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Pursuing the perfect pinot noir

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

It all started with the movie "Sideways" when Maya asked Miles why he was so into pinots.

Miles responded: "It's a hard grape to grow, as you know. It's thin-skinned, temperamental. It's not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere and thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention, you know? And in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked-away corners of the world. And, only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time ... to understand pinot's potential ... can then coax it into its fullest expression." Pinot noir's fame is tied mostly to the Burgundy region of France, where red wine varietals abound. Adding to its fame is that it is one of the basic three wines used in making Champagne, with chardonnay and pinot meunier typically the other two components.

I don't profess any expertise of pinot noir like the Miles character in "Sideways" does, but I am impressed with the many attempts to grow it throughout the world's grape-growing regions. I've tasted some, of course, most of which failed to leave any lasting impression, but the exceptions I've tasted have been expressed in this column, as recently as last week.

I've also found that pinot noir is grown in Switzerland and Germany. I was given a "treasured" Hallauer Blauburgunder (pinot noir) by a colleague whose daughter visited Switzerland and came back with a bottle for me. I love having it and long to drink it, but if I do, I won't be able to replace it, should it be a bell-ringer, because it is unavailable in the American market.

Here are a couple of pinot noir wines that can be purchased, consumed and repurchased from Hamacher Wines in Beaverton, Oregon.

Eric Hamacher, the winemaker, has coddled and coaxed this grape varietal from the vine to the bottling, creating 2,000 hand-crafted cases for more than 20 years.

As a UC Davis graduate in enology and viticulture, Hamacher cut his teeth on the winemaking industry in Napa, then migrated to Oregon and found the specific tucked-away corners that Miles, in his praise of pinot noir, was making reference to.

Although this varietal is at its apogee from wineries in Burgundy, that apogee also can be achieved with two Hamacher pinot wines from Oregon's Willamette Valley: the 2015 H pinot noir with explosive black fruit and clove/cinnamon flavors (SRP: $26), and the 2013 Hamacher pinot noir that lightly covers the palate with a delicate and simple taste of vanilla and baked pie crust (SRP: $50).

Look for these quality wines at your local spirit shop or go to winesearcher.com to order online.

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