Jason Carlen, Wine Director and Sommelier
At todays wine tasting we tried to find the Italian equivalent to a California pinot noir. We frequently ask our guests what American wines they like and then we recommend an Italian wine that we think is somewhat similar. When our guests tell us they like pinot noir, we often mention the nebbiolo grape or Barolo and Barbaresco as a possible match and depending on which pinot noir they like we move throughout the communes to find them the perfect pairing. Today we opened a 1998 Williams Selyem pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast. Like most other pinot noirs from this region, it has a certain herbaceous or weedy character that one person described as smelling like a dessert landscape with dried lavender and sage. The wine was somewhat dusty because of its age with tobacco spice and soft notes of cranberry.
I think the perfect pairing for this beautiful wine would have been an older dustier Barolo from La Morra, such as the Brunate vineyard or maybe the Annunziata vineyard. Instead today we tried a wine from the Cannubi vineyard from Barolo proper by Chiara Boschis from the 2005 vintage. Although beautiful, it wasn’t the perfect match. The Cannubi is profoundly larger and more tannic than the pinot noir which didn’t really have any detectable tannin. It did have some similar aromatics but ultimately didn’t match up very well.
Last week we tasted 2010 Melville pinot from the Santa Rita Hills of California. The fruit was jammy and jumping out of the glass. We matched that pinot with a nebbiolo from Lombardia called Cinque Stelle by Nino Negri. The grapes are dried out on mats, much like Amarone, which really intensifies the fruit and tames the tannins a bit. It was obvious when smelling and tasting the wines which one was new world and which was old but overall it was a pretty stellar duet.