Pinot noir is a finicky, thin-skinned grape which only grows in a fairly narrow climate, which means that it is the high-maintenance cousin of happier, more well adjusted grapes such as Cabernet and Shiraz. This essentially means that there are inevitably going to be good years and bad years for pinot noir, and so it pays to know whether the wine you buy is from one of those good vintages.
Pinot is grown in a major way in two areas of the US, Chile, Argentina, South africa, Australia and the Burgundy region of France. For a bonus point, where are the best Cabernets from in France? The only serious Pinots are from Cali, Oregon and Burgundy. All the others are pretenders.
As you can tell from this pic, taken at Domaine Drouhin winery in Oregon (Domaine Drouhin 1991 pinot was the first Oregon wine I ever drank, on August 14, 1994. Don't ask me how I remember this. I am the Rain Man of fine dining. I remember everything.)
My favorite wines from Oregon come from Domaine Serene, especially their Evanstad Reserve, but overall my favorite of the winemakers is Laura Penner-Ash, who makes both an outstanding Pinot and also a brilliant Shiraz.
If you ever go to the Willamette Valley, I highly recommend two things: The Allison Inn is one of the most striking hotels I have ever stayed in, and the Joel Palmer House, a resto that specializes in wild mushrooms. One of my foodie friends and I had their mushroom tasting menu, which was insanely out of this world.
Well, enough about epicurean delights. Time to close out October. Three more days to weed out the wheat from the chaff, the pips from the grapes.