Wine Pros Pick Their Favorite By-The-Glass Pinot Noirs


Ever since the 2004 movie Sideways helped put pinot noir on the map for U.S. consumers, the varietal’s share of the table wine market has been creeping up. According to the Wine Handbook, published by Cheers’ sister company the Beverage Information Group, pinot noir’s share has increased steadily from 3% in 2009 to 10% in 2014.

The fruit-forward, somewhat spicy and lighter-style red wine is a pairing favorite for many on-premise wine experts. We checked in with several sommeliers and beverage directors for their favorite pinot noirs to offer by the glass. Here are their picks.

Nick Morisi, Sommelier

Yvonne’s,  Boston

Lignier Michelot 2014 Bourgogne Rouge, $20

pinot2I love this wine—and pinot noir—for its versatility. Pinot can run a wide range of styles, but where it’s from can tell you a lot. Michelot’s pinot comes from Burgundy, and despite the vast “Bourgogne” designation on the label, the majority of these grapes come from a five-acre vineyard in the Cote de Nuits.

The Michelots are farmers first, meaning they put a great deal of care into how their vines are treated, emphasizing the importance of nature in the winemaking process.

This wine appeals to me because of its balance. It is a lighter bodied pinot noir, and while it is completely dry, it offers plenty of red and blue fruit to balance out the acidity. Black raspberry and Bing cherry are complemented by a drying, flinty minerality and finishes with spicy notes of cinnamon and anise.

I would enjoy this pinot by itself, but it would also pair pleasantly with Yvonne’s Moroccan-inspired Steak Tartare Toast. Beef tenderloin is finely diced and tossed with our house spring garlic chermoula. The tartare is served on house-made bread, toasted and topped with caper yogurt, and is finished with a sunnyside-up quail egg.

There are a ton of different flavors in the Steak Tartare Toast, so a wine with complexity and balance like the Michelot pinot will be a perfect pair. The bold flavor of the steak will stand up to the dry, flinty texture of the wine, while the shared spice notes will complement each other perfectly.

Pinot noir generally doesn’t need much promotion—people often have an accurate expectation of what they’ll get in their glass. Red Burgundy can surprise people, though, and its below ground, earthy and herbal qualities make it a perfect companion to food. This wine especially is a crowd pleaser, and an excellent choice for a large group trying to satisfy different palates.

Wade Vizena, Beverage Director

Flagstaff House, Boulder, CO

Cep pinot noir from Peay Vineyards, $21

pinot3-copyWe like Cep pinot noir from Peay Vineyards, which is sourced from what is known as the “Extreme” Sonoma Coast. The pinot comes largely from the Peay estate, which is just a couple of miles from the Pacific Ocean. As the Peay estate wines command a hefty price tag, it is nice to have this “second” label to offer our guests for $21 by the glass and $84 a bottle.

The wine provides a balance of dark cherry fruit as well as an ample amount of turned-earth aromas and a number of pairing opportunities. One of the suggested pairings is with with Flagstaff House chef Chris Royster’s pan-seared duck breast with duck confit and baby fennel galette Rainier cherry and arugula salad with pink -peppercorn-marinated goat cheese and Rainier cherry coulis.

Megan Hartz, General Manager, Operator

Maree Bistro, a French restaurant in Seattle

2012 Pisoni Estate pinot noir, $23

pinot3My pinot noir choice may be uncharacteristic for a sommelier and operator of a French bistro. Instead of choosing a fantastic French Burgundy, I like to think a bit outside of the box. I chose the 2012 Pisoni Estate pinot noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, located in Monterey, CA. Rated at 96 points, this Burgundian-style pinot noir offers flavors of creme de cassis, black raspberry fruit, big minerality, spring flowers and forest floor.

This versatile wine pairs with many foods on Maree Bistro’s menu, yet my favorite suggested pairing is with our Cornish Game Hen dish. Chef Andy Dekle brines the bird for 24 hours, pan sears and roasts and serves it with ratatouille and an herb beurre blanc sauce.

At Maree Bistro, we’re able to promote accessibility by offering every wine on our wine list by the glass, with the help of the Coravin system. It allows customers who do not want to commit to a bottle or who want to drink a different caliber of wine than their dining companions, a choice.

We love to feature wines that come from small producers and are not always easy to acquire. Our wine menu changes and shifts almost on a weekly basis. We sell this particular wine at $23 a glass and $92 a bottle—which on both ends is quite a steal!

