Pinot Nero Bianco

Originally published in the Vines on Pine bi-weekly newsletter

Pinot Nero Bianco has a lot in common with Washington Heights. Most people don’t know it exists. Tourist maps of Manhattan end at around 125th Street and snub our neighborhood entirely and conversations about Pinot Noir usually exclude the bianco version. Our favorite example is Vercesi del Castellazzo Gugiarolo Pinot Nero Bianco 2011. 

Just like our hidden treasure of a neighborhood, it too is the unlikely product of two very different, but equally wonderful ideas. Washington Heights is like a quaint small town with rolling hills, scenic vistas and friendly people nestled atop the most cosmopolitan, expensive, concrete jungle on the planet. Pinot Nero Bianco is a crisp, minerally and refreshing white wine made from grapes that produce some of the most celebrated red wines.

To make a white Pinot Nero, the winemaker immediately removes the grape juice from the skins during maceration so that the pigment and tannins, which are contained in the skins, do not color the wine. The juice is left with the faintest pink hue. Gugiarolo (pronounced goo-ja-rolo) has a beautiful light floral perfume and a balanced and refreshing taste. Most significantly, it has the body of a red wine with the weight of a white. 

Gugiarolo is produced in Lombardy in Northern Italy, close to the top of the boot. (Again like our neighborhood atop Manhattan.) This Italian region that boasts Milan as its capital city is mostly cool and foggy which imparts a crisp taste to the wine. It does not overwhelm the palate with residual sugar that is often the result of intense sun in other regions. At $18.99 Gugiarolo has all the complexity of a Beaune Blanc or the crisp acidity of an Aligote without the whopping $80 price tag. This Pinot Nero Bianco sums up our mission at Vines On Pine perfectly: Amazing wines are available at affordable prices (If you know where to find them). Sort of like finding an affordable two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with a great school district and beautiful parks without paying a million bucks.

This lovely wine is the color of dark straw with a light blush. It hints at the subtle flavors of sour pears and sweet grapefruit and has a clean, quick finish. It will enhance most end-of-summer or early autumn menus featuring soft cheese, fresh water fish or grilled chicken.

My suggested pairing for this wine is grilled rainbow trout, one of my absolute favorite dishes made by my Italian mother who happens to be from a small town just across the river from Lombardia and settled down and raised me right here in Washington Heights. Trout is an ideal choice with most dry white wines, but Pinot Nero Bianco will enhance it like no other. The minerality of the wine will bring out the rich, nutty, delicate flavor of the trout and its acidity will balance the olive oil and oregano in its healthy dressing.

Serves Two


2 whole rainbow trout, cleaned with head on (1 fish per person)

3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped

1 lemon

1 pat of melted unsalted butter (optional)

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

Heat a cast iron grill pan on medium-high heat for at least five minutes. Wash the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Salt the insides and brush liberally with the dressing inside and out. Add a tablespoon of dressing to the grill pan before adding the fish. Flip twice, brushing a new coating of dressing on the fish each time and cooking about 3 minutes on each side. When the meat on the inside is buttery and fork tender and the skin is crispy, remove from grill pan and fillet before plating. (Leave the skin on.) Pour the remaining dressing on top of the filleted fish and give a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If you like, put a small pat of butter on each fillet before serving and let it melt over the fish.