Let’s Toast California Pinot Noir
The holidays offer the opportunity for toasts at dinners and parties, so why not use one of these occasions to
toast California Pinot Noir? I have had a 50-year love affair with Pinot Noir. I drank California Pinot Noir long
before it ever became fashionable and was fortunate to live through the renaissance of North American Pinot
Noir. I had my trysts with the great Chalone Reserve Pinot Noirs of the 1980s, the venerable Pinot Noirs of Mt.
Eden, Calera and Hanzell, the early Central Coast Pinot Noirs of Sanford and Lane Tanner, and the world class
early Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs of Gary Farrell, Rochioli, Dehlinger and Williams Selyem. Many of these
wines were revelations, even epiphanic, and love at first sip.
I was fortunate that my wine drinking lifetime coincided with the dramatic achievements in excellence of
California Pinot Noir, but the joyride is not over. Currently, there is an embarrassment of riches and the overall
quality of California Pinot Noir has reach extraordinary levels. The bar has moved to such lofty heights that a
disproportionately large number of premium Pinot Noirs now receive scores of 90 or above. I have to shake my
head in amazement at the skilled hands of today’s winegrowers and winemakers who continue to strive for
perfection in Pinot Noir. I have never given a California Pinot Noir a score of perfection (100), and although
perfection will probably never be achieved, an increasing number of wines come damn close. As Yogi Berra
would say, “If Pinot Noir were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” It’s time to toast our blessings!
Toasting is thought to originate in ancient Greece and Rome according to many sources. Since poisonings
were popular and sanitation not reliable, hosts knew that guests would be uneasy about the wines or other
libations offered, so the host often took the first drink. When it was clear that the host was going to survive, he
would raise his cup and invite his guests to drink in good health. Historians believe the word “toast” originated
in ancient Rome when burnt toast was added to libations to counteract the high acidity. After reciting “a toast,”
the bread was removed from the wine and consumed. The term “toast” evolved by the late seventeenth century
to refer to the practice of celebrating one’s fellow drinkers, friends and family.
The custom of clinking glasses along with a toast is thought to have originated with the early Christians, who
performed the ritual believing that the noise would banish the devil. It has become customary in this country to
clink the glass of every person at the table, a custom first practiced by the Germans.
Here are a few toasts you can use as you celebrate the ascendency of California Pinot Noir this holiday
season. When I looked through multiple books and my own collection of quotes, I found no toasts specifically
directed to Pinot Noir so I took the liberty to modify a few quotes (my apologies to the originators).
He who has wealth and Pinot Noir will always have friends
The human heart rejoices in good Pinot Noir
May your love be like great Pinot Noir, and grow stronger as it grows older
You can have too much Pinot Noir to drink, but you can never have enough
Life consists not in holding good Pinot Noir, but in drinking those you hold
There is white wine, red wine and then there is Pinot Noir
Champagne makes you think of silly things: Bordeaux makes you talk about them; Pinot Noir makes
you do them
There are many ways to the recognition of truth, and Pinot Noir is one of them
In the pages to follow, look carefully, and you will find many extraordinary examples of California Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay. Since I have so many wines to review before year’s end, I have not included elaborate
commentary on every winery. Please see the Winery Directory in the PinotFile website for detailed information
on wineries and wine availability.