In Alexander Payne’s vintage movie, “Sideways,” ardent oenophile Miles, is asked by waitress, wine lover, and almost-girlfriend, Maya, “Why are you so into pinot?”
Miles replies, “It’s a hard grape to grow … it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early … pinot needs constant care and attention …”
He adds, that in its “fullest expression … its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and subtle and … ancient on the planet.”
Miles hates merlot. But that’s another issue.
Pinot noir, from the French words for “pine” and “black,” reflecting the bunches of grapes shaped like pine cones and their color, reaches its apex in red Burgundy.
That takes in the price, too. The great red Burgundies are among the world’s most expensive wines.
But you don’t have to invest your last euro to enjoy pinot noir. Many wines are fairly if not always bargain-priced.
And they’re produced from France, Italy, and Germany to Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand. In the United States, Oregon, Washington, and California yield grand pinot noir.
The focus here is on some remarkable Californians from the 2017 vintage. They range from the light-and medium-bodied to full. At all price points, they’re worth the investment.
Cobb was established less than 20 years ago and produces stunning pinot noir. Here are six of its Sonoma Coast knockouts.
Cobb’s 2017 Diana Cobb Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★★ $120) is among the winery’s best, elegant and seductive, bright and heady with flowers, red berries, and spice. A wonderful, meticulous wine. As with so much pinot noir, it goes with everything from roast chicken, duck, and turkey to filet mignon, roast pork, tuna and salmon. Ripe blue cheese, too.
Close to the Diana Cobb is the 2017 Cobb Coastlands Vineyard Old Firs Block Pinot Noir (★★★★ $80), a concentrated, balanced wine with hints of lavender and generous with black cherry. You’ll also find an alluring hint of citrus.
The 2017 Cobb Rice-Spivak Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★ $75) gracefully rivals it, supple and juicy with notes of cherry, cinnamon, mint, and cracked peppercorns.
And the 2017 Cobb Docs Ranch Vineyard Swan & Calera Selection Pinot Noir (★★★★ $80) delivers a fruity, slightly spicy wine that’s revealing itself at a more leisurely pace. Give it another year or two to show even more.
Sample the 2017 Docs Ranch Vineyard Pommard & 114 Selection Pinot Noir (★★★★ $80) for a more powerful pinot, with a harvest of dark berries and plum, accented with licorice.
Lavender and rose announce the lithe, flavor-packed, vivid, enticing 2017 Cobb Emmaline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★ $75), a lush and lively choice, with plum and cherry.
Goldeneye is the pinot noir star in the Duckhorn Wine Company portfolio. It’s a top Anderson Valley contributor year after year.
The 2017 Goldeneye The Narrows Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★ $86) is a robust, sterling selection, from old vines, defined by earthiness, and hints of wild berries and wilder mushrooms.
And the 2017 Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir (★★★★ $86): rich and ripe, both brooding and soft, layered and complex. This fragrant pinot is ample with raspberry, red and black, unveiling more with each sip.
Goldeneye’s 2017 Split Rail Pinot Noir (★★★ $86) is, as the phrase goes, just the berries, in this case mainly strawberry and boysenberry. You’ll enjoy the touch of spearmint, and another of anise.
The 2017 Sea Smoke Santa Rita Hills “Southing” Pinot Noir (★★★★ $70) just makes you want to keep pouring. The biodynamic estate excels with this floral, stylish, and refined pinot. It’s both minerally and rosy, easygoing and ambitious.
More moderately priced pinot noir is produced in California, too.
The 2017 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (★★ $34), plummy and intricate, makes no demands and arrives with ripe fruit flavor.
The 2017 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir (★★ $30) offers plenty of fine fruit, mainly blackberry and cherry.
Aromatic and fruit-forward: the 2017 Cherry Pie TriCounty Pinot Noir (★★ $20), balanced and satisfying.
And the 2017 Domaine Anderson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (★★ $39) delights with blackberry and black cherry, neatly packaged, and versatile.
Bartenura Moscato is immediately identifiable by its blue bottle. The very popular kosher wine, summery, on the sweet side, with lower alcohol, and made for casual drinking, now can be spotted in blue cans,too. Available in four-packs of 250ml cans. $15. Convenient at poolside and the beach.
SPEAKING OF CANS …
If you want to turn a can of wine, beer, or soda into a cup, the Draft Top lid remover is your tool. Make it easier to drop in that wedge of citrus, create a cocktail/mocktail, or sip, minus the pull-tab. $24.99. Available at drafttop.com.
… AND BOTTLES
Pure Pour is an antimicrobial, sterile, no-leak pour spout. It’s a home bar accessory that helps to make cocktails. No beverage loss, dishwasher-safe, $19.99 for a pack of 10; $7.99 for a two-pack. Available at purepour.com or call 561-212-6260.
You can cool off on any dog day with one of these cocktails. Maybe two or three.
A SPIRITED WHISKY SOUR
After all, National Whisky Sour Day is August 25. This one ought to fuel the celebration.
