8.17.2013

2011 Sterling Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir: Compact, worth it

aug. 17, 2013: recipe for a good meal: grab a filet of salmon, wash it, cover it with sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper and dried cilantro, and then pop it on the grill for about 12 minutes. in this landlocked area, salmon's about the only fish i'll purchase with any regularity, mostly because of its flavor, omega-3 fatty acids, and for the fact that it's a very forgiving fish in terms of cooking times. did you accidentally let your salmon filet go a little extra long in the oven or on the grill? no worries. salmon's oily, rich qualities will likely mean no one will really notice.

so on to the wine. when deciding on a wine to pair with salmon, i typically go with one of two: a pinot noir, or a sauvignon blanc. i have tried a pinot grigio before, too. anyway, if greg's part of the equation, it's probably best to avoid the sauvignon blanc (chances of grapefruit flavors are excessively high in sauvignon blanc from new zealand, especially, and even for the ones we've had from california, greg still often is annoyed by the citrusy quality some bottles have). so, the pinot noir is usually the best bet, and with the temperatures turning a bit cooler (i am apparently the only one i know who is annoyed that this august isn't sweltering), popping open a medium-bodied bottle of sterling vineyards from carneros, calif., was this night's option for about $21 from winetree.

carneros is known for its pinot noir. that's a bit of advice someone i trust gave me a few years ago, and usually, the carneros bottles i've picked up have not disappointed. where is carneros? it's in napa valley. something else interesting about sterling vineyards? prince charles toured it in 1977, after requesting to see something "of interest" built by an englishman (sterling vineyards was founded by peter newton, a former london financial times writer and british international paper broker). as an additional aside, this is the same peter newton of newton vineyard, whose wines are also sold in evansville.

anyway, back to the 2011 sterling pinot noir. actually, it's inconceivable that i could have been distracted after sipping this wine in the first place. but here are the nuts and bolts: do not judge this wine solely on its nose, because i'll be honest: it's acidic, strawberry, and it's got an edge to it. it wouldn't be the wine that an impatient wine taster would immediately try. now taste. now you'll see the difference. the acidity might have been in the nose, but it's not in the glass. at 13.9 percent alcohol, this pinot noir is deceptively heavy, smooth, and knock-your-socks-off flavorful. i get black cherries but a restrained amount of sugar. this wine is about body and texture, and you can tell. with the salmon, i got a meatiness, a willingness to dance. this pinot could play poker with even the freshest alaskan salmon and in the end still hold its head up high. finally: the finish. it's slightly rough. not that that's a complaint. when you have a good wine like this, it's better that your throat objects to its departure.

all in all, this 2011 is a compact piece of art. every aspect (nose, texture, finish) serves a purpose, and there's nothing about it that allows you to take it for granted. no question about it: this vintage is worth a try.

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