Weekend Wine

Would you like a simple bottle of Pinot with dinner?

No wine is tougher to find than a reasonably priced, good quality Pinot Noir. The grape achieves its apotheosis in the Burgundy area of France, but their version is notoriously unpredictable from vintage to vintage.

California has perfect climates to create wonderful wines, especially north of Santa Barbara and in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. Oregon usually gets tipped as America’s prime Pinot land, but wines there are approaching the prices of the Old World masters. So what’s someone supposed to do if they just like a bottle of Pinot with dinner?

Winemaker Adam LaZarre (Photo courtesy of the Winery)

Recently, I had the opportunity to try Cycles Gladiator’s version from California's Central Coast. Winemaker Adam LaZarre has recently returned to the label, and he is making some very good wines. More importantly, all of his wines are line priced in the $10-12 range. We were (barely) broiling some gorgeous sushi-grade salmon to have with the Cycles Gladiator and the two matched beautifully. The fish tasted like the ocean, with fresh aromas and a rich mouthfeel. The wine was a tad lighter than some California versions, but that is a benefit when it comes to Pinot. When a Pinot resembles a Zinfandel, it's like finding a 120-pound Poodle. What’s the point?

The wine’s structure and tannic grip add immeasurably to a lightly sauced fish dish. Its aromas are the obvious cherry and what LaZarre describes as graham cracker crust, both of which offer a pleasing backdrop to your hard work in the kitchen. You can find other good American Pinot Noirs, but the soft spot for pricing is the $20 and up range. So count this as a true bargain.

Photo courtesy of the Winery

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More by Wes Marshall
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Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Russian River, Cycles Gladiator, Adam Lazarre, Salmon

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