Blanc is the new black, or more accurately, the new noir. At least that’s what they are saying in Paris, New York, London and of course, Oregon wine country. The French have been making Blanc de noir for centuries, a style of sparkling Champagne made into a colorless wine—and created exclusively from dark grapes (Pinot noir and Pinot munier). French wine is often the inspiration for new wine endeavors in Oregon. Consequently, a handful of Oregon producers decided to give the Blanc a whirl, but with one big omission: no bubbles.
The non-effervescent venture was a success. The trail blazer, Domaine Serene, is set to release their seventh vintage of the glistening, white Pinot this year. Others have followed suit with great success. Anne Amie and Ghost Hill both have Pinot noir blanc currently available and Matello will be releasing their first Blanc de noir in May. Oregon Riesling superstar, Trisaetum Winery and Vineyards, is one of the latest to turn noir to blanc with their inaugural release of the 2010 Pinot noir blanc.
With customers as their muses, the folks at Trisaetum decided to dive in after their club members repeatedly asked for the wine. “My co-winemaker Greg McClellan and I decided we’d use some of our leanings from making six different Rieslings each year, and apply them to making a white wine from Pinot noir clusters,” said James Frey, co-winemaker and proprietor of Trisaetum Winery.
Red wine gets its dark color from the skins of grapes, but if you take the juice away from the skins immediately, the juice is left with little-to-no color enhancement. This is just what Frey and McClellan do. “We gently press whole Pinot noir clusters immediately after harvesting the fruit until the juice begins to turn pink in color, at which time we stop the press,” explains Frey.
Now, I know what you may be wondering, and the answer is: No, it’s nothing like White Zin. There isn’t a touch of sweetness or pinkness in the final product (although there is nothing wrong with either of these descriptors if you ask me). The wine is clear, with a slight golden/copper color and range of aromas, from honey to red berries (see tasting notes below). It is, simply put, wonderful.
What foods pair with this mysterious new wine? “We think the wine pairs particularly well with all types of seafood dishes; as well as pastas with white sauce. Last week I had it with a Dungeness Crab Lasagna that ended up being a terrific pairing,” said Frey. And what kind of glass should we serve it in? “At home I usually use a white wine glass, but in our tasting room we serve it in a Pinot Noir glass. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the proper stemware.” He added, “Use whatever you feel comfortable with.”
In the end, this Blanc de noir is a wine nouveau to have fun with. Try pairing it with a variety of foods and stemware; see what works best for you. The complex aromas and flavors in this shiny white libation is a force to be reckoned and an experience you won’t soon forget.
2010 Trisaetum, Nuit Blanche, Willamette Valley ($42)
Nuit Blanche translates into white night. This lush and vibrant white Pinot noir shows gold and copper colors on its star bright complexion. With notes of white cherry, white raspberry, strawberry, peach, honey, jasmine and clove its rich texture leads to a long and elegant finish.
2008 Anne Amie, Prismé, Pinot Noir Blanc, Willamette Valley ($45)
Barrel fermented and aged in French oak for 18 months; this wine is nothing if not expressive and alluring. Rich notes of red berries, baked apple, lemon cake, white and yellow roses and a slight stony minerality are complimented by savory oak notes of vanilla and baking spice.
2010 Ghost Hill Cellars, Pinot Noir Blanc, Bayliss-Bower Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton ($25)
Shinny copper and gold in color, this un-oaked wine is engaging and succulent with crisp fruits of cherry, raspberry and blackberry. Hints of citrus, lychee and pear in the finish are highlighted by bright refreshing acids.