An article about Pinot Noir? I’m sure you’re shocked. But it is THE varietal that got me into wine as I shared recently in my love letter to Carneros wine. Of course, I now drink all sorts of things. But I will always credit Pinot Noir as the catalyst that got it all started. One of those early Pinots for me was from Siduri Wines. I don’t know what region it was from – I certainly had very little knowledge and appreciation of wine regions in those early years. I just remember it was damn good. Of course, I now drink Pinot Noir from regions all around the world. And its been this exposure to different expressions of Pinot Noir that have helped me hone in on the regions I love the most. This is why I love Siduri Wines and their absolute devotion to Pinot Noir. They specialize in cool-climate Pinot Noir, producing both single-vineyard and AVA-level wines from growing regions spanning from California’s Santa Barbara County on up to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their breadth and depth of Pinot Noirs is truly unique. If you’re trying to figure out if, and which Pinot Noir you like, these are the folks to help you do it.
Siduri’s line of wines that they refer to as “Red Caps” are their appellation wines. These wines come from broader regions (as opposed to smaller single vineyards) such as Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, Russian River Valley, etc. and generally retail between $30-40. Now lots of people seem to think that only single-vineyard wines equal quality and that the broader appellation wines are quality wines. These people are wrong! Give me a wine from Santa Rita Hills or Santa Lucia Highlands – both larger appellations that of course have their share of single vineyards nestled within – and I’m happy all day. It’s the growing conditions in these regions that have me hooked. That, and farmers and winemakers that refrain from all the tinkering and let the fruit speak for itself. Of course, in most cases, single-vineyard wines means a step up in quality, but not always. These wines are also rarer, which means an uptick in the price. For me, appellation wines are my first foray into a region. And then when I’m feeling geeky, I love to discover the nuances from individual vineyard sites. And luckily Siduri crafts Pinot Noir from a number of single-vineyard sites in addition to the red cap appellation wines.
Of course, there are always variations within a region, but trying wines like the Siduri Red Caps series can give you a sense of whether you enjoy the characteristics from a particular region. And these are not mass-produced wines by any stretch that don’t have any personality. These are wines produced from grapes from some of most sought-after growers and vineyards in California and Oregon. Each Pinot Noir is created using gravity flow and minimal intervention, with the goal of reflecting the unique terroir of each site. To be sure, founding Siduri winemaker Adam Lee is like the Pinot-whisperer who has been on a pursuit of Pinot perfection for years. His skill and devotion to Pinot helped him gain a cult-like following for Siduri for years.
As a Pinot lover, I was excited when Siduri sent me some of their Pinot Noir to test drive for Pinot Noir Day. But I took it a step further and purchased a little more and then did a comparative tasting (blind) to see which wine spoke to me most. I also wanted to see if the wines were representative of what I thought the regions were. I tasted and compared wines from four appellations – Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, and Santa Barbara County.
The Anderson Valley wine (which I incorrectly guessed to be the Santa Barbara wine) was my personal fave. At least on this day! I loved the combo of fruit and savory characteristics. Black plum, black cherry, baking spice, and forest floor. The Russian River wine had some dark fruit as well, but also had cranberry, more red cherry, mushroom, and herbs. It also had a touch more body. By far the lightest-bodied of the four wines I tried was the Willamette Valley Pinot. It also seemed softer on the palate (which was a bit of a surprise for me). It had brighter, fresher red fruits compared to the dark fruit of the others. The final wine I tried was from Santa Barbara. It threw me for a loop as it was the most full-bodied and most savory with graphite, pepper, herbs, earth, and blue and black fruits. After finally tracking down the tech sheet, I saw that there was some whole cluster fermentation (which adds earthiness and structure) which at least helped me to realize I wasn’t completely crazy.
Overall, these are such approachable wines with widespread distribution. Not to mention affordable, particularly given that we’re talking about Pinot Noir. In my market, I’ve found them at Total Wine and Spec’s. And of course, my friends are wine.com carry several of their wines. I definitely enjoyed my blind tasting and can’t wait to taste the wines again to see how they change after being open for a bit. It also tells me that I need to try more Anderson Valley wines, which I’ve been curious about for a while now!