Easter is around the corner and you might be asking yourself what wines to serve to accompany Easter dinner. We know that a number of you maybe serving ham and chicken. There is no better combination than pork with Pinot, and it goes pretty well with chicken as well. We say Pinot, we are talking about the major players in the Pinot family, which includes the famed Pinot Noir, the sublime Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris in some circles, and the elusive Pinot Blanc. Notice that these are the main players in the family. Like the popular playboy, Pinot Noir gets around, resulting in a number of mutations and crosses with other grapes. It certainly keeps it interesting.
Pinot Noir is a red grape that makes some of the world’s best and most prestigious wines. While it was always popular among people in the “know”, since the movie Sideways, it has exploded in popularity. And, for good reason. Pinot is generally light bodied, low in tannins, which you feel drying out your mouth and coating the front of your teeth and approachable red fruit with hints of earth and gaminess. There are some Burgundies and high alcohol Pinots that fall outside this category but you always have outliers. I don’t want to influence you too much, but Pinot is my absolute favorite. Like a happy marriage, I fell hopelessly in love, impulsively married and am still deeply in love. It kind of sounds like my non-wine life as well. Seriously, I could drink a bottle of Pinot a day and not get sick of it. The best part is that it is the perfect partner to almost any type of pork, including ham, and doesn’t overwhelm chicken either.
Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris has been on the fast track the last few years. People are in love with Pinot Grigios from Italy. Really great Pinot Grigios come from Northern Italy, the Alto Adige, Fruili and the Veneto, Alsace and increasingly, Oregon. Pinot Gris is giving Pinot Noir a run for it’s money as the grape that should be the Willamette Valley’s signature grape. Maybe they can play nice and share the title. Pinot Grigio is a white grape that is thought to be a mutant variation of Pinot Noir, and the grapes, themselves, are dark in color. This is highly unusual for a white grape and a white wine. The dark hue of the grape gives these wines a beautiful gold to almost copper color, although, you can also find wines that are very pale in color. Pinot Gris has citrus, apple, pear and floral notes and is a great accompaniment to both ham and chicken.
Pinot Blanc is the United States is somewhat elusive. You don’t see match of it, but when you do, you should grab it. Like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc is a white grape and is also a mutation of Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot Grigio, the grapes are actually white, yellow actually, but occasionally, the grape cluster will have one or two dark grapes. That is why Pinot is so interesting. The best Pinot Blanc is produced in northern Italy (Alto Adige, Fruili), Alsace and Germany. The grape produces a full bodied white wine that gives it heft to stand up to ham. The wine expresses flavors of citrus, apple, floral and almost an almost smoky characteristic.
Here are a few suggested Pinots to try this Easter:
King Estate Pinot Gris – along with The Eyrie Vineyard, one of the pioneers of Pinot Gris in the Willamette Valley. King Estate really helped put Pinot Gris on the map and for good reason. One word, delicious!
Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio – this gem is from a family run winery in the Alto Adige. Imagine if you crossed the best of Germany with Italy. It would be pretty amazing. Well, that is what the Alto Adige does for wine – the technical know-how of Germany with the finesse of Italy. This Pinot Grigio is like Spring, itself. Perfect for Easter, a Spring holiday.
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc – this is a rare bird. A great Pinot Blanc from the United States from this storied winery located in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. I love all the wines from this winery – the Pinot Noir, the Pinot Gris and the Pinot Blanc. But, the Pinot Blanc is produced in very small quantities and shown an inordinate amount of love. Snap it up! If you love Pinot, I would highly recommend ordering a sampler platter from The Eyrie Vineyards. They are super nice and have very reasonably priced shipping rates.
Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc – an underrated wine from a yet, almost undiscovered wine region – the Alsace. Wine geeks love Alsace and for good reason. If you love white wines, get to know it. Amazing quality and relatively undiscovered prices. A little like the Alto Adige, the Alsace is a hybrid – the best of Germany and France. Alsace was fought over for years by these two countries and control went back and forth. But, this is to their benefit for winemaking. German techniques, French flair and amazing growing conditions (Alsace is shielded by a mountain range). This wine is full bodied with beautiful citrus, apple, floral notes with a hint of steel and smoke.
Anthill Farms Pinot Noir – amazing Pinot Noirs from Sonoma. I recently attended a tasting called In Pursuit of Balance. As you can imagine, it’s all about achieving balance in California wines. While it was hard to pick my favorite wine, this one had to be it. Yummy! I actually went back for a second tasting and asked for a double so I could drink it. Light bodied, beautiful pale ruby color with bright acidity and flavors of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry. It will be pork perfection!
Shea Vineyards – an Oregon old-timer. This winery has producing top quality Pinot in Yamhill Oregon since the 1980’s. The wines are consistently good and showcase Oregon with the perfect combination of fruit and earth notes. It’s as though the best of California and Burgundy Pinot Noir mated and produced Oregon. Also, reasonable prices for the quality.
Ecard Burgundy – this wine comes from one of the top value regions in Burgundy – Savigny-les-Beaune. Don’t fool yourself by the world value, this is still Burgundy. But, it’s rare to find a good Burgundy in the $30-50 range. While Ecard has been making wine in Burgundy for years, they have adopted a more modern style of Pinot. Yet, you still get the earthiness of Burgundy without having it overwhelm the wine.
Photo courtesy of Winewithoutbs.com.au