Pinot Days Chicago 2009

Pinot Days 2009Another autumn day in Chicago, enjoying not only a fabulous Indian summer, but also some Pinot Noir.  Pinot Days occurred on the lakefront, in Navy Pier, an awesome venue for any event.  With such great weather in the city, people were strolling down the pier, fishing, shopping, and sitting while admiring the view of our lake and skyline.  I enjoyed the view as well, like I always do, while strolling to try Pinot Noir from over 50 different producers.

So Pinot Noir has quickly become one of the world's favorite varietals, and there is much to like about the grape.  It produces wines that can be easy drinking, with light and vibrant red berry fruit, bright acidity (which helps with many food pairings), and can also have many spice components, and earthy/mushroom qualities, though mostly (but not only!) found in European versions.  The color can go from translucent and light ruby to light deep purple, and the tannins as well can vary from light to grippy and firm.  These wines can also age, and show many more complexities with maturity.

The producers at this event were here to impress.  I started off by visiting Tim Olsen of Olsen Ogden Wines in Sonoma'sOlsen Ogden Russian River Valley.  I've met Tim before, and not only is he a great guy, but he makes outstanding wine.  He introduced me to two of his Pinots, which demonstrated extremely different styles.  His 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir has deeper color, more tannins and weight.  It also has dark fruit flavor and spice.  On the other hand, his 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is lighter, full of red fruit and bright acid, and has more earthy complexity.  These wines illustrate two basic styles of Pinot Noir.  I was also lucky to try both a Syrah/Grenache blend, and the Unti Vineyard Syrah.  Love the body and peppery spice with those wines.

Next I was on to Inman Family Wines, a small winery in Sonoma, with some great wines, especially their estate organically grown Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This wine exhibits much depth and flavor, and will age well.  The tannic structure is much more intense than many other Pinots, and I guarantee you will enjoy it.  They also feature a few other Pinot Noirs made with fruit from other vineyards, and a Pinot Gris.

I also found another one of my favorite Sonoma Pinot Noirs, the Keller Estate Precioso.  This is made from the estate's best select barrels, and aged 15 months in oak.  This wine is not only full of rich fruits like raspberry and pomegranate, but also exotic spice, and depth.

A few other California wineries I enjoyed:

  • Demetria.  Family owned winery making biodynamically grown grapes, and a great Pinot in the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara.

  • Belle Glos.  A Sonoma producer with three single vineyard Pinots: Taylor Lane, Clark and Telephone, and Las Alturas.  This family has a long history with California wines, so watch out for these wines!

  • Goldeneye.  This label was created by the Duckhorn family, with a vision to create world class Pinot Noir in Anderson Valley.  They now make excellent Pinots from four different estate's fruit.

  • Papapietro.  A family owned Sonoma winery not only making great Pinot Noir, but also Zinfandels.

There was also some Pinot Noir from Oregon, my favorite state for the varietal:

  • Domaine Serene.  A historically acclaimed producer, making world class Pinot Noir from three estate vineyards in Dundee Hills, north Willamette Valley.

  • Le Cadeau.  A Willamette Valley producer making excellent Pinot from a volcanic microclimate.

  • Stoller.  Not only making world class wines, but also the nation's first LEED Certified winery, a mark of not only true sustainability, but also a commitment to being "Green".

There were also some German Pinot Noir, also known as Spatburgunder, represented.  The style is traditionally lighter in body, tannins, and color, though bigger versions are being produced in seasons offering longer summers and more intense sunlight.

All things considered, this was a great tasting event, with not only some extremely enjoyable wines, but also some nice food and olive oils.  Looking forward to Pinot Days 2010!