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Folk Tree Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir 2014
One of the coolest growing areas in California, the Arroyo Grande Valley runs northeast to southwest just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Central Coast AVA. Situated in such a way that cold Pacific Ocean air and fog is allowed to filter into the valley, Arroyo Grande also has an incredibly long growing season. Bud break occurs in February in most years with flowering in May and harvest in late September; the area is classified as cool Mediterranean.
These weather factors combined with the soil types—continental and marine rocks, greywacke, limestone, shale and volcanic—create wines with great concentration and fresh acidity. The cooler end of the valley is perfect for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and is a good producer of sparkling wines. The warmer, more inland part of the valley is home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.