Pinot Noir

These five wines help set the mood. Better yet, they’re paired with recipes, so you’ve got five instant dinners.

Beringer Third Century 2005 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
(about $14)

This bottle’s name refers to the fact that this winery is now operating in its third century–the company has been around since 1876. The Central Coast is similar to the cool climate of Burgundy, and the fruit shows the same characteristics of just-ripe fruit with an intoxicating undercurrent of earth and spice. (Though if you really like spicy, you might consider a Zinfandel instead.)

Errazuriz Wild Ferment 2005 Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile
(about $17)

This wine was fermented with wild native yeasts, which extends the fermentation process and deepens both the color and flavor of the wine. It is full-bodied, with the lush flavors of strawberry, plums, and cedar, and a silky smooth texture. Dishes cooked with wine are easy to match with many vinos, but I chose this dish because the root vegetables echo the wild, sexy earthiness of the wine.

Amity Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir, Oregon, United States
(about $23)

An elegant, medium-bodied Pinot, this one has enticing aromas of spice and black cherry that marry splendidly with the robust flavors in the pasta “rags” recipe and Beef Bourguigon. The wine is elegant and balanced, with a long finish. Although the dishes are a little more muscular than the wine, they work together much like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. (She definitely needed balance to dance backwards in heels.) You’ll dance all night with this wine.

Austins 2006 Pinot Noir, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
(about $25)

As one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, Geelong is host to many small, artisanal wineries like Austins. The area’s cool climate and oceanside location help produce wines that are balanced but also have rich, ripe fruit flavors. This Pinot, bursting with cherry notes, is closed with a screwcap, which, if nothing else, allows for quick access on Valentine’s Day when speed, not finesse, is often a key factor.

Domaine Chandon 2005 Pinot Noir, Carneros/Napa, California
(about $28)

This medium-bodied Pinot has notes of raspberry, cherry, cedar, and a touch of oak. Domaine Chandon is known for its fabulous sparkling wines, so it’s not surprising that it does a great job with finicky, cool-climate Pinot (one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet). It may be known as the “heartbreak grape,” but that has nothing to do with its impact on relationships; it’s an indication of how difficult it is to grow. Like a great relationship, when it works, it’s pure magic.

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