In Oregon, we're blessed with an abundance of fantastic Pinot noir and even great Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, but rarely do you find a winery that's stepping completely out of the box and delivering something totally off the beaten path. Yet somehow, I found just the thing.
Last year, with great luck, I stumbled upon WillaKenzie Estate's 2010 Pinot Meunier and boy was I happy I did. Sadly, I only purchased a couple of bottles of this beauty. I was so impressed with this wine, I was saving this last bottle for a special occasion, or at least a special person to share it with. But alas, I decided I was special occasion and special person enough and popped it open last night with dinner. So, in the end, you're actually the lucky one I get to share it with :)
Though this variety actually ripens more consistently and reliably than Pinot noir, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Pinot Meunier is not typically found as a stand-alone red wine and not widely grown in the Willamette Valley. Traditionally, Pinot Meunier is used as one of the three main blending grapes in Champagne (the other two are Pinot noir and Chardonnay). For use in Champagne (insert drool here), the grapes are pressed immediately, it's juice never having contact with their skins to encourage tannin and color development. Meunier means Miller, which is characterized by its leaves that are covered with a white, dusty, powdery substance (almost like flour, and not to be confused with mildew). WillaKenzie harvested their estate-grown grapes and put them in cold storage for a few days before they went through a traditional cold-soak maceration, fermentation and punch-down regime (not unlike their Pinot noir). What was created, was a limited-production wine that shows love, forethought and risk. All the makings of a winner.
WillaKenzie is one of the few wineries (certainly in Oregon anyway), who is producing Pinot Meunier as a single vineyard and varietally-specific wine. It's 100% estate grown, in Yamhill Oregon, and worth the experience. If you're an acid hound, like me, you'll especially love this wine. The high acidity is part of what makes it pair so well with food. The wine is light, yet plush and tart. It's screaming with fresh fruit flavors of sour cherry, cranberry and pucker-power pomegranate, with compliments of white pepper, vanilla and pie spice.
Keep food pairings simple. An absolute pleasure to drink all on its own, the WillaKenzie Pinot Meuneir is ideally suited to lighter foods. Try it with roasted chicken, seared scallops, shrimp on the barbi, savory potatoes and sauteed zucchini.
The 2010 Pinot Meunier is sadly sold out, but the 2011 vintage has just been released and is impressive and oh-so-drinkable now too. Rest assured a few more of those bottles will find their way into my cellar. If you're smart, they'll make their way into yours too.