Wine of the week: Pinot noir catches flavors of the Carneros

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Pinot noir is naked.

“The most challenging thing about pinot noir, especially when making a nuanced style like ours, is that the flavor of the wine is very transparent,” said Anthony Truchard II of Truchard Vineyards in Napa. “If it is not well made or grown, you can taste it in the wine. The faults are not hidden by tannins, rich fruit, or excessive oak. The wine is there for everyone to taste its beauty or its faults.”

The second-generation vintner is behind our wine-of-the-week winner – the Truchard, 2012 Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir at $35.

The crisp pinot wins you over with its breezy approachability. The wine is complex, and yet unfussy. It’s Bing cherry meets bright acidity, and the pinot has great balance, which makes it a smart pick for food pairing.

“Our house style is to make wines that express the true essence of the varietal while highlighting the exceptional and unique expression of Carneros,” Truchard said. “Because my father, (Tony Truchard I) was one of the modern pioneers of Carneros, we really want our wines to express the bright, crisp and clean style for which this appellation is known.”

Truchard said the winery is always shooting for wines with finesse over opulence because it believes that’s the true expression of Carneros.

The appellation, at the base of Sonoma County and Napa Valley, was granted American Viticultural Area or AVA-status in 1983. It’s best known for making world class pinot noir and chardonnay.

“Pinot noir has gone through a lot of changes in the past ten years,” Truchard said. “It used to be a wine that was sought out by wine geeks looking for something different and unusual. Now pinot noir is much more popular.”

Truchard said there are two main, popular styles of pinot noir in the U.S. One is the traditional style that more closely resembles burgundy. It’s more aromatic and slightly earthy with notes of red fruits like strawberry, cranberry, and raspberries. A style has also arisen in the past 10 years that is more rich and opulent. The flavors tend toward the darker fruits of plum and blackberries.

The Truchard pinot falls into the first category. “Pinot noir is the most fascinating grape with which to work, both in the vineyards and in the winery,” Truchard said. “It is very delicate, always changing, and very finicky. Lots of people make pinot noir, but it can be very difficult to make great pinot noir.”

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