Fall into Pinot Noir by Lisa Mecray Rogers

There’s a slight chill in the air and the leaves are changing into a multitude of beautiful yellow, browns, oranges and reds. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about having a glass of red to celebrate!

So many choices of red, but why does Pinot Noir strike a chord now? Maybe because some days the weather doesn’t seem to know whether it’s truly fall or summer. Or perhaps it’s that lovely piece of salmon I’m planning for dinner OR, better yet a certain piece of chocolate. So I’m in the mood for a lighter red…and specifically a lovely Burgundy. Yes, the original Pinot Noir.

Most of the California and Oregon Pinot Noir vines actually came from the Burgundy region in France. Although it won’t say Pinot Noir on the label, wines from Burgundy including Pommard, Gevrey- Chambertin (my fav), Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St-Denis are simply lovely. Trying to figure it all out isn’t easy with the village, vineyard and producer names but learning them is well worth the time.

If you’re not that familiar with Pinot Noir, you should know that there are some amazing wines out there and some awful ones, so don’t judge whether you like it on only a few experiences. It all comes down to trying the different styles that each region and the vineyards within them offer.

Do you like the aromas and flavors of cedar, black plum, cherry, earth, pepper, black licorice, sweat and leather? Then you need to know Pinot Noir. It is full-bodied and rich but not heavy, high in alcohol, yet neither acidic nor tannic, with substantial flavor despite its delicacy. Often described as complex, seductive, velvety, supple and smooth, it’s known as the sexiest grape. It’s even said with a great bottle its sex in a glass!

Did you know?

  • Pinot Noir ranks with some of the oldest grapes in the world. Grapes that have been around since the Roman times also include Muscat Blanc, the Moscato grape, Timorasso, a rare white grape from Piedmont Italy

  • Pinot Noir growing areas include Burgundy France, Italy, California, Oregon, Germany, New Zealand and Australia

  • Burgundy region in France is the birthplace of Pinot Noir

  • Pinot Noir is the most highly prized wine in the world and oftentimes the most expensive

  • Pinot Noir is one of the main grapes to make champagne. A Champagne made from 100% Pinot Noir is called a “Blanc de Noirs” (white from black)

  • It’s been said that Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc are simply color mutations of Pinot Noir. Each grape has been analyzed and found to have the same DNA

  • This sexy Pinot Noir grape can be a b*^#h for the winemaker. It is super-sensitive compared to other wine grapes. It’s sensitive to light, soil types, pruning techniques and is susceptible to disease due to its thin skin. Even a good harvest can be negatively impacted by certain fermentation methods and yeast strains

  • Pinot Noir does not have the longevity in the bottle of the darker red wines and tends to reach its peak at five to eight years past the vintage. Burgundy Pinot Noirs age better than those from California and Oregon

  • Location, and therefore terroir, is the ultimate predictor of what style and shape this red wine takes. And even a vines grown a few hundred yards away can have a major difference

  • Pinot Noir is very fickle and can have quite a range of flavors depending on the vintage and where it’s grown

Here are some differences between a few of the major Pinot Noir production areas. Keep in mind these are generalizations.


  • Burgundy region: Pinot Noir is usually very herbaceous and light. Earthy aromas dominate. Along with the earth are faint floral smells of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans towards raw, freshly picked cherries


  • Ahr region: These wines tend to offer more raspberry and sweet cherry aromas along with strong earthiness


  • The fruit flavors of Italian Pinot Noir are similar to that of France, but the earthy flavors lean toward smoke, tobacco, white pepper and clove. Pinot Nero, as the Italians call it, tend to have more color extraction and higher alcohol

United States

  • California – Sonoma, Carneros, Russian River Valley: Bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Flavors range from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and secondary aromas of vanilla, clove, coca-cola and caramel

  • Oregon – Williamette Valley: Lighter in color and texture than California Pinot Noir and usually more tart. Expect cranberry, bing cherry fruit flavors with secondary aromas of truffle mushrooms and sometimes even a green dandelion stem flavor

Pinot Noir pairs nicely with a wide range of foods. Salmon, roasted chicken, turkey and pastas with the fruitier versions. And the bigger, earthier versions with duck, other game birds, burgers and stews. And don’t forget chocolate! We’ll get into that long topic another week so stay tuned.

So explore, try and see what you like! Go to a wine shop that knows their stuff and where you can have a knowledgeable conversation. Or arrange to have a tasting with your friends and discover the wide range of styles in one evening. Maybe even a wine and chocolate pairing evening!

~Lisa Mecray Rogers, award-winning Master Chocolatier and Founder of Luxx Chocolat® xquisite artisan chocolate, ChocoVin Chocolate & Wine Tastings® and Luxx Academy du Chocolat offering classes with adults in mind, Ridgewood resident, recognized as one of 2014 and 2013 Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America. Luxx Chocolat offers unique handcrafted works of art. Nothing artificial, no preservatives, not mass produced.