By Rick Riozza

All right Pinot lovers!  This is the annual up-date column that you’ve been panting for!  Pinot envy or not—there’s a plethora of you Pinot Noir devotees who consider this wine a sip of Nirvana.

This last week over 50 world class Pinot producers participated in WineLA’s 5th Annual Stars of Pinot at the Montage Beverly Hills where the likes of Roederer Estate, Louis Latour, Bouchard Pere et Fils, from across the pond, and, La Crema, Brewer-Clifton, Sanford, Siduri, Bernadus, Cuvaison, Penner-Ash, and so many more illustrious wineries poured their sips of Nirvana to the trade, and then later in the evening, to the coveting consumers for the fancy evening of fun and food.

We first started off with a Pinot Noir blend in the form of a bubbly.  Yup!—you called it, a Champagne, and, from one of the best Champagne Houses in France: Henriot.  Delicious stuff!—and it’s the correct thing to begin any tasting: refreshing, enlightening, mouth cleansing and so desirable when arriving from a three-hour drive from Palm Springs.


It so happens that this column celebrated Henriot in our last Thanksgiving Champagne article.  The Blanc De Blancs (100% Chardonnay) was the recommendation then; Henriot’s Brut Rosé is the recommendation today.  Its aroma is the perfume of summer with a palate of nuanced red berry fruits, playful bubbles all with elegant structure and exquisite balance. A great Rosé Champagne from France generally runs around $150 and way up!  At $70, this bottle is one of the savvier buys.

Upon entering the large pleasant ballroom of pinot producers, we immediately spied Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton pouring.   Pretty much every other pinot lover in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area has enjoyed a Brewer-Clifton pinot.  Along with the movie “Sideways,” Santa Barbara and Santa Rita Hills entered one’s wine vocabulary when the Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton launched their quintessential quaffs from the land of lovely hills.

These days, Greg and Steve have ventured out on their own, with Greg still at Brewer-Clifton and Steve with his new winery, La Voix.  Greg poured his 2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot and a vintage 2012.  His 2016 is on the market shelves currently at $40—if you can find it.  Fans of this wine will find it interesting that this is a blend from three different vineyards—3D, Machado (right next to Clos Pepe) and Hapgood.   World class Pinot with aromas of pomegranate, white tea and raspberry and on to the palate of dried fig, white truffle and ripe cherry, with a beautiful mouthfeel and texture.

And for you in the know, The 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir had the honor recently of being selected #8 in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the world! The wine was a treat, aging like a great Burgundian.

It was great to meet up with Steve Clifton and catch his exuberance, and, artistry with his new winery (La Voix—French for The Voice), and, line-up.  You Pinot lovers in our valley will no doubt crave this wine, in time, so just go ahead and order before it all runs out.

Steve has said of his new wine venture, “every vineyard and every vintage is like a song that’s been written and that needs to be sung – it just needs a voice. There’s the voice of the vineyard, there’s the voice of the grape, there’s the voice of the clone, there’s the voice of the winemaker, there’s the voice of the vintage. I get to bring all of those elements together to convey emotion and sensation.”

So—perhaps you’ll catch the song titles in his three La Voix Pinots that were displayed, sipped, and sung about:  2015 Rebel Rebel ($36)a forward-style that opens with notes of fresh raspberries and blackberries that are tempered by black tea, orange rind and rosemary.  2015 Satisfaction ($55)—an aromatic and feminine-style Pinot that is fruit-driven with notes of wild strawberry compote with rhubarb, caramel and tarragon with hints of cardamom. 2015 Reflektor ($65)Bing and black cherry, dried plum, brine like sea breeze earth dry autumn leaves. Finish of black plum skin. Will you be singing about these wines? Let me know!

I’m checking out my notes from this Stars of Pinot event and I’m not going to get close to describing all of the fine and tasty wines we sampled.  So, I may continue this write-up into next week’s column, or perhaps I’ll pepper several articles in the coming months with Pinot Noir Alerts, where I can suggest a good Pinot that comes to mind to pair with your plates, parties, and euphoria.

But while I still have your attention, allow me to share on the allure of Pinot Noir.  We know that California and Oregon owe an homage of the Pinot grape and wine to Burgundy.  By edict and command, all “Red Burgundy” must be 100% Pinot Noir.  And Americans are buying Pinots from both sides of the world as fast as they are purchasing Red Blends.  Pinot is the red wine that seemingly goes with everything—food and fancy.

Maison Louis Latour was on hand at this event.  Everyone has seen their classic trademark on their French Pinot Noir and many of you aficionados have enjoyed the wine.  Having spent some time recently in Beaune, this wine is currently close to my heart, especially by the fact that we traipsed through these same Burgundian vineyards that produced the wine we just tasted.  So please stay tuned to my further Pinot reports.

WineLA is a wine education, culture & events organization. They are all over the wine map as to tastings, events and wine seminars.  Some titles of up-coming tastings and events in August include: Project Zin, Rosé & Bubbles Festival, Wine Camp, CULT Wines Dinner, and Palate Builder.  Go to and check out the scene.