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Pinot noir worthy of your holiday meals

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

Pinot noir never received as much exposure to the general public than it did in the movie "Sideways." There, the pseudo wine expert Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, hyped it up as the ultimate red wine for sophisticated wine aficionados to enjoy.

Miles was right about one aspect of pinot noir: it is difficult to grow, making high demands on climate and soil, and if not ripened completely by harvest time, the final product will be weak and watery. The industrious German wine growers have even tackled the challenge of growing it where they are experiencing extended favorable temperatures for ripening of the grapes.

Germany is third in the world production of pinot noir, behind only France and America, with more than 27,180 acres under cultivation. It is marketed under the name "Spatburgunder" from Germany and is making more frequent appearances in retail outlets that sell alcohol.

A new twist on this wine has been discovered by yours truly — a white pinot noir. This one comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley. A white pinot noir grape? Not likely. Color in wine comes from skin contact, and to reduce color, the skin contact is limited to either produce a pink wine, or in this case, a quick removal at the start of the crushing.

This process is known as Blanc de Noir — white from black and is mostly done with Champagne and other wines that are sold as sparklers. They are all good — the preference of which one to drink is usually determined by the occasion being celebrated.

I've been around wine drinkers who long to find the best tasting pinot noir — either red or white. Many regions of the world claim to have the good stuff, often it turns out to be a disappointment.

The fact that I refuse to pay more than $50 to try a bottle shouldn't be the reason that a decent tasting pinot noir can't be found for $20 or less.

If you fall into my price range, I'd suggest looking to the vineyards of Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, and even more specifically the Amity Valley winery. They have an excellent selection of pinot noir wines at bargain pricing points, and one if your wallet is too thick, for $300.

With their prices averaging around $23/bottle, depending on the vintage, the bargain hunter should be able to find something to please the palate. While white pinot noir wines are not uncommon in the wine-growing regions of Oregon, one in particular is worth mentioning because of the complementing fruit-forward flavor that refreshes the taste buds between each bite.

The 2016 white pinot noir from Amity winery is just such a character to do that. It has the zest and acidity you want, but not overwhelming so, and the finish is what one would call smooth and silky, complementing any holiday food.

Ron Smith, a retired North Dakota State University Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at