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Rockbridge Pinot Noir Shenandoah Valley 2002
Diversity of landscape, terrain and climate make Virginia one of the most exciting American wine producing states today. Its viticultural history reaches as far back as 1607 when early settlers made the first wine from indigenous American grapes.
Thomas Jefferson imported the first French varieties to Virginia and grew the Vitis vinifera species (the European species), though not with great success.
Today, however, increased knowledge and optimal vineyard management techniques bring prosperity with a great number of diverse varieties. Virginia’s varied landscape has created seven distinct AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).
Encouraged by an enthusiastic state government, fine wine production in Virginia continues to flourish. The state achieves success with a variety of wine types and styles including sparkling wines, Bordeaux Blends, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Viognier and less common whites like Petit Manseng and Vermentino.
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.