The Best Pinot You’ve Never Tried…..Yet
By Matt Palaferri
When we think of Pinot Noir from California, most people think of the Russian River or Carneros, but some of the greatest Pinot, among other varie-tals, are coming from the Santa Maria Valley. Winemaker Wes Hagen, one of the greatest ambassadors of the region and all-out great guy, makes wines that are varietally correct, and with purpose. What I mean by that, is that the wines taste how they are supposed to taste.
Everyone has a different palate, and that’s what makes wine and food so fantastic. No one opinion is right, no one opinion is wrong, just a difference of likes and levels of enjoyment. I for one, like a Pinot Noir that’s 100% Pinot. Nothing blended in it, nothing manipulated, and true to its character. Sometimes, well, a lot actually, I’ll open up a Pinot Noir for friends and it’s always followed with, “Wow, it’s so light in color.” Yes, that’s because Pinot isn’t supposed to look like crude oil folks! It should look and taste elegant, soft and ripe on the palate with an earthy finish that makes you want to have it with or without food.
Jeff Wilkes, in 2001, started his winery and focused on the Santa Maria Val-ley growing and making Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. The Pinot Blanc is one of my favorite wines in the world, but I won’t get side-tracked or Noir will get mad. Trust me, Pinot Noir is a stubborn grape and likes all the attention it deserves. With Wes Hagen now making these wines, and from the vineyards they are getting the grapes from, these wines shine, and, in my humble opinion, are some of the best wines coming from California let alone Santa Maria. Wes was rated as one of the top 100 influential winemakers in the United States and is one of the most passionate wine-makers I have ever met. He cares about making fantastic wine, taking care of the environment and promoting sustainable farming.
J. Wilkes Pinot Noir is ripe with red and black cherries with blueberry and an earthy finish that lingers. This wine is great by itself, but it just gets better with food. I would share this with friends over a nice seared duck breast, and if you’re not a duck person, try it with pork chops or even a mushroom risotto. Trust me on this wine, or anything from J. Wilkes, you won’t be disappointed. You can find this wine at nice wine shops and restaurants that know their wine. If they don’t have it, ask for it! And if you are ever in Santa Barbara, they have a wonderful tasting room that is a must go-to if you love wine. JWilkes.com is where you can make a reservation.
Enjoy what you like and like what you drink! Until next time.