Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: A California Pinot Noir with roots in NH

By JIM BEAUREGARD November 08. 2017 1:03AM

There are two kinds of people — at least among wine drinkers: Those who drink Cabernet Sauvignon, and those who drink Pinot Noir.

OK, life is probably a tad more complex than this, but in broad strokes, the wine thing is often true.

So, I was gearing up to write about a big bold red to pair with this chilly season of storms, wind, rain, power outages and so forth, but I was breezing through Harvest Market last week and came across wine that I haven’t written about for a few years — Peter Paul Pinot Noir.

Peter Paul, you may know, is a New Hampshire native, and yes, if you look at the bottom of the label you will see it: “Live Free or Die.” The benefactor for whom UNH’s business school is named, Paul is currently the head of Headlands Asset Management in California, and while still working in the financial industry, his passion for wine remains undimmed.

On Peter Paul Wines’ website, you will find a conversation about two different ways of making wines, the first being to purchase a vineyard, build a winery and go at it from that angle. At the other end, as they put it, you can “determine what style you’re seeking, then find the sources to achieve that.” Peter Paul decided on the second one, and what this has meant is that he does the winemaking, but sources the grapes from already-established vineyards. As he puts it, this means a lot of traveling the back roads north of San Francisco.

Really, there are worse ways to spend your time.

Peter Paul Wines produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. It’s a Pinot Noir, from the 2015 vintage, that we are going to look at in just a moment.

Pinot Noir, as many of you know, is a rather finicky grape. Now, there really isn’t any grape out there you can plant, water from time to time, generally ignore and then come back to harvest. But if there’s a grape that really requires care and attention, it is Pinot Noir.

There are valid reasons for this. First of all, there are many forms of the Pinot grape, some red and some white. So you can find the concept of Pinot in general, derived from the word pin, or pinecone, referring to the shape of the grape cluster. Then you have Pinotage, a red grape variety in South Africa, Pinot Beurot, an old name for Pinot Gris, which is also Pinot Grigio in Italian, Pinot Biancoor, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Chardonnay, an old name for the Chardonnay grape, Pinot Liébault, from Burgundy, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Nero, the Italian version of Pinot Noir that goes into sparkling wines in that country, and finally, good old Pinot Noir. In the end, it’s probably easier just to call it Pinot

Pinot Noir speaks of Burgundy, of course, and is the main source for the great red wines of that region. It has become a sort of holy grail for winemakers, because if you can make a good Pinot Noir, you can make just about anything. It is really ripening, and requires a generally cooler climate than some other red grapes. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that one of the best places in the United States for Pinot Noir is Oregon. This is not to slight California in any way, since both can make ethereal Pinot Noirs.

Pinot Noir can be either fruity or earthy, and a developing Pinot Noir tends to have classic flavors like mushroom, as well as forest floor and other words that might initially make you cringe, but that on the palate are transcendent. Aficionados, however, can be happy to drink either, but tend to prefer either the New World, fruit your presentation, or the old-world earthier one. Myself, I lean toward the old-world flavors of earthiness and in a developing Pinot Noir, flavors of mushroom and forest floor. But then, as you know, I like Islay scotch, which is like drinking peat moss (and oh how glorious it is).

2015 Peter Paul Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California. 14.2% alcohol by volume, $24.99, Harvest Market Bedford. This is a fairly dark Pinot Noir, purple heading into ruby overall, with a clean and refreshing nose of medium intensity that presents delightful aromas of raspberry, and with a little air, strawberry as well. On the palate, it presents itself as a developing wine, dry, with medium acidity, tannin that’s fine-grained and blends well, as well as alcohol at 14.2%. Medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity that run from fruit to some oak hints. The flavor profile includes raspberry, following the nose, but also strawberry, red plum, a slight earthiness and some slight hints of cedar that come and go over the finish, which is long and pleasing.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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