Cost: Average price $14
Where buy now: Solo Vino, Zipp’s, Thomas Liquors, Wine Market, The Little Wine Shoppe, Perrier Wine & Liquor
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Why not spend a cold winter’s evening with several people you don’t know, on beds of yoga mats and blankets, while administering massage to your partner and drinking wine. It may seem like the set up for a swingin’ 70s “keys in the fishbowl” situation. (Perhaps in an era frought with t-top camaros, not-for-charity mustaches, and leisure suits, it may have been.) Alas in 2013, it was simply a fun and unique way to spend a couple hours with your mate and like-minded folks.
Thai Massage Date Night is the brainchild of my co-host and friend, Mary Langfield Neaton.http://bit.ly/1bzVMB4/Mary Langfield Neaton She is a certified yoga instructor who studied in Chang Mai, Thailand in massage and was looking to add another component to the class. Voila – why not add wine? In fact, let’s offer wine and food to enhance the entire sensory experience.
Our evening took place at Revolution Cycle & Fitness in the yoga studio. Mary took us through an hour and a half of Couples Thai Massage. It was fun listening to couples laugh and bicker about pressure, technique and awkwardness.
Afterward, folks helped themselves to antipasto, salad, chocolate and of course, wine! One wine served was a lovely French Pinot Noir, recommended by my pal Fred, that I was quite excited to share with everyone. A common question I receive is, “What’s your favorite Pinot Noir under $15?” Well, there’s a reason I don’t often write about tasty budget Pinots, much like I won’t often sing the praises for budget sushi or some diamond-in-the-rough one-ply toilet paper.
In France, wines are named from the regions in which they hail. Pinot Noir, is known as “Burgundy” if the wine comes from the Burgundy region of France (French spelling Bourgogne). It is a finicky grape that requires the perfect combination of skill and climate to create. A wonderful film that documents the process is called, “A Year in Burgundy”: http://www.ayearinburgundy.com/A Year in Burgundy
This Pinot Noir doesn’t hail from Burgundy; but never you mind. Let’s meet the wine maker because soon you won’t care it’s not from THE Burgundy region. Eric Louis is not only a producer, but a grower committed to organic and biodynamic viticulture in the Sancerre appellation of the Loire Valley. He also firmly believes in minimal intervention in the cellar: no altering of natural sugar and acid levels, no coloring added, little to no filtering, plus the smallest possible amounts of added sulphur dioxide. Eric makes a Sancerre Blanc and a Sancerre Rouge from 100 percent estate fruit. (Sancerre Rouge is always 100% Pinot Noir.)
Clearly, this guy is not into cutting corners, so how can he produce budget friendly Pinot? Simply, because it doesn’t hail from THE Burgundy region. It also cannot be called Sancerre Rouge. Huh? I know, a bit confusing, but hang with me, here. Eric sources the fruit from sustainable growers just outside the Sancerre appellation in eastern Loire Valley. He is able to make this wine for far less than his Sancerre, and sell large quantities of it, which in turn, augments his small, boutique operation.
So how does a Pinot Noir made by a Sancerre producer with grapes from the non-Sancerre appellation of the eastern Loire Valley taste?
Pretty… freaking… fantastic! This Pinot is light to medium bodied and is chalk full of fresh cherry and raspberry flavors. No heavy tannins here, either, as this wine doesn’t touch a splinter of oak. But this is no watered down wallflower- it has swell personality with shy earthy and stewed fruit undertones. Color me impressed. So was everyone else, ESPECIALLY when I told them the bottle retails for under $15. I believe this is one of the absolute best Pinots for the money.
After the massage portion ended, our inhibitions finally subsided. Folks stood around for over an hour chatting and drinking the wine. If more Pinot Noir had been present, I think we might have needed a fishbowl after all.