Divine Wine Sunday: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Observant Wino to Wine Know readers may have noticed that last week there was no Divine Wine Sunday post… and that this post did not get quite make it for a “Sunday” posting. My apologies for the inconsistency… But I hope you all will forgive me as I was on a short hiatus from consuming wine (or any alcohol) to begin 2012 with a clean start…. that and get over a lovely winter cold.  After my two week hiatus, however, I pulled out one of my “special” bottles of wine from my (fairly) recent Paso Robles roadtrip a few months back.  And today, on Divine Wine Sunday (err… Monday?), I am highlighting that delightful wine.

First, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a couple weeks without.  So when a good friend and fellow Wino invited me over for dinner, I thought, “Perfect! It is special wine time!”  As some of you may know from previous posts, I spent a few days in Paso Robles visiting a number of vineyards and tasting lots of great red wine.  I brought home about a case of wine and had yet to break any open…  Until this Pinot accompanied a delightful dinner…

Dive Wine of the Week: Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir, Carmody McKnight Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir

Price Range: $34.00  from the winery, I have not seen it available in stores yet, but am on the look out.

Wino Assessment: This is no typical Pinot Noir.  I find that Pinots tend to be on the lighter side of red wines – very easy to drink with or without food.  But the Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir is a bit earthy but with a velvety finish.  It maintains the fruit flavors (maybe a bit of a jammy flavor) but is far less fruity than I expect a Pinot to be. From the first sip, I was immediately reminded why I enjoyed it so much (and therefore, took a bottle home).

The Grape: “Pinot” in French is “pine” and “noir” is “black”.  Pinot Noir grapes are black grapes that are clustered tightly together in a way that is similar to a pine cone. While it is grown around the world, it is most commonly associated with the Burgundy region of France.  (So next time you have a recipe calling for a Burgundy type wine, you could probably pick up a bottle of Pinot Noir if it is more convenient!)  The Pinot Noir grape has lots of clones – nearly twice as many as the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon grape in France.  This is due to the fact that Pinot Noir grapes are prone to mutations, and after many many years of cultivating these grapes, the best of the best are cloned and planted in vineyards around the world.

The Wine: Pinot Noir is a very popular wine – it is grown all around the world, making it very accessible. It tends to be a light to medium bodied wine with cherry and raspberry flavors and aromas.  That said, Pinots tend to have a wide range of flavors, textures, and bouquets (all things discussed last week on Thoroughly Wino Thursdays: Let’s Talk About Taste!) Because of this wide array of flavors, aromas, textures, etc., Pinot Noir wines can often be difficult to identify.  So a few people commented on the “animal” category of flavors and aromas in last week’s post.  I’m here to pass along a little news for you… you may think you’re all that drinking your bottle of Burgundy and feeling very sophisticated.  But according to my favorite resource, The Oxford Companion to Wine, traditional Burgundy (region of France most commonly associated with Pinot Noir), is famous for its “farmyard’ aromas.  Yes.  It is true.  I think I’m going to have to go out and find a “traditional” bottle of Burgundy to blog about the farmyardiness flavors.

A couple of other fun facts about Pinot Noir as a wine.  It is typically lighter in color compared to other reds which has to do with the coloring matter of the grape skin.  It is also used in producing sparkling wine, including Champagne, as well as Rose wines.

So, what does Carmody McKnight say about their Pinot Noir?  Well, I don’t know!  Their website is operational, but the page that shows info on their specific wines is not working at present.  (Quite a shame for a winery’s website, eh!?!)  I did find this description for their 2006 bottle (I believe I had their 2007) on a different website:

Earthy with red and dark fruit aromas, good balance and nice finish.”

I fully agree!! The wine did have a great balance (which I think I better double check to ensure it means what I think it means… but in this case, I presume it means that from the beginning of the sip to the end of the sip, it holds its flavor in an even way).

!!UPDATE!! (February 3, 2012): The winery’s website is operational again, and I have pulled their description of this fine Pinot Noir.

“The most romantic of wines, our estate Pinot Noir is surprisingly opulent, yet elegant and velvety textured, with strawberry and berry-earthy savoriness in its overture. Blackberry and spicy plum vie for attention with black cherry and currant flavors, finishing in a final act of subtle tannins, a trace of toasty oak, and a silkiness that glides seductively over the palate.”

