Pinot That’s Easy On the Wallet
“In the search for great Pinot, you may not always get what you pay for,
but you will never get what you don’t pay for. It is a sad fact that
inexpensive, high-quality Pinot Noir is almost non existent.”
Allen Meadows, Burghound
You can’t argue with Meadows’ statement above, but sometimes you are not compelled to drink an epiphany.
There are times when you are looking for a Pinot Noir that you can buy by the case, drink it without impunity in
a casual setting, and not feel obligated to critique the wine. Here is an analogy: if you are a foodie, you love to
have a gourmet meal on occasion, but there are times when an In-N-Out burger will do just fine.
Because there is plenty of excess Pinot juice available, and because the recent recession has pinched many
wineries, negociant labels have been able to pick up some pretty solid wine and produce inexpensive Pinot
Noir that taste very decent. Many premium wineries have launched second value-priced labels as well which
have become popular. In addition, some wineries have chosen to concentrate on the under-$20 market.
Inexpensive wines do not have layers of aromatic and flavor interest and long, generous finishes, but they can
work beautifully as daily drinkers and back porch wines.
According to Wines & Vines (May 2011), Pinot Noir, along with Pinot Gris, was the biggest selling varietal
priced between $11 and $14.99.
In this issue, also look at the 2009 Carmel Road Monterey Pinot Noir ($20).
2009 Mark West California Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $8.50. Small tank
fermentation, punch downs, pressed lightly and aged for 8 months in
French and Hungarian oak.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in
the glass. Shy aromas of red cherries, strawberries and oak vanillin.
Lightly fruited, but tasty melange of red cherries and berries with oak in
the background. Mild fine-grain tannins with balanced acidity. Well
worth the tab. Good.
2009 Fat Cat California Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.56, Glucose/
Fructose 4.25 g/L, $10. From Bronco Wine Company. Winemaker John
Faint perfume of dark fruits. Fairly rich and tasty core of plum and
blackberry flavors with some oak in the background. Mildly firm tannins provide
structure and restrained oak contributes interest. Not easily recognizable as
Pinot Noir, but a casual and mellow drink that matches the jazz theme on the
2009 Jargon California Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $10, screw cap.
Moderately light purple-red hue in the glass. Fresh scent of berry jam,
spice and vanilla. Medium weighted flavors of red berries and spiced
cherries wrapped in supple tannins. Nicely balanced with a silky
texture that makes for easy drinking. Definitely tastes like Pinot and
will please many at this price. Good
2009 Pali Wine Co. "Huntington" Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
alc., 1,215 cases, $19, screw cap. Part of Pali Wine Co.’s Cuvée Program of
appellation-specific Pinot Noir using purchased grapes declassified from the
premium wine lineup. Aged 15 months in 30% new French oak barrels.
Moderately intense color in the glass. The aromatics are striking with a plethora
of black cherry, black raspberry and spice box aromas veering to the riper side.
Modestly intense flavors of black cherries, dark berries and black currants with a
smoky edge. The fruit closes in on over ripeness. Juicy with restrained tannins
and a lingering note of cherry on the fruity finish which could use an acid uplift.
2009 Sarapo Family Wines Donato Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $19.95.
Second label from Eric KentWine Cellars.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of black cherries, spice box, oak and baked
cookies. Medium weight core of tasty dark cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint
of mocha in the background. The velvety texture is appealing, but the alcoholic
finish detracts. Good acidity and mild tannins. A reasonably good daily drinker
in an attractive package. Good (-).
2008 Red Pony Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $14.
purple-red color in the glass. Demure aromas of dark red fruits including
strawberries with hints of redwood and spice. Veers to an over ripe flavored
array of dark red Pinot fruits including strawberries, cherry skins and
raspberries. Restrained tannins make for easy drinking. A subtle greenness
scars the finish which is short. Decent.
2008 River Road Vineyards & Winery Scarlett Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $17. A barrel
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red berries, black cherries, vanilla and
sandalwood. Reasonably complex with an array of flavors including black raspberries, black cherries, tea
leaves, and grilled meat. A little too much oak detracts. Very dry tannins and finish. Might benefit from more
aging or decanting. Decent (+).
2008 Three Saints Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 2,500 cases,
$24, screw cap. Released February 2011.
Dark ruby color in the glass. Scent of
black cherries, toasty oak and pencil lead. Middle weight flavors of blackberries,
black grapes and dark plums with underpinnings of toasted oak and tobacco.
Nicely composed and easy to drink. Decent.