Ryan Valentine, Director of Beverage

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Rochioli pinot noir, $40

pinot4-copyI recommend the Rochioli Pinot Noir, 2014 vintage. It’s from one of the best pinot noir producers in California from the Russian River Valley, and one of the available wines as part of Ocean Prime’s new Coravin program.

Our partnership with Coravin, which began this past August, allows us to pour wine by the glass without ever opening a bottle via cork removal. [Coravin enables operators to access the wine via a needle through the cork; argon gas replaces the wine in the bottle so that the wine’s taste stays the same because it was never exposed to oxygen.] Not only does this varietal show off the quality of the American pinot noir, the Coravin wine system allows us to keep the quality and freshness in the bottle.

This specific wine pairs well with salmon, such as the Teriyaki Salmon served with shiitake sticky rice and soy butter sauce, as well as our variety of steaks on the menu. Rochioli pinot noir is priced at about $40 a glass; prices varying slightly at each of the Ocean Prime locations.

Stephen Clark, Sommelier

Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta

Bachelet-Monnot Maranges 1er Cru La Fussiere, and La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard, $18 each

pinot4Our two by-the-glass pinot noirs are both special. We are currently pouring Bachelet-Monnot Maranges 1er Cru La Fussiere. This is a special wine in that we don’t see a lot of Maranges here stateside, and it is the southernmost appellation in the Cote de Beaune.

The 1er Cru La Fussiere has south-facing slopes for optimal ripening, and is based on limestone soils, which are ideal in Burgundy, and the vines are 35 to 40 years of age. The wine is not heavily extracted and sees 12 months in French oak, 25% of which is new.

The nose and palate sing with wild strawberries, raspberries and just a hint of vanilla. The wine has a firm backbone and a long finish.

I like to pair this with pan-roasted snapper and shrimp perloo for guests who prefer red wine with seafood. My favorite pairings are with smoked duck, chanterelles basted in butter and Australian winter truffles.

Our other by-the-glass pinot noir is 2011 La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard from the Sonoma Mountain AVA. The Van Der Camp vineyard is dry-farmed, organically farmed and is mainly composed of volcanic soils. The climate here stays cool—which pinot loves, partly because of its close proximity to the San Pablo Bay, but also due to the high elevation at 1,400 feet.

The winemaker, Greg La Follette, has a master’s degree from UC Davis and worked under the great Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards. The wine sees just 10 months in French oak, which is relatively restrained for California pinots at this quality.

The nose and palate are full of notes of rose petals, herbal tea rhubarb and Bing cherries. It drinks smooth and goes great with our seasonal southern vegetables and Linton’s crispy fried chicken. We love to pour anything with some bottle age to it, and offering a 2011 California pinot noir by the glass is not commonly seen.

Lance Reed, Wine Director

BOA Steakhouse Sunset, Los Angeles

Inception pinot noir, $19

pinot5Here at BOA we think pinot noir is a wonderful red wine to pair with food. The varietal’s versatility lets it cover a wide range of dishes from fish to pasta and meats. Furthermore, its combination of fruit and acidity makes it a great companion to many foods.

One wine we proudly offer on our by the glass list is the Inception pinot noir from Santa Barbara county for $19. The wine has bright red fruit, silky berries, some earthiness and a little spice in the finish.

The elegance of its bright cherry and slightly smoky fruit matches well with BOA’s Faroe Island Natural Salmon, roasted on a cedar plank. The pinot’s subtle earthiness and balanced acidity pairs well with Colorado Lamb T-Bones grilled then finished under the broiler.

The combination of these flavors makes it a perfect partner to our Center Cut Filet Mignon. The dish is marinated in herbed extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, then again grilled/finished under the broiler and topped with herb butter. The Inception pinot noir is also just a wonderful glass of wine to enjoy all by itself on a lovely fall evening.

Mitchell Malnati, Wine and Beverage Director

Fig & Olive Restaurants

Walt “La Brisa,” $19

pinot5-copyMy favorite pinot noir that we serve by the glass is the Walt “La Brisa” pinot noir from Sonoma. It is made by Kathryn Walt, the proprietor of both Hall and Walt wines—both of which are consistently well made and delicious.

As far as a food pairing, there are two very different items that I like to have with this wine. The first is the Beef Tartar: The balance of red fruit and minerality from the wine balances with the texture and flavor beautifully.

The second dish that I enjoy pairing with this wine is our Tajine. This dish has a robust spice blend, and the subtle earthy and spice notes of cardamom from the wine compliment the dish very nicely.

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