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Grape expectations

Domestic Pinot Noir breaks down stereotypes

Wonderwall from Field Recordings is available by the glass at The Tavern.


There’s a scene early in the 2004 film Sideways, where its wine snob protagonist is dismayed at a question posed by his clueless sidekick about a single-vineyard, 100 percent Pinot Noir: “How come it’s white?”   

“Oh, Jesus. Don’t ask questions like that up in wine country,” he responds. “They’ll think you’re some kind of dumbshit.”

Fourteen years after the release of the film that famously spiked sales of Pinot Noir, its white variation is still a bit of an odd concept for many consumers—but not for Barnaby Tuttle, owner and winemaker at Portland’s Teutonic Wine Company. “After Riesling, Pinot Noir is my favorite white wine,” he said. According to Tuttle, people have expectations related to wine that have nothing to do with how good it tastes.

“I just want wine to taste good,” Tuttle said. “So when I made Seafoam White, I left Pinot Noir off the label.”

Available by the glass at Oren, Seafoam is in fact a white Pinot Noir. That’s not as exotic as it sounds; it simply requires bleeding off the juice before contact with the skins tints the juice red. The result is an acidic, dry wine with all the funkiness we love in Pinot Noir. White Pinot Noir, which chills nicely in the late summer and early fall, has more body than lighter whites.

“I wanted a Muscadet-style wine that works with oysters and seafood,” Tuttle said. “Teutonic is an urban winery, so it sort of defies some ideas about what wine ought to be. We make wine that pairs with whatever food comes into Portland, and we’re not really worried about the rules about what a wine is supposed to be.”

The Pear Blossom Vineyard is in the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area (AVA) on the southern edge of Washington, and Tuttle thinks it’s the best place in Washington to grow Pinot Noir. “The Willamette Valley people won’t like me saying this, but it rivals the Pinot Noir from their Oregon AVAs,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle makes wines from the Willamette Valley, too, including the Crow Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, a much more traditional approach to Pinot, but one that still takes a little chill very well—an important attribute in Oklahoma’s late summer heat. For the perfect transition from summer to fall, Teutonic also makes the Laurel Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir, another Willamette Valley wine.

Kitchen 27 at the Philbrook Museum of Art is pouring Raptor Ridge Pinot, a long-time favorite among Oklahoma wine drinkers. Scott and Annie Schull started the Newberg, Oregon winery in 1995, and they’ve been regular visitors to Oklahoma over the years, especially around events like the Philbrook Wine Experience and Oklahoma Wine Forum. 

The Barrel Select from Raptor Ridge is a blend of wine from nearly all the vineyards Raptor Ridge works with. “Scott Schull tastes through 14 or 15 different barrels throughout the aging process, and chooses the wines that are presenting best young. Those go into the Barrel Select blend,” said Alex Kroblin, co-owner and found of Thirst Wine Merchants.

This is also the last year when Raptor Ridge’s Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir will be available. The winery has stopped working with the vineyard, but Kroblin said the new Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot, which is taking the place of the Shea, is already in the state. The certified organic vineyard gives conscientious wine drinkers another stellar option. 

For the first time ever, Elk Cove has released their Clay Court Vineyard Pinot Noir in Oklahoma. Adam Campbell’s Oregon wines have been mainstays on wine lists in the state for a long time, and we’ve had access to a couple of his single vineyard selections, so the addition of the Clay Court is a chance to try one more of Campbell’s big, beautiful Chehalem Mountains Pinot.

On the lighter side, The French Hen has Solena Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley on their by-the-glass list. Still very much an Old World style, the Solena has bright red fruit, cola and anise in a light-bodied Pinot that works best with a slight chill. The acid helps it stand up to nearly any food pairing in spite of the light body.

California Pinot Noir, which as a rule is typically fruitier than the Pinot from their northern neighbors, is better suited to wine drinkers who like a more New World-style wine: higher alcohol, richer fruit, and a rounder body. 

A pleasant exception to that amped up style is the Lola Russian River Pinot Noir, and like the Teutonic, it’s by the glass at Oren. Seth Cripe’s style at Lola is more restrained, but still fruit-forward, so the Russian River Pinot is full of red fruit flavors, but it’s tempered by earth, tea and cedar. 

Wonderwall from Field Recordings is available by the glass at The Tavern, and it’s a straightforward California Pinot Noir. The Paso Robles fruit is dense with fig, plum and cherry, but the signature Pinot cola and tea notes are also present. It’s an easy drinking wine that pairs well with food or works well on the patio. Like all good Pinot, it takes a chill well, too. 

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