influences. There’s always an X-factor with pinot noir, and while part of the grape’s mystique is that you never know exactly what you’re getting, sometimes the surprise it provides is memorably beautiful. These three, all from California, are solidly in the “Wow” category.
Foley “Rancho Santa Rosa” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, 2013
This wine’s grapes are grown just 100 miles north of LA, where they experience one of the state’s longest growing seasons and some of its coolest summer temperatures—advantages to the slow-ripening pinot noir. Medium-bodied and savory, this single-vineyard wine is perfumed with floral, red berry, slightly earthy notes and has a crisp mineral but also gamey flavor profile.
$35, The Wine Emporium, Boston
Crossbarn Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2013
Paul Hobbs infuses his wines with a sensual, lush quality, regardless of the varietal, and this pinot noir is no exception. Plummy, ripe, smooth and oozing with fruit, it is a bit fuller in body than your average pinot noir, with intriguing hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and spicy cherry. This is one you can sip and enjoy with or without food.
$30, Bauer Wine & Spirits, Boston
FEL Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, 2013
On the windswept, rugged Mendocino coast, Anderson Valley is one of California’s best-kept wine secrets. Made by Napa cabernet producer Cliff Lede, this vintage is floral and mellow, with red cherry notes and hints of sage, espresso and mushroom. There’s abundant acid, but the fruit tastes so silky that it’s an outstanding match for medium-weight fish steaks.
$40, Gordon’s, Waltham