1.5 oz. Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 egg white (optional)
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all the ingredients. Shake hard for 10 seconds, twice that if you’re using the egg white. Strain into a glass.
Remove the ice. Shake again without ice. Strain and serve in a rocks or Old Fashioned glass, neat or filled with ice. Garnish with a wheel of orange or with orange peel and, if you like, a cocktail cherry.
A bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label is $35.
BEACHY HAITIAN RUM SOUR
A lively, evocative drink, with a recipe that can be revised according to taste.
Fine bitters include Peychaud’s and Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6.
6 oz. Rhum Barbancourt 4 Years Old 3 Star
1 oz. fresh lime juice
3 drops bitters
refined sugar, to taste
Stir. Serve in a whiskey glass, with a sugar rim.
A bottle of Rhum Barbancourt 4 Years Old 3 Star is $23.
Feel tres Gallic sipping this aniseed drink, as if at the café or bistro that’s open 24/7 in your imagination.
1 oz. Henri Bardouin Pastis
5 oz. very cold water
Two or three ice cubes
Pour the pastis into highball glass. Add the cold water and ice cubes.
Stir gently. The clear spirit will turn cloudy.
A bottle of 90-proof Henri Bardouin Pastis is $27.
Well, it looks like travel is going to be limited a while longer. Likely more than a while. But there are films to transport you.
The opening titles of Alfred Hitchcock’s breezy, stylish “To Catch a Thief” (1955) have a poster-decorated travel-service window as the backdrop. Your company in Cannes: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, smart dialogue and gorgeous scenery, diamonds and fireworks. Room number at The Carlton: 623. An Oscar for Robert Burks’ color cinematography.
Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (2011) is a witty fantasy of escape, a travelogue, and an invitation to tour the City of Light after dark, perhaps on the Alexandre III bridge in a gentle rain. Full of clever performances delivering Allen’s Oscar-winning words. Standouts: Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni, Corey Stoll, Adrien Brody.
Evoke the it’s-Vegas-baby past with the Rat Pack production of “Ocean’s 11” (1960). Hang out , imbibe, smoke, rob five casinos, be cool along with Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, and company. Also starring Angie Dickinson. The villain is Cesar Romero.
Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), however, is a much better movie and much more fun heist-wise with three casinos, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts.
But, for its oft-tasteless humor, in-sync comic acting, advice about a tiger’s favorite spice, and those Bellagio fountain aqua shows, the choice is: Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover” (2009), with Bradley Cooper, Zac Galifianakis Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Mike Tyson, and a palatial suite. Skip the sequels.
Federico Fellini’s immortal, influential “La Dolce Vita” (1960) sometimes seems a time capsule of “the sweet life” to generations X, Y, and Z. But there are timeless scenes, including the helicopter carrying a statue of Christ over the city to the siren-movie star Anita Ekberg beckoning paparazzo Marcello Mastroianni to join her in the Trevi Fountain.
And, while on the topic of the timeless: Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning debut in William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday” (1953). Screenplay by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, who posthumously received credit. His widow, Cleo, accepted an Oscar on his behalf in 1993.
Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” (2003) stars the city and stellar performances by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in this high-wire, empathetic, romantic drama-comedy. An original screenplay Oscar for Coppola. You’ll always wonder what he whispers to her.
There’s more than rising mercury in Lawrence Kasdan’s “Body Heat” (1981), which brings color to film noir and William Hurt and Kathleen Turner to each other. You’re more than miles away from Disney World, down to the old yearbook and that last scene.
So many choices. But, despite or maybe because of the finale, be upbeat with Damien Chazelle’s musical, “La La Land” (2016). Six well-earned Oscars. It merited a seventh. Ask Faye Dunaway.
Also plenty to choose. But another reason to view Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, “Vertigo” (1958), with its dizzying dive into obsession and melancholy, what’s real and what’s not. Mesmerizing music from Bernard Herrmann; camerawork by Robert Burks; and underappreciated acting from James Stewart and Kim Novak.
The majestic pinnacles, mesas, and buttes, in Utah and Arizona, can be seen these days in several of John Ford’s epic movies. Start with the director’s towering western, “The Searchers” (1956), starring John Wayne at his own peak, first shot to last. Yes, there are a couple of mindless subplots. But this film’s power and influence have grown with each decade. And you’ll remember Ethan Edwards as much as the spectacular landscape.
HONG KONG AND BEIJING
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
For 34 years, Peter Gianotti reviewed wines, spirits, restaurants, and books at Newsday. He twice won Press Club of New York awards for food writing. Before he became a food critic, Gianotti was a Washington correspondent, a financial writer, and New York City reporter for the newspaper. His books include “Food Lovers’ Guide to Long Island” and “A Guide to Long Island Wine Country.” Gianotti received his B.A. from Fordham University, where he taught journalism; and his M.S. from Columbia University, where he also was a Bagehot Fellow. Harry, his Creamsicle-hued assistant, prefers the bouquets of riesling and pinot noir.