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Villa Bellangelo Pinot Noir 2012

Bellangelo Pinot Noir 2012Oh, Central New York.

I wanted to like this $18 wine more than I can say.  I spent six years in CNY, including many a fall afternoon on the shores of the Finger Lakes, throwing Frisbees in stinging needle rain that were blown behind me by offshore gales.  It is where I consumed my first ice beer and smoked my second joint.  Central New York is the kind of place where the haze of nostalgia descends while you’re still living there.

And so I had high hopes.  The only other New York wine I can remember specifically was a very fine Konzelmann (technically Canadian) Riesling, $10 for icy striations of glassy sweetness.  And if it could present a solution to the Pinot Problem, its tendency toward tantrum and disappointment even, perhaps especially, in Burgundy, well, I would swell with pride.  N.B. that I have been back to CNY exactly once since 1998.

The verdict came on the pour.  It was juice.  Lovely ruby juice that caught the light, but juice.  On the nose, straight-up cherries and rhubarb, perhaps a hint of strawberries, but in the mouth … nothing.  Some bright acid.  No tannins to speak of.  None of the joining of hands and deep chant of the Côte-Rôtie.

If, like me, one of the first great wines–the first bottle over $50–you ever consumed was an exquisite Pommard on the February shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the ongoing exploration of New World Pinot Noir is an endless disappointment.  I have never consumed a good value Pinot from California, not even my precious Paso Robles.  Oregon/Washington and New Zealand deliver at price points above $30, but even then they are just a faint echo of Burgundy, the Kingdom Come to France’s Led Zeppelin.

And so I think it is time for a new Pinot Paradigm.  Gone should be the defining expectations of the Mâconnais, the crystalline delicacy that made Paul Giamatti so insincerely insane.  We don’t need to confuse it with Gamay or Barbera but the fact is that the angels rarely sing.  In discussions of wine, the only categorical imperative is to face reality.

And so on the cultish scale, this is a very poor wine indeed.  Hell, they make Merlot, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat!  I can’t imagine who they’re trying to fool.  But under the new Pinot Paradigm, I enjoyed it very much with spicy goose sausage chili and a kale salad in a ginger-sesame dressing.  It is overpriced, but this bottle was a gift for a weekend watching a beautiful black labrador for a friend and so it is difficult to downgrade on ducats.  Consider this more of a rating for the concept of crappy New World Pinot.  But “crappy,” like all the categorical concepts, is relative, and an adjustment of the mind to open new vistas of wine is a small price to pay. (Rating: Good)

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