DIGI TAL VISION
Famous among lovers
Oof food (and film)
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
ONE THING THAT Miles, the conflicted
character from the movie Sideways, was sure
about was his love for Pinot Noir. And what a
plug for this once-quiet wine! Pinot Noir sales
have increased more than 110 percent at
Costco since the film’s release in 2004.
Of course, there are other great reasons
for Pinot Noir’s surging popularity. For
starters, it may be the most food-friendly
wine, pairing perfectly with everything from
chicken to cheese. And an increasing number
of growers are devoting acreage to this fickle
grape, so availability is widespread.
Despite this newfound popularity, Pinot
Noir is an old varietal. Pinot Noir, the grape
behind the great red wines of Burgundy, is
believed to have been grown in that region
since before the Roman conquests. Today,
Pinot Noir is produced throughout the world,
but only in specific sites suitable to its
The red grape requires warm, dry, sunny
days and cool nights. Thin-skinned, it’s very
susceptible to fungal diseases. The clusters are
small, and yields are less than half that of
Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Noir can be
equally finicky in the winery, requiring gentle
handling at every stage of production.
In Burgundy, Pinot Noir vines are meticulously tended under extremely strict production laws. World-class Burgundy comes from
the Côte d’Or, or “golden slope.” This small
30-mile-long, east-facing limestone slope is
where the treasured Grand Cru and Premier
Cru vineyards lie. Every Burgundy village produces a Pinot Noir with its own distinct per-
Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with many foods.
fully with grilled salmon, ham, pork loin,
turkey, chicken and risotto. The higher acidity
level makes Pinot Noir the perfect match for
marbled rib eye, and it shines with sharp and
In its finest expression, medium-bodied,
soft and lightly colored Pinot Noir is one of
the world’s most seductive wines. Pinot Noir is
lightly tannic and firmly acidic (particularly
for a red wine), and at its best often reveals
hints of damp earth, mushrooms, truffles and
wild game with a smoky character that can
seamlessly weave into the fruit components.
A wonderful grape, a beautiful wine—
whether it’s from Burgundy, New Zealand,
California or Oregon, Pinot Noir is a varietal
that will complement just about anything. C
For information on Costco’s
Kirkland Signature wines,
including vintage notes and food-pairing
tips, go to costco.com, click on “Costco
Connection Magazine,” then “Kirkland
Signature Wine Connection.”
sonality. Burgundian wines can
display amazing characteristics
of cherries and cranberries,
with complex earthy flavors.
Today a number of other
cool-climate regions are producing diverse, high-quality
Pinot Noir, such as New Zealand’s Central Otago and Martinborough.
These regions produce aromatic Pinot
Noirs noted for their cherry flavors and
Oregon’s Willamette Valley stands out as a
top Pinot Noir region in the United States. For
many it is seen as setting the standard for
North American Pinot Noir. The coastal valley’s cool and wet climate is often compared to
that of Burgundy.
Several California regions are producing
Pinot Noir and have emerged as top contenders for quality. The cool ocean-influ-enced vineyards of Sonoma, Carneros and the
Russian River Valley, along with Santa Maria
and Santa Barbara, produce wines with luscious aromas and notes of bright, sweet red
fruit, berries and cherries.
Because Pinot Noir is lower yielding and
grows only in specific cool climates, less Pinot
Noir is available compared to more easily
grown and higher-yielding Cabernet Sauvignon
Increased demand in the post-Sideways
era has brought greater attention to Pinot Noir
production, and the results are both good and
not so good. Wine producers, as they do with
other wine varieties, strive for better quality as
they attempt to meet rising demand. But Pinot
Noir isn’t like other grapes: Its inherent imperfections and special needs make it special,
requiring extraordinary care at every level
from the vineyard to bottling and beyond.
This all contributes to Pinot Noir’s flexibility as a food companion. It pairs wonder-
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s
n Wational wine, spirits and beer program.
Willamette Pinot Noir
Maysara Pinot Noir
Acacia Pinot Noir
*Not all wines available at all locations.