Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grape. Beautiful photo by Jim Fischer.
Pinot Noir grape. Beautiful photo by Jim Fischer


Of all the grapes, Pinot Noir seems to be one of the most complex, and for many different reasons: it can vary in flavor from vintage to vintage, as well as from year to year as it ages. It is known as a very difficult grape to grow: it needs a long, cool growing season, which cannot always be promised to growers, even in the Burgundy region. But when the climate is right, Pinots can be worth every penny of their often expensive price tag.

Primary Regions

Pinot Noir is grown in the Burgundy region of France, in California, Oregon, Patagonia, Australia and New Zealand.

Jim Fischer.
Pinot Noir harvest in Oregon. Jim Fischer.


Pinots age quite complexly: when they’re young, they have very simple light fruit characteristics, like strawberry, cherries, plums, and raspberries. As they age, the flavors become much more complex, and you’ll find chocolate, game, figs, prunes, leather, and smoke.

Also like Chardonnay, there is a typical “French” style and then a bolder stereotypical “California” style Pinot Noir. French (or Burgundy) style Pinots are lighter, often have less alcohol, and less fruit. They are milder and pair well with many dishes. California-style Pinots, on the other hand, have bolder fruits and flavors. There are many areas in California which produce great Pinots, some of the more popular are the Carneros and Russian River Valleys, (both in Napa), and some up-and-coming areas are Monterey, San Louis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. We also have some Oregon and Alexander Valley Pinots on the list: you’ll notice that each of these areas are coastal, which makes sense: the climates of each of these areas are ideal for growing Pinot Noir because the coastal fog gives the area the coolness needed to grow great Pinots.

Our Suggestions

We are a big fan of Kathy Joseph’s Fiddlehead Cellars Pinot Noirs.