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2001 Domain Chandon Pinot Meunier, Carneros

I was chatting on IM the other day with a colleague at work, and in the midst of a conversation, he said, "Hey, have you ever heard of Pinot Meunier before?" I admitted that while familiar with several grape varieties that began with Pinot, that was one I had never heard of.

"Well, they have one from Domaine Chandon at the restaurant where my girlfriend works and she says it makes grown men weep."

Intruiging. I took a look at the Chandon website to get a little more information, and then left it at that. Wouldn't you know it, though, on my birthday, what should I walk into work to find but a nice bottle from that same colleague. If only I arrived to work more often to find nice treats like that waiting for me.

So here's the story on Pinot Meunier from Chandon:

"Pinot Meunier (French for "miller," in reference to the powdery underside of its leaves that can look as though dusted with flour) is the soulful cousin of Pinot Noir that plays a small but vital role in the blending of Chandon sparkling wines. Rarely planted outside of the Champagne region in France where it represents significant acreage of that appellation, Pinot Meunier is being discovered by only a few of the most adventurous California winemakers."

Experts believe that Meunier (as it is also known) is an early mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, but unlike its supposed forefther it is a much hardier and reliable fruit, providing consistently higher yields even across a wide variety of growing climates, especially in cooler or shadier vineyards. So much more reliable, as well as crucial to the flavor of traditional Champagne, it is that regions most popular variety by acre planted.

In California it is grown almost entirely in cool Carneros, originally planted as California producers sought to make "genuine" replicas of Champagne.

When we invited some friends over for dinner the other night and Ruth planned a dinner of pork chops, I decided to try it out and see how it compared to Pinot Noir as an accompaniment to the other white meat.

Tasting Notes:
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of roses, strawberries and rasberries -- a lighter more luscious nose than is often found on Pinot Noir. The body of the wine is tart and bright with flavors of rasberry and orange zest and the lightest touch of tannins. This wine doesn't have the depth and resonance that some Pinot Noirs from Sonoma can have, however it does not lack in complexity. It's a great food wine that is very pleasurable to drink.

Food Pairing:
Ruth made a lovely dinner from the Mustard's Grill cookbook, and the wine went perfectly with it, complementing the mongolian pork chop, fresh snow peas, and Mustards' mashed potatoes. As the marinade for the pork chops was sweeter and very rich in flavor, the more tart aspects of the wine contrasted perfectly.

Overall Score: 9

How much?: $28

This wine can be purchased from several online merchants. Try Wine Searcher for one near you.

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