Category Archives: Pinot Noir

No need to pinch pennies on this pinot

It's getting hot in here!Abraham Lincoln has always been America’s coolest president. Sure, Teddy Roosevelt was a “Rough Rider” before it sounded like the most popular guy at a gay bachelor party. And Ron Reagan was a bad actor, Bill Clinton blew a sax and Barack Obama started hosting jam sessions at the White House.

Bitch, please.

The guy wore a stovepipe hat, ended slavery and kept the union together before getting shot at a play. The 16th President was a Renaissance man! And that was before Hollywood revealed him as a badass vampire hunter.

Let’s face it. Lincoln had more character in his beard than most POTUSes can find in a cabinet. So when his face turned up on this bottle of 2010 Pennywise Pinot Noir, it gave some instant credit.

Now, Honest Abe was a known teetotaler. (Some reports say that he drank beer for a while, on his doctor’s advice, but I suspect that excuse didn’t work for him any more than it has for me.) But I digress. Truth is, Lincoln’s profile on the penny is the centerpiece of a decidedly understated label that masks a very respectable wine. This “California Smart Wine,” as the label promises, is not intended to increase your IQ, but to harken back to Honest Abe’s era when folks knew the value of a penny.

Of course, there’s no virtue in being penny wise and pound foolish. The Wine Slobs might scrimp on the payout, but we’re not interested in buying cheap wine just for the sake of cheap wine. It’s got to be good — or at least have a cool label or an interesting story.

But we do know the value of a $10 bill, and we gladly surrendered one after tasting this Pinot at our local Rosauer’s. Now, if you are familiar with Rosauer’s, you know that you can easily spend 10 bucks on a bunch of arugula, some capellini mushrooms and an organic, free-range chicken breast. So getting a bottle of tasty vino for $9.99 seemed an especially good deal.

It wasn’t just the price that appealed to us. Even the tiny plastic cups at the tasting table revealed a fruity but robust pinot. The color’s actually a little thin, which makes the flavors seem that much more dramatic. The aroma is somewhat unique, with cherry cola and light cinnamon coming to mind, just like the vintner’s website says. They also claim “sassafras,” but frankly, I don’t know what that smells like, so I’m gonna take their word.

When it comes to flavors, cherry is the obvious leader here, but there are plenty of berry notes in the middle and a cranberry-infused finish that combine to make this a very well-rounded wine. The makers also claim wild strawberry, candy cap mushroom and sandalwood. Mushrooms and sandalwood sound like the beginnings of a good Saturday night for sure, but I can’t confirm the connection to this wine.

The Other Guys,” makers of Pennywise, take themselves pretty seriously, it seems. But they come by it honestly as the fourth generation of winemakers in a family that began growing grapes near Sonoma, Calif., in the late 1890s. The “laid-back guys” make “stand-out wines” under a half-dozen labels. This particular blend combines 60% Clarksburg Pinot grapes, 39% Monterey grapes and a touch of Paso Robles sirah for a pleasing, middle-of-the-road wine that would pair well with a wide range of dishes — brie and crusty bread, chicken, pasta with white sauce, a salad laden with herbed croutons and slivered almonds.

No matter what you prefer as accompaniment, this is an all-purpose wine that, once tried, is sure to keep turning up in your wine rack. Kind of like a bad penny.

Aromatique: Surprisingly complex, with hints of cherry cola, raspberry and cinnamon.
SipQuips: Cherry, not overly tart, with sweet berries and just a touch of oak.
Kitchen couplings: Would pair well with a wide range of foods, including Finnish summer soup, which is what I enjoyed it with. Soft cheeses, good bread. Vegetable dishes, light pasta and chicken would all be good choices.

Pretty In Pink

Remember the old douche ads from the late 70s and early 80s (now considered “vintage” I’m sure), before the Summer’s Eve “Hail to the V” campaign? Where marketing moguls depicted a woman strolling along a pristine beach clad in yards of flowing white gauze or wandering a field blanketed with wildflowers, carrying a thoughtful smile?   I know now that her outward expression of happiness was not because her freshly cleansed va-jay-jay had the lingering scent of newly cut lilacs, but because she was remembering the fabulous new wine she’d enjoyed the night before. A wine like Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir: romantic, clean, refreshing and packed with floral aromas.

We discovered this wine across a crowded room at Boise’s own, “Sippin’ in the City” a few months back. It was love at first sight. After all, it’s a pretty wine in a pretty bottle and sells for less than $10, which makes for a pretty sweet deal. We found this bottle at our local Fred Meyer on sale for $7.99.

So what made me fall head over heels in love with this wine?  Let me count the ways…

It’s local.  At least it’s local for us. It has been a long time coming, but Idaho is finally making its way up the grapevine.  The Snake River Valley is home to at least 34 of the more than 40 wineries in Idaho. This appellation is historically known for its volcanic and glacial activity and, although this is typically an arid region, the river provides irrigation and much-needed air currents that moderate the often intense weather during the summer and winter months. Lucky for us, grapes dig it.  Indian Creek Winery is located on the west end of the Snake River Valley, in Kuna, Idaho, and open every weekend from noon to five.

