2010 – First Vintage of MTGA Merlot
2013 – First Vintage of MTGA Dry Riesling
2015 – Soon to be the first vintage of MTGA Pinot Noir!
That’s right! There is some new grape juice on the horizon for the 2015 vintage. It seemed like a good time to shake things back up which meant I needed to add another one of my favorite varietals to the lineup: Pinot Noir.
Yes, Pinot is pretty mainstream and I know y’all are used to me pulling out the stops for the grapes that need a little more love, but it is one that is near and dear to me. I blame it on my grandpa Gus – the namesake of the “G” in MTGA. His love for all things French, specifically Burgundy, is the reason why it strikes such a chord with my taste buds. That love for Pinot Noir was also passed down to my dad, Todd, before it finally ended up with me.
The earliest experience that I can really remember with Pinot Noir was in Burgundy…and as I type this I have just realized that this trip was ten years and two months ago. I was traveling with both of my grandparents who had decided to take me on a trip through Europe after I graduated high school. They mapped out this trip as follows: London, Reims, Venlo, Burgundy and then finishing in Paris.
Getting to the Burgundy portion was a bit of a challenge for me. Our last night in Venlo was one that I simply don’t remember due to a wedding that we attended. The bride and groom were good friends of my grandparents and we were invited to all of the festivities. Let me put it this way: After the ceremony and reception, the last thing I remember was sipping some Champagne on a patio outside in the early evening at the Hotel and Restaurant Valuas. All of a sudden I came to at the bar when everyone had left except one other couple and myself; all which were sipping on Jack Daniels at some point in the early morning. I have no recollection of what happened that night between that glass of bubbles and suddenly waking up at the bar at whatever time it was.
Rumor has it my impression was such that they still remember me to this day… and I have no idea if that is a good thing OR a bad thing… so there’s that.
PS: Marcel, Eric, Miriam, I hope all is well!!
Anyway, I felt like I barely made it through our drive down to Burgundy from Venlo but luckily enough I was able to rehydrate and sleep most of it off before we reached our destination. I was able to rally for a ridiculously amazing dinner stop at a restaurant that I honestly cannot remember; however it still ranks as one of my best of all time, before settling in for the upcoming excursions in the area. I am now on a new mission to figure out what that restaurant was… all I know was that I wanted to try tripe for the first time and my grandparents wouldn’t let me.
I believe it was the next day we visited an acquaintance of my grand parental units. It was raining quite a bit that day. The winemaker we visited greeted us and as we walked into his basement he grabbed a couple of glasses off of a picnic table that were outside. He dumped the water out that had collected during the storm, gave my grandfather and I the two that didn’t have a broken stem and we went into his cellar. It was then that I barrel sampled my first red Burgundy. It was rough, tannic, acidic, funky and by all accounts something that no one would ever enjoy…
…except for those of us standing in that cellar that day.
I am not sure why I liked that wine so much. I look back at that experience and there really wasn’t anything extremely pleasant about it. I don’t remember the producer, the label or the gentleman that hosted us. Hell I was 18 and had just gotten through my worst hangover (at that point in my life anyway) and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. That said, it has stuck with me. Some of the details are fuzzy but the memories are pieced together by experiences like that one. Frankly it is the reason why I hold Pinot Noir so near and dear; because I have had very few wine experiences that have left a mark as good as that one.
From what I hear it is a finicky grape to work with and that makes me even more excited to make a run at it. As soon as you decide that it needs a little work it rears its ugly head at you and gets worse. Some awesome winemakers have told me it is truly a love-hate relationship that actually does work out in the end as long as you are patient. Pinot Noir is the brat of the wine industry. In a constant state of the “terrible twos” or something, yet it is one of the most revered grapes this world has to offer. Pinot Noir offers a challenge to winemakers new and old it seems. It is a challenge that isn’t accepted lightly but the challenge that Pinot Noir brings to the table is taken on nonetheless. Winemakers vintage in and out continue to make some of the most amazing wines this world has to offer out of this bratty grape.
I can’t say there is a region in the world that makes Pinot Noir that I don’t like. California, Oregon, New Zealand, France (duh) are definitely the ones I lean towards but with that much variety between each it would be hard to go wrong. A few of my favorite wines that I have ever had have been Pinot Noir both in sparkling and still wine form. Some of those wines have been as young as 4 or so years, others were up to 24 years old and in each case they were mind-blowing.
Pinot Noir has amazing versatility. From sparkling wine or champagne, to rosé, then on to your traditional red Pinot. Earthiness, funk, cherries, cranberries, freshness, currants, mushrooms, more funk, cola, toasty-ness, MORE FUNK, to just plain yumminess. You have your Burgundian purists to the California “Cab lovers” Pinots. There is SO MUCH that can be done with Pinot Noir! How could I not take my own shot at it?
I couldn’t not make a go at it. Just like that wood chuck couldn’t not chuck wood. By the end of this next harvest I am looking to have a few different clones and lots to play with and boy am I excited (if you couldn’t tell).