Yes, it is a Pinot related at the genetic level to Pinot Noir, a black grape and Pinot Gris, a bronze grape. The physical differences show up in the leaves and wine, but the most impressive difference in our vineyard is the fact that it buds later and ripens earlier than Pinot Noir so better weathers our short season frosts. You may wonder where Meunier (French for “miller”) gets its moniker. That’s because the vine’s leaves sprout tiny white hairs resemble a light dusting of flour and are quite showy as the leaves flutter in the breeze. It is a beautiful vine with rosy pink and silver buds in the spring.
Pinot Meunier is commonly grown in the Champagne region of France to make sparkling wines in combination with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The indispensable Meunier adds fruity and crisp flavors but often unsung next to its Noble partners. Only Germany winemakers have long used Meunier for still wines where it goes by the name of Schwarzriesling and Miller’s Burgundy.
What wines do we make with our Pinot Meunier? We have experimented over the past few years with Roses, a ruby red single varietal wine, and a blend with Pinot Noir. The wine flavor is elegant, fruity but not shy or weak. The few cases of 2011 Meunier we still have on hand have aged well. Perhaps because of our sunny climate, we have not perceived a lack of tannins, which is sometimes mentioned as a characteristic of the grape.
Meunier still wines from the USA are difficult if not impossible to find. The grape was planted in northern California during the 1980s for sparkling vintages and only recently gained appreciation beyond traditional use. We are happy with its performance in our North Fork Valley vineyard and pleased with the resulting wines. We expect the following for this lovely varietal to expand as more people discover it for themselves!
Submitted by Max Eisele of Mesa Winds Farm & Winery.