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Pinot Noir’s high-maintenance personality (“I can’t grow here because it’s too cold; I can’t grow here because it’s too hot; I certainly can’t grow there­—it’s clearly far too wet”) means that only a few wine regions produce great examples. And yet, as demand grows and grows, new Pinot sources do appear, whether due to bursts of new winemaking talent or vineyards planted by visionary risk-takers.

Ray Isle
Updated March 12, 2019

California’s Sta. Rita Hills

West of Santa Barbara, cool winds off the Pacific help create some of California’s best Pinots. As winemaker Chad Melville says, “Pinot here has a kind of blue fruit, blueberry note. Whenever I smell that character it’s like, ‘Ding! Ding! Ding! Sta. Rita Hills!’” Try his 2015 Melville Sta. Rita Hills Estate Pinot Noir ($36) to see what he means. Others to look for include the peppery 2015 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($40), the violet-scented 2015 Alma Rosa Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($45) from Richard Sanford (who in 1971 planted the first Pinot vines in the area), and the complex, subtly minty 2016 Chanin Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60) with layers of dark berry fruit lifted by anise notes.

Germany’s Baden

Here’s a surprise: Germany is the third-largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world (or Spätburgunder, as it’s known there), after France and the U.S. The Baden region (sandwiched between the Black Forest and the Rhine) and the Ahr region are the sources of its greatest wines, which combine Burgundian elegance with more ripeness than one might suspect. Check out the bright 2016 Shelter Lovely Lilly Pinot Noir ($19), named after the former cellar dog of owners Hans-Bert Espe and Silke Wolf. The 2016 Franz Keller Schwarzer Adler Pinot Noir ($42) offers brilliant wild- strawberry fruit, or look for the elegantly fragrant 2015 Meyer-Näkel Spätburgunder ($35).

Chile’s Coastal Edge

Chile made its wine-name on Bordeaux varieties: structured Cabernets and Carmenères, crisp Sauvignon Blancs. But
the cool coastal edges of this 2,700-mile-long country are prime spots for Pinot Noir production, particularly valleys
like San Antonio, Limarí, Casa- blanca, Leyda, and Itata. For a super value, the cherry-inflected 2018 TerraPura Pinot Noir ($13) from the southern Itata Valley is hard to beat. Or try the red-fruited 2017 Kingston Family Vineyards Tobiano Pinot Noir ($26), from a family that’s been farming in the Casablanca Valley since the early 1900s. And the 2015 De Martino Legado Pinot Noir ($20), from the Limarí Valley, is distinctively silky with lots of peppery notes.

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