Regions: As previously stated, Pinot Noir is grown all around the world – particularly in many regions of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and North America.  Carmody McKnight is located in the Paso Robles area (about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles), and Pinot Noir is grown heavily there.  The Willamette Valley in Oregon is known for its Pinots… and perhaps you’ll find it interesting that Oregon is approximately the same latitude as that of Burgundy in France.

With that, I’ll leave you with a Pinot Noir fun fact and a couple of quotes that I enjoyed coming across in my “research”….

Pinot Noir Fun Fact: Around 2004-2006, Pinot Noirs became extremely popular, and many believe it has to do with the movie Sideways.  (A movie that I enjoyed for the wine factor, but the plot kinda weirded me out.)

Pinot Noir Quotes:

“[Pinot noir is] the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”  -Joel Fleischman, Vanity Fair

“[Pinot Noir is] sex in a glass.” -Sommelier Madeline Triffon

I’m guessing that if the content of this post didn’t make you want to run out and buy a bottle of Pinot right now, that these quotes might.  And if you find yourself facing a bottle of Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir, then get it and let me know what you think!!

[Source for all Wine Knowledge unless otherwise stated is from The Oxford Companion to Wine.]


  1. You introduced me to Pinot Noirs a few years ago and they will always be a favorite of mine!

  2. I sometimes avoid Pinot Noirs because I find the taste often to be “thin.” However, your description of this one as atypical with a velvety finish makes me think I need to give it a try! Love the inclusion of the bottle photo (easier for me to find in the store) and price range. Thanks!

    • I just recently heard a wine described as “thin” and totally understood right away – great descriptor! You would definitely dig the Carmody McKnight Pinot. Sometimes, I find “thin” reds enjoyable in the summer, or as a component of sangria.

  3. Love this blog. I am interested in your first comment: “This is no typical Pinot Noir. I find that Pinots tend to be on the lighter side of red wines.” No one really knows about the natural qualities of Pinot Noir, because it is one of the most manipulated of all wines. Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir is a “Natural Wine” meaning no additives at all, no manipulation whatsoever (and no manipulation in the vineyard!). This is rare to non-existent in the wine world. Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir, as a “Natural Wine,” is not filtered and with no oak domination – meaning aged mainly in neutral oak so that the intrinsic Pinot Noir flavors – or terroir — are preserved and enhanced, not muddled and weakened by the endemic over-use of oak and all the oppressive chemicals (more than 150!) available to winemakers. In what is certainly the most expensive and probably the renowned Pinot Noir of the world — Romanée-Conti, viticultural experts determined that the soils are responsible for its centuries long reputation. The two main soil components are calcareous soils (limestone) and what is known as the “Wonder Soil.” Both of these crucial soil components are abundant at Carmody McKnight and nowhere else in California. You might consider Carmody McKnight Pinot Noir an homage to Romanée-Conti, but because of the “Wonder Climate” Carmody McKnight can claim higher ground and it will not cost you $6,000 a bottle!

    • Gary, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!! And for giving this blog a little more “Wine Know” about Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir and Pinots in general. I am looking forward to understanding the complexities of Terroir and “Wonder Soil” more (and, of course, blogging about it!). Some day, I hope to try Romanée-Conti for the experience, but until then, I will continue to enjoy Carmody McKnight’s Pinot Noir (and several of your other wines) with delight!

  4. Stephanie Cook says:

    I have purchased two cases of that pinot from Carmody so far, I threw down over $350 for the second case (the first I got on special, the second I paid full price). It is hands down the best wine I have ever had. The bouquet is absolutely stunning and you just want to crawl into the class and relax in the aroma. The taste is even better. My god it’s good wine. I am sadly on empty and as soon as humanly possible, I will be purchasing another case. Do yourself a favor, if you like red wine, visit Carmody McKnight or just order a bottle from their website. It is not now, nor (per the owner) will it ever be available in stores. This is just his hobby. And the man sure picked a wonderful hobby.

    • Stephanie, Thanks for the comment and I couldn’t agree more! Carmody McKnight was my first stop during my Paso visit… I thought I was being a little over-eager buying 6 bottles from the first winery of my 3 day tour. But alas, I wish I had purchased more!

      While you cannot buy it in stores, the winery does ship its wine! So all you non-central-Cali Winos, order up!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *