July Domestic Wine: 2012 Pietra Santa Pinot Noir, Cienega Valley, CALIFORNIA

Pietra Santa and its History: “Pietra Santa is a family-run estate producing artisanal wines and olive oils in California’s Central Coast. The site was planted to winegrapes in the 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache who chose the location because of the maritime climate and unique soils.

Pietra Santa is 25 miles from Monterey Bay and benefits from cool coastal breezes that allow for a long growing season. The estate’s location on the San Andreas Fault creates soils rich with granite and limestone that naturally lower yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named PIETRA SANTA, Italian for SACRED STONE, in honor of these exceptional soils.

In 2005, the property was purchased by the Blackburns, a family dedicated to preserving and building upon this magnificent winemaking history.”-pietrasantawinery.com

The Estate: “Due to the mountainous terrain, only 120 of the estate’s 450 acres are planted with wine grapes. An additional 25 acres are planted with olive trees. The oldest vines consist of a treasured block of Zinfandel planted in 1905. Completed in 2000, the Mission-Style Winery was designed for fine winemaking combining traditional methods and state-of-the-art technology. The winery also hosts a FRANTOIO (olive oil press room) equipped with a Pieralisi Press imported from Tuscany.”-pietrasantawinery.com

Vineyards/Winemaking: “Our Pinot Noir comes from vines that are planted in the upper valley of our estate at an elevation of approximately 1100 feet.  The grapes benefit from a maritime climate and ideal soils for growing expressive Pinot Noir.  The vineyard was planted with three Dijon clones – #115, #828, and #777 – to create the optimal flavor profile for our estate Pinot Noir.”-pietrasantinery.com

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.5% by volume

Food Pairings: Great with spring chicken, slow cooked pork shoulder, pan seared duck breasts, and shaved raw asparagus with fennel. Enjoy.

Tasting Notes: Their Estate Pinot Noir is an ideal reflection of their terroir, renowned for growing this finicky varietal. This wine has a beautiful bouquet of subtle lavender and elegant fruit flavors of wild strawberries and raspberries with hints of cola. The wine finishes with white pepper and an earthiness that is synonymous with the Cienega Valley.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Real Pinot here. A wine that is loaded with rhubarb and raspberries, and ends with a long clean lingering finish. A true overachiever. Best served with duck, oily finish and any game!”-JL

March Imported Wine: 2010 Macedon Pinot Noir, Tikves, MACEDONIA

From the country of Macedonia, this stunning Pinot is named for Alexander the Great (the original “Macedon”), and hails from an area noted as the “cross-roads of the ancient world, and the birthplace of wine”. It originates in Gradsko, sharing the same latitude band as Burgundy and Russian River Valley. The 40+ year old vines grow where two major weather fronts collide: the Aral Mountain continental and the Greek Aegean, yielding virtually no rain and consistent wind. The result is a wine of terrific elegance and complexity, rich yet linear; pretty, but with depth and power.

History of Wine in Macedonia: The Republic of Macedonia produces wine on some 22,400 hectares (55,000 acres) of vineyards, and the production was 108,100 tons in 2008. There are also some additional 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of vineyards dedicated to table grapes. The production of red wine dominates the Macedonian wine production, with around 80 percent. Within the European Union, “Macedonia” (Μακεδονία) is a protected geographical indication (PGI) for wine from the Greek region of Macedonia.

Varietals: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 13.0% by volume

Pronunciation: Macedon (mass-a-don)

Tasting Notes:  Macedon has a classically bright bouquet, an elegant palate, and dark fruits that are rich and satisfying.

Food Pairings: Pair with seafood, mild cheese, prosciutto, rabbit, and earthy mushrooms.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “An old world Pinot from an odd place…Macedonia. This wine truly delivers. It over achieves! A great example of Pinot Noir! I love the texture and mouthfeel and the interesting fruit.”-JL

October Domestic Wine: 2009 MANDOLIN Pinot Noir, Monterey, CALIFORNIA

Mandolin is a collaboration between veteran winemaker Philip Zorn and longtime wine executive Brent Shortridge. Bringing together their previously established relationships with winegrowers in California’s Monterey County, Zorn and Shortridge have created wines that stand out for their balance, finesse and distinct varietal character, as well as their sense of place. Mandolin wines are internationally recognized as outstanding values.

Mandolin currently produces ChardonnayRieslingPinot Noir,SyrahMerlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with grapes sourced from Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco and Hames Valley within Monterey County.

History of Pinot Noir and its Relation to Mandolin: The fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, in the Central Coast region of California. Situated high above the Salinas Valley within Monterey County, the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA has developed a reputation for producing wines with intense fruit character. Chardonnay dominates the vineyards, although Pinot Noir is quickly establishing itself as another favorite. Running parallel with the Pacific Ocean, this region benefits from well-drained granitic soils and is sheltered from harsh weather by the Santa Lucia Mountains. Cool morning fog and afternoon breezes are drawn into the Salinas Valley from Monterey Bay, creating a very long growing season.

The grapes for this Pinot Noir were sourced from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA of Monterey County, where high winds, dry days, and bay fogs create a cool, but very long, growing season. These growing conditions are ideal for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir, and lead to full, forward fruit flavors and ideal acidity. Grapes were harvested at an ideal balance of sugar and acid, and the wine was fermented in small open-top tanks. The wine completed malo-lactic fermentation in French oak barrels, where it aged for 11 months prior to bottling.

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.3% by volume

Tasting Notes: With its maritime influence, California’s Monterey region has an extended growing season that yields wines with full flavor development and great acid balance. Mandolin Pinot Noir is a rich wine that features bright cherry and raspberry fruit with hints of spice, leather, and cedar.

Food Pairings: This wine is the ultimate match with turkey and heavier fishes like salmon. A great accompaniment to your Thanksgiving meal or a nice sipper for a Fall football game!

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “A wine that is textbook Pinot Noir. Old-school in character; loaded with earthy cherry flavors. This wine really overachieves for an affordable Pinot Noir.”-JL