-- among which, and starting off in no particular order, is 2010 Llai Llai, from Chile's Bio Bio Valley.
In Llai llai, pinot noir's distinctive earth-tar-hung game-forest floor-musk aromas lean more toward (very clean) forest floor and wholesome chewy bread crust; be forewarned the delicate, fresh berry flavors that follow will not last beyond the first night, so if you open this for Thanksgiving, drink up. That seems to be true for many of the good, inexpensive holiday pinot noirs I have been lucky enough to sample lately.
Llai llai pinot noir retails for about $12 to $15.
The next two are from R. Stuart Winery, McMinnville, Oregon. Big Fire is their more approachable pinot, R. Stuart Autograph the "step-up" label. I preferred the latter.
2008 Big Fire pinot noir
very pale, clear red
earth, fresh, faint floral --
very light, very subtle fruit (too light?)
almost as gentle as water -- a little burst of acid and tannin at the end
will accompany any food
Retail, about $20
2008 R. Stuart "Autograph" pinot noir
All of the above, only this time a gray charcoal drawing colored in --
more berry-like fruit, more of a pinot's earth and musk
more acid, more body, more interest
Retail, about $30.
Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand --
startlingly light, bright currant jelly color
that pinot noir scent -- earthy, tarry, "gamy"
light silky acidity, berries
... and very good with a baked short rib stew and garlic mashed potatoes. A pinot noir's musky delicacy can be as surprising as its clear, jewel-like color when it sloshes into the glass, especially if you have spent several weeks sloshing cherry-sweet malbecs, thick, black carmeneres, or chocolate-coated zinfandel blends (all the rage) into that same glass.
Which leads me to admit that, really, I am suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the samples that nice people at wineries and winery PR firms send me. (Thanksgiving pinots is the theme of the latest shipments. Remember when I used to drop broad hints that I'd be delighted to be offered a sample one day? It's true, I am delighted.) Or, as my daughter complains when she ventures into the little pantry to get some comestible, and turns around and stubs her toe on yet another cardboard box -- "We're tripping over wine in this house." Followed by an equally frustrated "...and we're tripping over cats," as one or other of our large furry roommates, absorbed in rubbing meaningfully against a human leg, trots away in alarm from a misplaced human foot. The pantry is where we keep the kibble, too, so of course the lords of the manor imagine any darkening of its threshold is all about that.
Absent a short rib stew with garlic mashed potatoes, will The Crossings pinot noir complement Thanksgiving? Yes, I think so. Delightful.
Retail, about $15 to $20.
And finally, FogDog. They also make a marvelous chardonnay.
Bright lush color
Bursting, almost fizzy with strawberries --
typical musk or tarriness is not so evident
a little vanilla
Excellent -- pair it with something rich and creamy --
-- or your Thanksgiving turkey, of course.
Image from Freestone Vineyards