Top Six Pinot Noirs For Thanksgiving

If you have been reading this column for the past few years, you already know that my top three wines to pair with Thanksgiving meals are Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This year marks another chapter in my Thanksgiving column evolution. I love Pinot Noir, and it is perfect for almost any occasion and certainly for a Thanksgiving meal.


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2012 J Wilkes Pinot Noir is juicy, elegant and sophisticated. A delicious Pinot Noir for the money

So this year I am going to name my Top Six Pinot Noirs. It is not quite the Top 100 from Wine Spectator, but with Pinot Noir being my favorite grape, this means a lot to me.

Before you quickly scroll down to find out what my picks are, I want to preface how I selected them. My ideal of Pinot Noir is its sexy side. I love it for its seductive nature, its elegance and finesse, and its multidimensional aromas and flavors. It need not be a “big” wine to encompass all these things. My love also lies in wines that have a sense of place, and Pinot Noir among red wines, has the strongest ability to convey that message. Burgundy has this in spades, but I have decided upon only domestic Pinot Noirs, as the Grand Crus that have crossed my lips are so obsessively expensive and found almost nowhere except on tasting notes of the most privileged wine drinkers, I would waste precious space on something that is made of “unobtainium.” Price is an object, so I chose wines in a range of prices.

Why only six wines? I could probably extend it to 10, but there is only so much room on this page. So, for your tasting pleasure, I present you my Top Six Pinot Noirs of the year arranged by price, lowest to highest.

2012 J Wilkes Pinot Noir ($16). I remember distinctly tasting this wine among at least a dozen others, including some more well-known and more recognizable wineries. But after tasting everything, I kept returning to this same bottle. It is a juicy, elegant and sophisticated Pinot Noir. And then I scratched my head when I looked at the price. Really? That can’t be right. Well it is, and lucky for all of us to be able to get such a delicious Pinot Noir for the money.

2012 Miura Monterey Pinot Noir ($25) This is made by a fellow Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji, and he has bottled lightning this year. This wine is crazy good with booming fruit, silky texture and lasting finish. It is so good that I don’t think you need to be a Pinot Noir lover to enjoy this wine. It is flat-out delicious.

2012 Lompoc Wine Company Santa Rita Hills ($35) This a Pinot for Burgundy lovers. It offers plenty of fruit but an added savory note to it that reminds me of the Cote d’Or. It has zero new oak, displaying both red and black fruit character with floral notes. The structure has much akin to the Old World as well, with bright acidity and relatively lower alcohol than other New World versions. And, boy, does the flavor travel through the palate, down the neck and back through the nose — a lovely wine.

2011 Au Bon Climat Isabelle ($45) Jim Clendenen is my hero. He consistently makes wine that he enjoys, and has not allowed any of the critics to fashion his style. His wines are balanced, elegant and genuine, not confected or over the top. This is a shining example of Jim’s ability to create classic Pinot Noir without any of the overripeness or oakiness that can detract from the grape’s essence. This wine has everything in the right place with the right amount. It is seamless and almost regal. You would be well advised to put down a few of these for aging, as well.

2011 Colene Clemens Victoria ($60) This was a new find for me this year and quite exciting. This boutique winery in Oregon names its Pinot Noirs after one of the women of that generation. Victoria is one of the founders. Her mother’s name is Colene. So being named after the founder, you can imagine the stature of the wine that bears her name. This is ultra-polished stuff. Silky and velvety at the same time with a hedonistic level of aromas: cherries, strawberries, vanilla, violets and more. Pleasure in a bottle.

2012 The Last Chapter ($89) This is an unforgettable Pinot Noir from Oregon. It is made by Louis-Michel Liger (of Domaine Liger-Belair) in a fashion unlike any other Pinot Noir I know in Oregon. It has a glycerol texture that is unique and impressive. The aromas simply explode in a panoply of nuances, fruit, earth and spices galore. And when you put this in your palate, there is a gush of flavor that fills and soothes your senses all at once. It is simply world-class Pinot Noir and more than worthy of being not only on this list, perhaps the head of this class.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.
Twitter: @Pinotpusher