Pinot Noir wines have had their way ever since the movie Sideways glorified this lovely wine in all the wrong ways and in the wrong wine country. This is a stately, royal wine, deserving of all the accolades it gets.
It has “captured the imagination of many wine lovers,” according to James Laube, senior wine writer for Wine Spectator.
The blueprint for this amazing grape varietal is the vaunted Burgundy wine country of France. There, as in other European countries, the wines are named after the district, not the grape, as it is in the U.S.
Pinot Noir must be farmed carefully under precise conditions of warm days, cool nights and just the right humidity powered by the coastal sites of Central and Northern California and Oregon.
If you have not discovered it yet, I want to reveal a little known but perfectly placed wine country for Pinot Noir, and that is the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, west of Highway 101 in Monterey County.
Here, the elevation goes sharply up to some 3,000 feet producing some 6,000 acres under vine. Chardonnay is the largest grape varietal coming out of this area which in total is Monterey Wine Country with 9 designated AVA wine districts of some 40,000 acres and 200 vineyards.
Noting the cool breezes from Monterey Bay, missionaries made wine here in the 1790’s. Now, Monterey, with its 30 thousand population, is the hub of activity with its scenic resorts, fine restaurants, Cannery Row and nearby Carmel Village.
Recently, members of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA paid a road show visit to San Diego, where we could taste through their latest releases of world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Most were 2010, just brought to market. After sipping through the 14 representatives, I settled in with Morgan Winery and its finely crafted Pinots and Chardonnays.
“We have 45 acres planted, 27 to Pinot Noir and 18 to Chardonnay on our Double L Vineyard on the northern end of Santa Lucia,” declared Dan Morgan Lee, the owner. He’s been planting here since 1996. “ It captures the breezes from the Monterey Bay, allowing the grapes to fully develop by lengthening the growing season and harvest. “ The cool weather-loving Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are perfectly accommodated. Both are Burgundian flavored more here than almost anywhere else. The go-to Morgan favorite is the Double L Pinot Noir 2010 ($50.)
Morgan has a tasting room on the outskirts of Carmel where all wines can be tasted from 11 to 6pm daily. Phone 831-626-3700, and check out the web site at www.morganwinery.com.
Bernini’s is La Jolla’s Mediterranean Bistro
Picture a village in France, Italy or Spain with a small bistro offering indoor/outdoor seating where diners gather to hear the talk of the day and to enjoy a snack or a meal over a glass of wine.
On Fay Avenue La Jolla, this is Bernini’s Bistro. Bernini’s has been in this busy location for 13 years, growing into a thriving breakfast, lunch and dinner house, and a full bar with live music Thursday through Saturday nights. All pastas are hand-made.
Before getting into that delicious entrée, try the Mediterranean Platter, with more garden-fresh vegetables than you can count. Nightly dinner specials always make it a menu discovery. For a value red wine with your meal, I would recommend the Hess Cuvee Block 19 Napa Valley. Call 858-454-5013. Visit www.berninisbistro.com.
•The DePortola Trail, Temecula Wine Country is having a Wine-Up Festival Sat. Oct. 20 from 10 to 6pm, at the Vail Lake Resort & Campground. A chef challenge, great wines, and live music will be featured. $55. pp. Call 855-398-9463.
•San Diego Wine Company has a red blend wine tasting Sat. Oct. 20 from 11 to 4pm. $10. cost. Call 858-586-WINE.
•Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas presents Napa Valley wines Sat. Oct. 20 from 3 to 6pm. $50. ea. Call for an RSVP at 760-479-2500.
•WineSellar and Brasserie in Sorrento Valley has Rhone Valley wines in a tasting on Wed. Oct. 24 from 5 to 7pm. Cost is $15. Details at 858-450-9557.