The Four Graces Pinot Noir 2011

Work receptions and dinners are often disappointing when it comes to the wines being served.  Know what I mean?  I suppose it’s understandable.  Everyone has a budget, and businesses have to concern themselves with the bottom line.  No surprise, then, that at a recent business function I was offered a glass of red wine (Merlot) from a winery that was clearly a “house wine” for the hotel we were in.  The Chardonnay and Rosé they were serving were from the same vintner.  To be honest, the Merlot was OK but not at all remarkable.  Finishing our dinner, the group at my table lingered to chat.  Having not really been bowled over by the Merlot, I pondered whether to bother with a second glass.  But as the conversation continued in lively fashion, I decided I would go ahead with another glass to keep up with my colleagues.  lol  When I went back to the bar, they didn’t have a bottle of the Merlot available without going to the stock room (which they were willing to do, but wasn’t worth the effort in my opinion).  So I asked what else they had on hand that was open.  I was rewarded with a different experience altogether.  More serendipity, I suppose.

Vineyard: The Four Graces
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Price: $24.99

Notes:  The color of this Oregonian was a pretty cranberry red.  On the nose I smelled redolent dusty earth and red berries.  Acidity was quite bright and the body was very light.  [I almost feel like I should write a poem the way things are starting to rhyme!]  Back to the wine ….  It had moderate tannins, and alcohol was at 13.8%.  Flavors that I managed to catch were a gentle ripe strawberry underlying pepper and oak with a zing of quinine on the finish.  This Pinot Noir had a controlled, refined style to it.  I enjoyed it as I was enjoying the company of my colleagues – all of us in a downright great mood.  So the night ended on a very good note.  Now that’s nice!

Since I didn’t buy this at the store, I did a little research online.  I found the prices varied, but $24.99 repeated a few times and was listed as what I would pay at the Total Wine in my area.

This Thanksgiving: Some Things Old and Some Things New

This Thanksgiving was a quiet one for me.  I stayed home and co-produced a meal.  I’m not much of a cook.  I prefer to ask what’s for dinner and then go find the right wine for the job.  But this year I got to experiment.

First, we decided to buck the turkey trend and go with pork as a main dish.  That was because I suggested a quasi-southern theme for this Thanksgiving.  As I’ve mentioned before, my parents were both from Tennessee.  I know what it means to have a southern Thanksgiving.

Since it was a co-production, there were some negotiations that had to be completed before we came up with a menu for the day.  We decided on a bone-in pork loin, dressing (not cornbread – a concession on my part, lol), cranberry sauce, fried okra, mustard greens, mixed green salad, and a multigrain loaf of bread on the side.  I agreed/negotiated to prepare the okra, greens and cranberry sauce as well as select the wine.

I had never made fried okra or mustard greens before.  I have loved both dishes since I was knee high to a grasshopper, but I’d never tried making them myself.  Therefore, I hit the internet and looked up some recipes.  I am not a cook, but I can follow recipes – usually.  You shouldn’t be surprised that I found my fried okra recipe at Southern Living magazine.  In addition, I added a sweet chile sauce which was part of one of the okra recipes in Food & Wine for okra dipping.  For the mustard greens I tried an approach available from a site called Simply Recipes.  Cranberry sauce I have made before.  Still, I followed a cranberry sauce recipe that I have used successfully in the past from a web site called while adding orange zest and spices to give it some personal flair.  And, as promised, I chose a wine for the dinner.  I went with a Pinot Noir because I have found PNs to be very good at Thanksgiving in the past.  In addition, I’ve enjoyed them with pork chops and pork roasts on prior occasions.  But, in the spirit of exploration, I chose to try a Pinot that I’ve never had before.  What a risk taker I can be!  Ha!!

I won’t comment on the dishes I didn’t prepare because that wouldn’t be fair.  I will say the dinner was a rousing success.  The cranberry sauce was – once again – very nice.  It’s the perfect dish for me to prepare – really, really, really simple and straightforward.  I always worry about whether it will thicken.  This time I made it the night before, and it thickened nicely in the refrigerator overnight.  The mustard greens were pretty good, too.  The fried okra (the dish that actually inspired this Thanksgiving menu) was also darned tasty although a little clumpy due to my lack of a slotted spoon.  Having the right tools for the job is important.  The dipping sauce for the okra was fine if maybe a bit sweet for my taste buds.  And, finally, the wine …

Vineyard: Bubo
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The bouquet on this budget Pinot Noir was quite fragrant and on the pour wafted to the nose redolent with strawberry and a light earthiness.  Color in the glass was a pretty ruby red.  The body of this Bubo selection was light, acidity was very nice, and the tannins gave a light bite on the finish.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  The flavors I found in this pretty California glass of wine centered around a core of strawberry – young strawberry.  In addition there were notes of earth and strawberry leaf with some pepper on the quick finish.  I found it a fun glass of wine – somewhat tart but not at all bitter.  I think this could be a pleasant inexpensive glass of vino to just sip before dinner over light hors d’oeuvres.  It also complemented the pork we had quite well. It wasn’t as good, however, when mixing with the sweet and savory glaze (apple cider, brown mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, etc.) covering the pork.  But you live and learn, and half the fun is in the exploration of things previously unknown.

DeLoach Pinot Noir California 2011

This is another vintner whose wines I have enjoyed in the past.  In fact, I had quite a marvelous wine tasting dinner at an area restaurant in which each of the courses was paired with a DeLoach wine.  It’s been too many years ago for me to give a blow-by-blow of the evening, but the DeLoach offerings made an impression that still lingers.

Vineyard: DeLoach
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $11.99

Notes:  This garnet-colored Pinot brought plenty of strawberry, earth, and some spicy undertones to the nose.  On the palate the fairly light-bodied wine presented ripe strawberry with cherry notes, a ruminating earthiness not unlike mushroom (which dissipates as the wine breathes), a lightly astringent tea leaf, pepper, some oak, and a tad of bitter menthol on the finish.  Tannins are gentle but present, acidity is good, and alcohol is at 13.5%.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.