The Pinot Issue - April 2024 | Wine Enthusiast
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April 2024

The Pinot Issue

Pinot Noir inspires fanatic followers with a cult-like devotion for good reason. The “heartbreak grape” can be fickle in the vineyard and can create disappointing wines but also transcendent ones. Our Pinot Noir Issue explores these pleasures and pains, and the wines we love from California to Oregon, Burgundy to Champagne and Germany to Australia.

Letter from the Publisher

Peace and Pinot

The healing power of place.

I did it. I returned to the scene of the most iconic crime in wine pop culture—the tasting room where Paul Giamatti’s character Miles dumps an entire spit bucket into his mouth in the film Sideways.

We all know some version of this film’s impact on the industry. Its perks for building excitement for Pinot Noir and, of course, its dampening on the market for Merlot. Its reputation and effects were so tremendous that, 20 years after the film’s release, we are still interested enough in it to ask director Alexander Payne to look back at it in this very issue.

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What was most impactful for me during my visit to Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, where that famous scene was filmed, was meeting Richard Sanford. If you’re not familiar with his name, you should be. Richard Sanford planted the first Pinot Noir vineyard in the Central Coast in 1971. Without his vision and research, the movie Sideways might have championed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or—clutches pearls—Merlot! In hearing Richard’s story of what brought him to the realization that Santa Ynez could be Pinot country, I learned of his journey from the trauma of the Vietnam war to ultimately finding respite among his Central Coast vineyards. Richard was the first to notice the dramatic cooling and moderating climate as the region pulls in ocean air due to its unique west-to-east orientation of the valley (rarer than you think). This set the groundwork for generations of Pinot Noir-obsessed winemakers to make the pilgrimage to this magical place where the grapes didn’t merely survive but thrived.

Jacki Strum
Photography: Paul Aresu,Hair and Makeup: Robert Moulton

Richard spoke of how the valley gave him a sense of solace as he did this incredibly important research in the early days. In our last moments visiting we stood at the peak of the vineyard with my two very young boys, husband, father-in-law and my late mother-in-law, Michele, who we lost only a few short months later. Because of this deep loss so soon after our trip, I often return in my mind to that moment, marked indelibly in my memory. Mr. Sanford was explaining the dynamic shape of the vineyards while overlooking the valley that he had such a large role in revolutionizing. It’s a memory of peace and reflection for me and the trip where Michele fell in love with Pinot Noir. Her favorites were from Richard’s vineyard, Brewer-Clifton and Story of Soil, in case you’re interested.

A glass of wine is so much more than fermented juice; we know that very well here at Wine Enthusiast. Central Coast Pinot Noir will now always remind me of my time with Richard Sanford and my family all together. You don’t need a movie to remind you of the cinematic and poignant nature of these experiences. I will always allow a great glass of Central Coast Pinot Noir to transport me back to this very special place for a moment of peace. —Jacqueline Strum, Editor & Publisher, WE Media

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