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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

'Sideways' helps boost pinot noir

By Aaron Trujillo

With the recent success of the Academy Award-winning movie "Sideways," quite a stir has been created in the wine world, inspiring passion for wine as well as influencing opinions of certain varietals.

The film features a wine-snobby character who scorns merlots and is passionate about pinot noir. Now sales of merlot, a varietal known for its rich fruit and soft, smooth characteristics, have fallen while sales of pinot noir, a dynamically versatile, food-friendly wine, have correspondingly risen.

Is this the changing of the guard?

I, for one, sure hope so. Please understand, I have nothing against merlot ... well ... at least some merlot. But, like the movie, I sure have a lot of good things to say about pinot noir.

The movie concentrated on the Santa Barbara area and its pinots. I'm recommending a couple of my favorites from there too, but I would like to also recommend a couple from other growing areas which are also well suited for this grape.

Here goes:

• 2003 CF Wines Pinot Noir — Here is a very pretty, feminine styled, seductively textured Santa Barbara-area pinot from local master sommelier Chuck Furuya and winemaker Gary Burk of Costa de Oro (incidentally, another one of my favorite pinot makers). Exclusive to Hawai'i, this wine is ideal for our warm weather and contemporary Island foods. (Ed. note: Trujillo works with Furuya in the Sansei/Vino restaurant group.)

• 2001 Whitcraft Pinot Noir "Q Block" — Chris Whitcraft is undoubtedly producing some of the absolutely finest pinots from America today. These are handcrafted, artisan wines of tremendous quality and integrity, and each are bottled unfiltered. In addition, the wines have great intensity, texture, complexity and layering. By the way, the 2001 Q Block was the real wine star in "Sideways" (in the restaurant scene, this was one of the wines ordered and presented at the table). Someone from the movie did their homework.

• 2001 Ici La Bas Pinto Noir "Les Revelles" — Another of America's top pinot makers is Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat. His pinots always have soul, elegance and great texture. That is undoubtedly why he was selected Winemaker of the Year in 2003 by Europe's Wine Gourmet magazine. He was the first American ever to achieve that honor. Clendenen, a veteran winemaker from Santa Barbara, also sees potential for pinot noir in other growing areas and this is a fine example. The grapes for this bottling come from the cool confines of the Anderson Valley (hence an Ici La Bas label instead of his Au Bon Climat label). This wine has superb character and concentration with his signature fabulous texture from beginning to end. This pinot will show you why you will be hearing more and more about Anderson Valley pinots.

• 2001 Scherrer Pinto Noir "Sonoma Coast" — Another of the most fascinating wine growing regions for world-class pinot noir is called the Sonoma Coast. This more remote, generally semi-arid, wilder country used to be used for sheep-herding in the old days. As you will notice more and more, there are and will be a growing number of eye-opening pinot noirs coming from this area. To give you an idea, here is a Sonoma Coast pinot, crafted by one of my favorite Californian winemakers, Fred Scherrer. As you will see, his wines are pretty, elegant and suave with seductive textures.

Aaron Trujillo is general manager of Vino restaurant in Kapalua, Maui, and in charge of the wine program there.