Thursday, June 13, 2013

East Coast/West Coast Pinot

I don't want to make this post too much of a Biggie/Tupac battle, but there does seem to be a bit of a feud brewing between Pinot Noirs from the West Coast and Pinot Noir from the East Coast, though it must be mentioned that the latter is still in its infancy. Be that as it may, some have taken to growing Pinot east of the Oregon/California boarder.

Specifically, Heart and Hands Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York is committed full boar to producing world-renowned Pinot Noir - despite the numerous obstacles to producing wine from a fickle, thin-skinned grape in a region where there can still be snow on the ground in May. Still, Heart and Hands' owners Tom and Susan Higgins have had a good deal of success committed themselves fully to Pinot Noir, and some wine critics have started to take note. 

While Tom has spent some time in Burgundy, he is reticent to call his Pinots "Burgundian." Instead, the Pinor Noir Heart and Hands produces is truly unique to the Finger Lakes - light-to-medium in body but full of complexity with notes of cloves, spice, raspberries and liquorice that develop over time. 

While Heart and Hands is practically alone at waving the East Coast Pinot Noir flag, people are starting to take notice - and with good reason. I particularly like Heart and Hand's approach of letting their wine stand on their own merits without having to do superficial geographic comparisons.

On the other side of the country, Oregon continues to rack up accolades for its Pinot Noir - and now produces some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. Certainly some of the best outside of Burgundy. 

Oregon has built its reputation on Pinot Noir, and doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon. They know they have a good thing going with velvety and earthy Pinots, though they do tend to stress that their Pinots are "Burgundian" a bit more than they should. Let your own wines stand on their own two feet and let wine drinkers decide what they are or are not like.

One producer that seems to be bucking this trend is Willamette Valley Vineyards. Several of their wines recently received 90+ point ratings from some of the major wine magazines. As versatile, complex and full as these Pinots are, they also are wines that benefit from some time in a decanter or being aged for a couple of years. 

Make no mistake about it. Quality Pinot Noir is now being produced in Burgundy, Oregon and some of the cooler areas of California. However, producers in New York and New Zealand are working hard to make sure that the map of quality Pinot Noir slowly shifts to newer regions.