Monday, August 06, 2007

"Naked" Pinot Noir

In honor of the 3rd anniversary of Wine Blogging Wednesday, I'm featuring "naked" or unoaked wines this week. You'll be able to see my reactions to an unoaked chardonnay (the theme for this month's event) on Wednesday, but to get us started I've got a review of an unoaked pinot noir from the Russian River Valley.

Yes, an unoaked pinot noir. SoloRosa Winery, which is known more for its roses than its reds, is now bottling a wine made from pinot fruit from the Russian River Valley AVA that has never seen the inside of an oak barrel. Labeled "Piccolo Rosso" ("little red" in Italian) this wine can best be described as halfway between a cru beaujolais and a pinot noir. Lighter in color and texture than a pinot noir, but with a bit more meatiness than most beaujolais, I found it to be a nice change of pace. Even better, it is under $20!

Everything about the 2006 Solo Rosa "Piccolo Rosso" Pinot Noir ($17.99, domaine547) reminded me of cherries. First, it was cherry-colored in my glass, and the edges tended to fade away towards a translucent rose that was more pale than I'm used to seeing in pinot. Then, aromas of cherry were accompanied by a faint whiff of rose petals and even a touch of cinnamon. Finally, the flavors were fruity and herbal with cherry and rhubarb predominating and a bit of meatiness coming through on each swallow. Without the oak, this wine was not as silky as the pinot noirs I'm used to, and the texture and good acidity of this wine reminded me strongly of a gamay wine. At a time when most pinots are very expensive, and cru beaujolais can be hard to find on the west coast, this wine represented good QPR .

This wine would be a refreshing choice if you are looking for something to serve with BBQ, pizza, pasta with red sauce, or even French onion soup. I caramelized some onions, threw a few tablespoons of sherry and some thyme into the pan, and combined it all with beef stock before loading it into a crock with some cheesy toasts to top off and it was a very nice combination. The sweet onions drew out the sweetness of the cherry fruit, the beef stock picked up its meaty notes, and the thyme and rhubarb flavors worked well together and accentuated the wine's herbal qualities. Most of all, the wine didn't overwhelm the subtle flavors of soup.

Check back on Wednesday for more unwooded bliss for WBW #36!


Anonymous said...


Your note about it being somewhere between a Cru Beaujolais and a Burg is very interesting, and I think right on the money.

I also think this is an interesting wine because it can function as a good learning tool. It really gives you the essence of Pinot Noir (and maybe a little Russian River Terroir) without disrupting the purity of the grape varietal with any elaborate winemaking process.

One other fun little fact is that this is from a single vineyard source, and a very sought after one (though the winemakers are not allowed to disclose which).

Thanks as usual for the shout-out!h

Sonadora said...

Eek, it snuck up on me again! I thought I had one that I am drinking at the moment, and Egret Chardonnay from WineQ, but I realized that while it was fermented in stainless steel, it spent 10 months after that aging in oak. Drat.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the comment, Jill. You make an excellent point about "varietal school." This wine really did have almost textbook pinot varietal flavors and it would be a useful wine for people learning about varietals to try. I didn't know that about the vineyard--very interesting.

Sonadora, you have no idea how hard it was for me to find a 100% oak free chardonnay. I thought I had one, but I didn't (as usual). Welcome back!