Pinot Noir: A Shooting Star

The mere mention of Pinot Noir makes wine lovers swoon. And it’s easy to see why: This finicky little grape has achieved red wine royalty, producing some of the most gorgeous, food-friendly wines in the world.

Centuries of experience in Burgundy have resulted in benchmark Pinot Noirs with legendary reputations. Whether you’re coveting a ritzy bottle from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s scant 25 acres or in awe of the value of a winemaker’s wares in Fixin, one thing is for sure: Burgundy is the spiritual homeland of Pinot Noir. Fittingly, this relatively tiny sliver of a ridge in eastern France reflects a proper microcosm of styles for the noble grape. Like your reds light, silky, and cherry-fruited? Head to Marsannay. Or, opt for Pommard if you prefer your Pinot brawny and brooding. And if you want to crank up the complexity, age your Burgundy: A red Burgundy of 10-20 years pays dividends in fruit leather flavors, ethereal textures, and aromas of forest floor or moss-strewn stones.

While Burgundy sparked the love of Pinot Noir, California has kept the flame alive. Classic California Pinot Noir wines are absolutely charming, offering up a generous bounty of dark red fruits, pillowy-soft tannins, and cheerful baking spice. If lush cherry fruit and velvety tannins grab your attention, then fill your glass with the full-bodied Pinots of Sonoma and Santa Barbara—namely those of Santa Barbara-based Arcadian Winery and Sonoma-based Hanzell, whose Pinots are very rare and hard to find.

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