The “R” at the end of “noir” is not silent. The letter is meant to produce a distinct sound, and, in effect, “pinot noir” rhymes with “film noir.” But in the upper echelons of wine drinking society, some say “pinot nu-aaah.” Have you noticed? One must guess they think they're quite cultured when pronouncing the word as they suppose the French do — and the French are laughing.
It was in their nation, after all, that pinot noir came of age — perhaps as long as two millennia ago. It is the principal grape of the Burgundy region and a fruit of cool climate. It has since spread around the Earth. In California, after roughly four decades of truly getting to know pinot noir, winemakers have isolated the regions where it grows best. In the south, the Santa Rita Hills offer the mild climes favored by pinot. Further north, it has done best in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Carneros Valley, the Russian River Valley, and the Anderson Valley. In Oregon, the Willamette Valley produces esteemed pinot noirs.
Even in such favorable climates, pinot complains and objects if the weather isn't just right. It doesn't well tolerate frost or severe heat, and it is susceptible to fungal attacks. Yes — if the weather isn't right, pinot noir may be a disobedient troublemaker. But grown just right, this grape can render the most elegant of red wines. And whereas Cabernet Sauvignon can simply bully its way to the top of the ratings with its easy-to-love fruit and force, Pinot Noir nimbly ascends the same scale, and it has become one of the most loved and respected of wines.