When I was a kid, I used to eat all of my pizza except the crust. I did the same thing with my sandwiches, to which my father would note “but that’s the best part!”
Fast-forward 30 years and I’m now that Dad, observing (and participating in) a culture that loves nothing more than obliging our finicky kids. These days, crust doesn’t even need to enter the picture. Food bloggers have found a Google goldmine with the search term “crustless pizza,” and marketers (or perhaps it was Spawn of the Devil Himself) conjured up the absurdity of crustless sandwiches and sold it to Smucker’s.
On an intellectual level, that’s how I should feel about White Pinot Noir. Why would you grow one of the world’s most beautiful, expressive grapes only to do nothing with the skins? It seems like a waste. Like a lame gimmicky endeavor to “enhance your portfolio of wines.” Granted, they’ve been doing it for years in Champagne, and for good reason. Pinot Noir’s juice is pure and voluptuous and in the right hands from the right terroir, it can add enormous character to traditional method sparkling wines.
But still … I can’t help seeing my Dad standing in the winery pointing at those skins in the press. “But that’s the best part!”
The funny thing is, I kind of like the White Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Tendril Wine Cellars. A half-case of their wine was sent to me as samples earlier this year, and as I worked my way through some of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it was the White Pinot Noir called “Pretender” that stood out.
Not surprisingly, The Pretender fills roughly the same role at the table as that other Burgundy grape, Chardonnay. It’s full-bodied for a white, rounded, and by no means a wallflower. However, whereas many efforts with Chardonnay are forceful, overloaded with tartness and sweetness and oak, this wine was balanced, even-tempered and dare-I-say, fun. There was a hint of oak coming through and it reminded me of creme brûlée. I get where they were going with the name, but it didn’t feel like it was pretending to be Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. It’s light rose-copper color and exotic aromas had me thinking about the mad experiments of Friuli-Venezia Giulia instead.
Now, would I pair it with an Uncrustable Sandwich? Hell no. Have you seen those things up close? Maybe a crustless pizza (but only if its topped with roasted garlic, crimini mushrooms and herbs).
2014 Tendril Wine Cellars “Pretender” White Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon
Grapes: Pinot Noir (100%)
Ratings: ★★★★ 1/4 (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Versatile
• Value: A Little Pricey
Tasting notes: This wine has a beautiful and unusual color with a tinge of rose-copper to it. Aromas are rich and satisfying, conveying golden apples, pear, creme brûlée and yellow flowers. Mellow and a bit restrained on the palate, but improves with food. Smooth, with a faint trace of oak and a surprisingly long finish.
Serving suggestion: Serve it like you would a Chardonnay (with a white pizza covered with earthy and snappy toppings), or open up the pairing options to the tangy, savory flavors of a bahn mi sandwich.
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