Sipping with Grace: Mark West 2021 Pinot Noir with bolognese

A drink for those who like savory, smooth and acidic wines.



This is Mark West’s Pinot Noir and a plate of the bolognese I made with it.

JARED GRACE, Evergreen columnist

My name is Jared Grace, and I am currently a third-year student at WSU studying viticulture and enology. Growing up in a Sicilian-American household, I have been encouraged throughout my life to cook and balance meals and flavors.

My purpose for writing “Sipping with Grace” is to share my knowledge about these topics, and I hope that more people grow to appreciate the art of food and wine as much as I do. I’m still learning, and I’m grateful that I have this opportunity to work on my tasting and pairing skills as well as show my work. My family would always cook together, taste together and eat together, and I hope you will all do the same.

I would like to emphasize that this column is not a review; my purpose for writing this series is to provide as much information about a wine as I can so you can find your niche.

Right off the bat, the label of Mark West’s 2021 Pinot Noir is bold. I’m not going to lie, that’s why I pulled the wine off the shelf in the first place. The label is orange, so it immediately pulls your eye, and the text is smooth and pleasing.

The wine is comprised of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Graciano, with a 13.8 alcohol percentage. The wine’s light body and acidic nature awaken your palette right from the start, immediately giving notes of cherry and caramel.

On the back end, oak and vanilla come through subtly, allowing the fruity flavors space to breathe and develop and making it apparent that aging in oak was a great idea.

The oaky flavor comes from lighting a fire in a barrel during the making of the wine and toasting the inside. Then, when you put the wine into the barrel, the wine can take on some of these natural flavors. This makes the wine taste a little like oak wood smells.

Being regarded as romantic in nature, Pinot Noir wines often bring perfumy and sweet scents to the table, which are not usually characteristic of dry wines. This vintage Mark West greatly encapsulates this in the wine’s dry sweetness, with the wine’s tannins working for the texture.

If acidity and the taste of alcohol do not strike your fancy, this wine will be perfect for you.

Despite astringency being the thing in wine that is most often criticized or disliked, astringency is something this wine handles very well by giving you a slight puckering in your mouth while also not being overpowering in the slightest.

I paired this wine with a staple of Italian cuisine, the bolognese, because of the bolognese’s high acidity and fat content.

Usually, the bolognese pairs well with a tannin-heavy wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I found a recipe with a small amount of milk and more tomatoes to complement the Pinot Noir’s lighter mouthfeel and give the wine something to hold on to.

Another modification I made to the recipe was, instead of using white wine, using a cup of the Pinot Noir as the base and letting the wine cook off fully.

One benefit to pairing a bolognese with a Pinot Noir rather than a fuller-bodied wine like a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Graciano is the wine’s lighter body works well with either a beef or a vegetarian substitution, giving you more room to customize the meal to exactly what you’re looking for.

This Pinot Noir in particular works well because it has hints of that fuller body due to the blended Graciano and Zinfandel. 

If you make the bolognese into a vegetarian dish, make sure to use hearty ingredients like mushrooms and potatoes; these will match the earthy flavors of the wine.

One thing to note: I would not pair this wine with a light and delicate seafood like oysters. These dishes will clash with the earthy flavors and tannins in the wine, crushing the meal’s flavors and making the wine taste overpowering.

When serving this wine, make sure to give it about 20–25 minutes between opening and pouring and serve it at 55–60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winery: Mark West

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2021 

Locations: Sanoma County, California 

Price: $8–13

Pairing: Bolognese

Drink up!