Try a glass of the 2007 Artesa Pinot Noir from the Carneros region of California, and you’ll see why I think it is the best region in the state for this grape.

In 1991, the Codorníu wine company founded Artesa as a sparkling wine enterprise. Things didn’t turn out according to plan, but Codorníu is not a Johnny-come-lately to the wine world, either. Codorníu’s wine experience is documented to 1551, when Jaume Codorníu bequeathed his wine cellars, presses, barrels and vats to his heirs. Five centuries and fifteen generations later, the Barcelona-based family has eight wineries and markets in 100 countries. Drawing on that wealth of experience, Codorníu reinvented itself in Carneros in 1997 and switched from sparkling to still wines.

Carneros is ideal for pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. The Carneros region stretches across the southern parts of Napa and Sonoma counties, near the San Pablo Bay. The cool breezes and morning fog from the bay keep this region cool until late morning. I recall days when I wore a coat when making morning vineyard visits, while at the same time it was hot enough in northern Napa to run the air conditioner. Chardonnay and pinot noir thrive in this temperature, attested to by centuries of great wines from Burgundy and Champagne, both cool climate regions and planted with these two grapes.

Codorníu hired Mark Beringer as its winemaker. A fifth-generation Napaian, he is the great-grandson of Jacob Beringer, the co-founder of Beringer Winery. Along the road to Artesa, he made winemaker stops at the acclaimed Duckhorn winery and the high-quality pinot noir Goldeneye winery in Anderson Valley.

The 2007 Artesa pinot noir has a black cherry color and a very enticing mix of strawberry, raspberry and cinnamon-like aromas. It’s equally pleasing on the palate with black cherry, pomegranate and spice flavors that are supported with mild tannins and a clean, crisp acidity. It is the latter aspect that separates Carneros pinot noirs from other regions in California. Napa, Monterey and Santa Barbara all produce pinot noirs, but they lack the acidity of Carneros, which keeps your palate fresh and the wine balanced. And like other Carneros pinot noirs, the cool climate keeps the alcohol level at a reasonable 14-percent or less, something that warmer growing areas rarely accomplish.

I enjoyed the 2007 Artesa pinot noir with a plate of coq au vin; other winter comfort foods like braised beef, short ribs and lamb stew will please you, too.
The 2007 Artesa Carneros pinot noir retails for approximately $25.