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Pinot Noir Can Stand on Its Own

Like it or not, Pinot Noir—especially when served with food,—is irrefutably one of the best red wines to have on the menu.

But pinot’s practically mandatory link to food is often viewed as both its own best friend and worst enemy: Pair it up properly and the wine is unbeatable; try drinking the wine on its own, and the enjoyment level is diminished.

It’s pinot noir’s perception as a wine with stand-alone limitations that often rubs some wine enthusiasts the wrong way. Frequently relegating the Burgundy-based French varietal to the bottom of their wine list, they favor bolder, fruit-forward reds such as Zinfandel or Malbec.

They’re also perfectly content to overlook Pinot’s food-friendly flavor profile that includes high acidity, earthy/savory characteristics, and understated fruit flavors.

Pinot lovers, on the other hand, embrace these qualities. For them it’s pinot noir at mealtime and little else, leading to a schism of wine drinkers hopelessly devoted to the grape—many with the same level of dedication they might afford to the family pet.

And in those terms, make no mistake: Where cabernets and merlots might be considered big, bouncing Golden Labs and Collies, pinot noir is clearly the Siamese cat. You may love it, you may hate it, but either way it demands your respect.


One sticking point that might act as a deterrent to some is pinot noir’s price. Both foreign and domestic choices can frequently run in the $30- to $50- and even $75-a-bottle price range.

Even so, there are plenty of solid, easier-on-the-budget selections that are readily available and worthy of consideration.


This lighter-bodied pinot from France’s Burgundy region displays a lovely pale ruby color, aromas and flavors of bright cherry, raspberry, and strawberry, and a finish of red plum. Try it with a Gruyere cheese and shiitake mushroom quiche.


Pinot prefers cooler-climate growing regions, but winemaker Paul Portteus has found a home for the grape at his Zillah vineyards in sunny Eastern Washington. Lavender and fresh herbs on the nose lead to a core of dried cherry fruit, while pinot’s signature underlying earthiness comes through on a lengthy finish.


From California’s Sonoma Valley comes this nicely complex pinot at an unbelievable price. Red fruit and violet aromatics, layers of dark cherry and plum, and a slightly smoky finish with touches of cinnamon, clove, and toasted oak. Duck, grilled pork chops, and mushroom risotto come to mind as excellent food-pairing choices.

For more content like this check out our Wine, Spirits, Brew section here.

"Where cabernets and merlots might be considered big, bouncing Golden Labs and Collies, pinot noir is clearly the Siamese cat."