Americans have been in love with pinot noir ever since the movie Sideways came out in 2004 and the slightly annoying, slightly charming character Miles answered the question “Why are you so into pinot?” with about three minutes of heartfelt speechifying, culminating in: “Oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and … ancient on the planet.” That pinot noir’s flavors are the most ancient flavors is open to debate; culinary historians figure wild fish and game—and onions—are probably the foods closest to what our ancestors ate 150,000 years ago. But pinot noir is a lot more romantic than the gift of trout and scallions. And if you want to splurge in the name of love this Valentine’s Day, you’d be wise to do so on one of these.
A to Z Wineworks, Pinot Noir, 2011, $20
Silky and full of depth, A to Z’s basic pinot noir is succulent and offers so many scents of cherry and forest floor that you can pass a happy hour just sniffing, sipping and marveling.
Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir, 2011, $23
Juicy with raspberry flavors, yet a little minty, a little oceanic, with a hint of mineral on the finish, a very sophisticated wine.
Argyle, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir, 2011, $25
Spicy yet energetic, with cherry and tobacco notes, Argyle’s entry-level pinot noir is a perfect table pair for everything from grilled salmon to classic roast chicken.
Artesa, Carneros, Pinot Noir, 2010, $25
Classy and elegant, Artesa’s basic pinot noir is one of those odd ducks of a wine which always tastes like it costs four times what it does. Hard to explain, but here’s a try: It draws you in with well-knit fruit, then dazzles with precise balance.
Belle Glos Taylor Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, $44
Toasty and rich, but not sweet, this Sonoma County wine is for dry-wine but complex-wine pinot noir lovers, who will find real pleasure in its dusky, tobacco-edged depths.