Many people will ask us ‘which are the best pinot noirs to buy, from where, how much, and why?’
Our answer is… ‘that depends.’ You can buy the ‘best Pinot Noirs’ inour opinion, but we would rather give you the information you need in order to buy the Pinot Noir you think is best- It’s kind of a give-a-person-a-fish vs teach-a-person-to-fish situation.
At Lucky Rock Wine Co. we buy a lot of Pinot Noir (not just our own) and in order to find the best Pinot Noir, we like to factor in a few things: Location, Vintage, Practices, PRICE, and Douche Factor (not a fancy winemaking term… it’s just what you think). I will break this down, quickly, into the five factors just referenced. Our favorite being the last two.
We just created a YouTube episode about the best Pinot Noirs and where they come from. The best Pinot Noirs in the world come from many different locations, and stylistically they can differ greatly. For instance, if you love higher acidity and less intense fruit in your Pinot Noir, you may want to buy from New Zealand where it is cooler. Cooler regions tend to retain acid, have lower sugar (less alcohol after fermentation), and a little bit more green or earthy characteristics. On the other side of the spectrum is California. The best Pinot Noirs in California come from the more moderate climates- usually coastal. Lucky Rock Wine Co. is located in the Russian River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) where some of our favorite Pinot Noirs hail from. The geography here is perfect for Pinot Noir along with many other varieties due to the diversity of climate- next to the ocean. Pinot Noir loves cool mornings and warm days. Burgundy, France, is the birthplace of Pinot Noir and some would argue it produces the best Pinot Noirs- hands down (they are nice, but hit or miss in our humble opinion). Also, they tend to under-deliver for the price you have to pay. Burgundy is a small, but perfectly located region in the heart of the country. Here Pinot Noir grapes are able to achieve a beautiful balance that translates into wonderful wines, but some Californians may find they lack the amount of fruit they are accustomed to…to others they are perfect. Everyone has their own opinion.
Grapes are a yearly fruit and are subject to that year’s growing season. Pinot Noir is especially sensitive to the season due to its thin skin. Some regions, California, are more consistent in weather. Sometimes California Pinot Noirs even border on too ripe- too much fruit and alcohol characteristics. That said, when you find a Burgundy or Oregon Pinot Noir that is on the top of its game- they are truly some of the best Pinot Noirs.
Just like every person has their own personality (for better or worse) so does each winery/winemaker.How do know if a winemaker is at a party? They will come up and tell you…Just because someone likes to make a certain style of Pinot Noir doesn’t mean that anyone else wants to drink it. Some interpretations of Pinot Noir are not considered the best Pinot Noirs. That is why, above, I mention buying from a bigger producer first. They may lack sophistication, but they will have made a wine that is for the masses, a wine that people expect from the region after market research, etc. Not very romantic, but effective.
Like many things in life, we want our wine to be of high quality, but better yet is not spending too much to get it. If you can find a wine between $12-$25 a bottle, this is when you start to get wines that are true to the variety, have some extra love put in them. One of our little joys in life is finding a great pinot noir (which can be tough to find at a lower price point due to its limited growing regions and finicky nature) that is in that price range, but punches above its weight-class. Zinfandel can be easier to find with a lower price tag and high quality…but it’s just not Pinot Noir- just sayin’.
Some brands suck and we, here at Lucky Rock, do not like supporting sucky brands. We love good wine, at a good price, from good people- so we factor in how they treat people- who likes buying wine from a tool? Much like we have a hard time watching a Bruce Willis movie after learning he is a bad tipper… we have a hard time drinking Pinot Noir from butt-face wineries and winemakers. Call it a philosophy, of sorts. Unfortunately, we have to weed these brands out, they do exist and it’s our personal mission to avoid supporting them. Have we ever told you how to tell if there is a wine maker at a party?
Now that you know the ‘Who, What, When and Where’ to finding the best Pinot Noirs, I would recommend picking a price point you want to start with and buying three of the bigger producers, from three of the best Pinot Noir growing regions (California, France, New Zealand, Oregon are a good start) and see what they have to offer. You can find this out by asking your local wine clerk or consulting our friend Google. Most wines are made by a handful of huge brands- they will know. If you like one or two of the wines in particular, dive a little deeper into that region. Play around in the different price points and see what they have to offer. Then you can research wineries and see how the douche-factor rounds out the quality of the wine you have found.