Cioppino & Pinot!

Last night we had a little pinot noir party with a few friends. I don’t have much experience with pinot and so I took this as a good opportunity to learn. Pinot Noir’s home is undoubtedly Burgundy, France – but more and more the United State’s West Coast is becoming home to some of the finest pinots in the world.

For our party last night we made two different stews – a classic italian seafood cioppino and a spicy american chili. Stews and soups are a great choice when entertaining because as a host you don’t have to spend the whole evening in the kitchen cooking – like you would with most dishes. You can simply do the prep work and then let them go on simmering – freeing you up to enjoy your company, and in the case of last night, three tasty Pinot’s from different regions of California.


To start the evening we opened a 2011 Reata Three County Pinot Noir. This is a new release from Reata made with grapes from Monterey, Sonoma, and San Benito. Reata is, in fact, a relatively new winery – it was formerly the Kirkland Winery, but after financial trouble in 2009 a lender took control and the property has been reborn as Reata. In addition to making over the vineyard and tasting room the new ownership also hired Nori Nakamura, formerly of the well known Artesa Winery, to be the winemaker.

While this wasn’t my favorite pinot of the evening, we did enjoy it. It was smooth and balanced, with a bit of spice on the nose. The one complaint I had was that the wine was a bit too jammy for my taste – I appreciated how present the fruit was but I felt like it finished a little too close to grape juice for me. We have a few more bottles left so we will give it a little longer and see how it opens up.


PictureThe next wine we opened was a 2009 Baxter Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – by far the highlight of the evening. Sourced from several vineyards in the Anderson Valley (further north than Reata) this wine had a bouquet of dark red berries, and in the mouth it was smooth and balanced with just the perfect amount of acid. I got hints of raspberries and strawberries and I really enjoyed drinking this wine. 

Baxter Winery is run by Phillip Baxter Jr. and Sr. – Phil Sr. started the Phillip-Lorraine label in 1989 before starting Baxter with his youngest son, Phil Jr. in 2002. The ’09 Anderson Valley Pinot is reasonably priced at $35 a bottle and is well worth the price. I have a few left but I am seriously considering ordering more before they become too hard to find.

PictureThe final Pinot of the night was the 2010 Roth Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This wine was very drinkable – and while everyone seemed to enjoy the bottle, it just didn’t wow us quite as much as the Baxter Pinot did. Of all three wines this one was the most minerally on the palate, and had a nice oaky/vanilla finish. 

I had originally picked up the Roth Estate Pinot after it took home first place at this years Pigs & Pinot – beating out 61 other wines. At $28 a bottle this wine is certainly worth a buy and with young winemaker Jesse Katz, who was named one of Wine & Spirits 30 under 30 in 2011, at the helm, I am sure that there will be more great wines coming from Roth soon.

By the time our friends headed home I don’t think anyone was left hungry or thirsty. And frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a fall evening than with good friends and pinot, cioppino, and chili.

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