Pinot Envy 

Pursuing the pleasures of all things Pinot

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I don't write too often after the fact about wine dinners or tastings that I attend, because it's sort of like, "Nyah, nyah, nyah: Here's what you missed, aren't you envious!" However, I recently enjoyed sipping some interesting wines at a BTG Wine Bar event, and I will share some thoughts about that experience—because it's one that you could re-create for yourself. Read on, and I'll explain how.

The evening in question was a lineup of "all things Pinot": a wine-pairing dinner featuring Pinot-based wines in their many splendors. The food and wines were selected by BTG owner/chef Fred Moesinger and sommelier Louis Koppel, ranging through various iterations and usages of Pinot wine grapes, including Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Maybe sometime they'll stage a "Pinot Part II" event featuring other Pinot mutations like Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier, or even more obscure Pinot relatives such as Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Teinturier or Pinot Gouges.

First up was Pinot Noir in sparkling form: 2010 Soter Mineral Springs Ranch Brut Rosé ($48) from Yamhill-Carlton, Ore. This is a small-batch, hand-crafted sparkling wine—an 85/15 percent blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, respectively. It's aged for 36 months en tirage and hand-riddled. The result is complex bubbly with great finesse, a wine that paired exceptionally well with Moesinger's house-smoked salmon on blini with pickled golden beets and dollops of creme fraiche.

One of my favorite Alsatian wine producers is Schlumberger. So, I was stoked to see the Alsatian 2011 Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Pinot Gris ($21.99) featured alongside a dish of citrus-marinated sous vide chicken drumsticks and mixed greens tossed in tangy Dijon-honey vinaigrette with crispy pancetta pieces. The chicken dish was outstanding, as was the wine pairing. Pinot Gris is known for its acidity, honey and citrus flavors, along with solid minerality, so the Schlumberger Pinot Gris was an ideal match for the citrus-honey notes of the chicken drumsticks and greens.

Too many wine-pairing dinners are yawningly predictable. You always know you're going to get Pinot Noir with salmon and mushroom dishes, and you'll always be served Sauvignon Blanc with scallops. And so, I appreciated the experimental playfulness of Louis Koppel's wine selections for the main entree. He selected not one, but two very different Pinot Noir styles to accompany a delicious dish of pork tenderloin roulades stuffed with caramelized onion and fennel, and served on a brothy bed of braised lentils with wild mushrooms. This outstanding dish is one I wish Moesinger would incorporate into his regular Caffe Molise menu, although it's more French in nature than Italian.

Anyway, the wines Koppel chose were bold examples of how Pinot Noir can differ so much in style, from place to place and from producer to producer. 2013 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir ($41.59) from Santa Rita Hills, Calif., is a young, fruity, powerful Pinot that bordered on overwhelming Moesinger's pork. It's a wine that will benefit from a few years mellowing in the bottle. But it was an interesting and informative contrast to the classic smooth and silky flavors and texture of 2011 Domaine Faiveley Clos de Myglands ($41.99) from Mercurey, a region of Burgundy, France, which was a slam-dunk with the pork and lentils. I'm glad we got to try both Pinots.

Finally, the tart blue-cheese flavors of Cambozola with poached pear were balanced nicely by the contrasting sweetness of candied pecans and 2012 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Late Pinot Gris ($24/375ml), a dessert wine from Los Carneros, Calif.

Now, the good news: Some, not all, of these wines are available at Utah wine stores; all of them can be sipped at BTG by the 2-ounce taste, glass or bottle. So, go forth and enjoy all things Pinot.

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More by Ted Scheffler

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