Tasting Wine: Noir from the strangest of places

For some reason October makes me think about pinot noir. Maybe it’s the weather, the time to transition to red wine but not quite really big reds, or maybe it’s the ushering in of wild mushrooms, butternut squash and pumpkins. But right now, pinot noir is pretty much all I think about. OK, that might be an exaggeration; after all, we are in the midst of the playoffs, but as soon as it gets dark I find myself eyeing a Burgundy glass wondering which wine is going to live in it for the evening.

Before you think this is another column about Burgundy, let me assure you, it is not. Nor am I going to write about California, Oregon or New Zealand pinot noir. Pinot noir has and is continuing to be planted in other areas.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work, but other times the results can be glorious. Here are three such experiments that worked out rather well.

Kloster Eberbach Spatburgunder Assmannhauser Hollenberg Spatlese Trocken, 2005 (Rheingau, Germany): You are probably looking at this name and thinking, “whuh?” Kloster Eberbach is the name of the producer, which is really a “staatsweingut” or a winery is made by the local municipality in conjunction with the Kloster Eberbach monastery. Spatburgunder is the German word for pinot noir. Making sense now? “Assmannhauser” is the name of the town (it is actually Assmannhaus, ‘er’ meaning from) and Hollenberg is the name of the vineyard. Spatlese signifies it was picked a little bit late and ‘trocken’ equals dry. Got it? Pinot noir is not exactly an experiment in Germany (cabernet sauvignon and merlot are) but it is not the most widely planted red grape either (that would be dornfelder). Germany’s cold climate works in pinot noir’s favor, and the soil, with its variations, helps create some really interesting and unique wines. I’ve had other vintages of this wine, which, by the way, were made for auction, and they always were very good. With a bright mineral underpinning and floral overtones, this wine has fantastic aromatics that also deliver on the palate with bing cherry, strawberry fruit and delightfully long finish.

Suggested retail: $36

Torres Mas Borras, 2004 (Penedes, Spain): This is a much less complicatedwine to explain. The Torres family is one of the most famous wine family’s in the world. They have been involved in the wine trade for over three centuries and have been very influential in Penedes. Marimar Torres, a producer in Sonoma, is one of the family’s offshoots. Although Torres was not the first to grow pinot noir in this Penedes, they have certainly seemed to perfect it. Made from a single vineyard in the Upper Penedes, where it is cooler, it has a great balance of earth, spice and red berry fruit and for pinot noir, pretty good weight.

Suggested retail: $35

Weingut Juris Pinot Noir Reserve, 2003 (Gols, Austria): Barely known in the United States, Juris is highly regarded in Austria and elsewhere in Europe. Owned and operated by the Stiegelmar family since 1857, today Axel Stiegelmar, who worked at Robert Mondavi and Canon la Gafelliere in Bordeaux, makes the wine. This is the most impressive Austrian pinot noir I’ve tasted, not bad for a guy who trained in Bordeaux. It’s medium-bodied with bright black cherry, raspberry fruit, floral overtones and a tart finish.

Suggested retail: $38

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.


Read all of Pamela S. Busch's columns at Examiner.com.

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