It’s pink. And who, pray tell, doesn’t like pink?  At this point, you might be wondering why a wine called, “White Pinot Noir” is pink at all. To this, I implore you not to judge a grape by the color of its skin.  Almost all wine made from the Pinot Noir grape is red, due to its deep purplish color. But if the skins are not allowed to “get jiggy” with the juice, the result is a quite lovely shade of pink oftentimes referred to as a rosé.

Indian Creek White Pinot Noir

Did you know Indian Creek's 2009 White Pinot Noir took Gold and was voted "Idaho's Best Rose?" Photo:

It’s a winner. The Idaho Wine Competition is a bit like an Olympic event for Idaho vino, with more than a hundred contestants in various categories, and arduous standards. Indian Creek’s 2010 White Pinot Noir took silver last fall (2011). Clearly, even wine slobs recognize a winner when they taste it.

It rocks.Let’s face it, the most important aspect of any wine is, taste. If you don’t enjoy the flavor, what’s the point really? If you love wine (and I assume you do, or you wouldn’t be wasting life’s precious moments reading our drivel) I feel quite confident Indian Creek’s White Pinot Noir will find its way into your heart, too.

The intense aroma of cherry blossom and honey are absolutely intoxicating. At first glance it could be compared to plum wine, but with only 2.5% residual sweetness, it is far from being sickeningly sweet.  Instead, it’s relatively tart on the tongue, boasting well balanced acidity and notes of juicy strawberry, melon and a burst of mouth watering citrus.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to a light snack or meal, decadent desserts, a single square of chocolate to be savored by you and you, alone.  Rarely, do the wine slobs purchase the same bottle of wine more than once or twice (okay four is all I’m admitting to), but this one my friends will always have a spot in our wine rack.

Enjoying a glass at Mai Thai in downtown Boise!

Aromatique: It’s all about the floral, baby! Bring on the Cherry blossom!

SipQuips:   A wonderful meld of honey, strawberries, melon, and citrus give way to loads of juicy flavor! Not overly sweet.

Kitchen Couplings: Asian cuisine (spring rolls, sushi, jasmine rice), cheesecake, white chocolate dipped strawberries or mild white cheeses.

Hail to the “V”, people! I promise this is worth watching. It’s a least good for a smile. 😉

Crabs cure the Monday itch

It's getting hot in here!We’re not trying to lay blame here, but we got a healthy dose of crabs tonight courtesy of Joe.

Throw in a couple of new potatoes, an ear of corn, a few shrimp and a skosh of Cajun spice and you’ll fit right in at Joe’s Crab Shack! Did we mention the waitresses dancing their way to the “Love Shack?” Nevermind that said waitress appeared to be about 16 years old with an intellect to match. She couldn’t name a single bottle on the wine list, which was only about six lines long and didn’t even have words — the wines were all there in pictures.

The lone Merlot available was something we had previously suffered through on an airplane, so we opted for the 2009 HobNob Pinot Noir, which turned out to be a fine choice despite our waitress’s bumbling attempts to serve it.

We have to give her a bit of a break because, according to her, it was only her fourth time actually opening a bottle of wine. It showed.  She left ragged edges of foil around the opening after removing the cork (which she failed to give to us) and she didn’t bother to pour any, leaving that chore to two people whose hands were covered in butter. The slippery slope didn’t end there.

There were flies. Oh, were there flies! They swarmed our bucket of discarded crab shells as though it was a boar’s head on a stick in a tropical island jungle. And there were hornets, buzzing around hoping to slurp sticky drink residue and salty butter drippings from every table. They especially enjoyed swarming patrons that had just acquired their flavorful crocks of steaming seafood. Now, while we enjoy Joe’s overpriced food and festive décor, it is not necessarily the place you go to hobnob with the social elite. But hobnob we did with this less-than-snobbish wine.

We can’t tell you the price of this tasty French wine; we lost the receipt in less time than it took to drive home. But we can tell you it sells online for between $7.99 and $13 a bottle. Marketview Liquor says this wine “Is an elegant and silky Pinot Noir with an inviting bouquet of violets.” Okay, really? Violets? No. No. NO. This wine is a little more reminiscent of dried fruit or even fruit leather. Perhaps, black cherry or even plum. A little intense right out of the bottle, leaving a mysterious twang on the tongue that neither one of us could discern. But given the time it took to dissect a medium-sized crab with a tool that resembled your mother’s Tupperware orange peeler and gnaw our way through an ear of corn, this wine mellowed into something quite pleasing. Even the Lord of the Flies gave it a two thumbs up!

Aromatique: Sweet and spicy! Bring on the black cherries.
SipQuips: Sweet on the tongue, tempers into a mild spice with notes of plum, black cherry and warm vanilla, light body.
Kitchen Couplings: Joe’s Cajun Steampot with loads of butter, asian cousine, shrimp or chicken fettuccine, homemade beef stew.