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Transparent Pricing of Pinot Noir

California wine prices continue to rise along with the increasing overall quality. High double digit and even triple digit prices for domestic Pinot Noir are no longer a rarity.

A winery in Oregon, Alit, exposes the cost to make a bottle of Pinot Noir. Proprietor Mark Tarlov is selling his wines direct to consumer at a relatively lower price, offering a transparent look at what exactly a bottle of good Pinot Noir costs to produce. Alit Pinot Noir price is not based on scores or scarcity, but is sold at what the winery costs to make the wine, plus a small profit for the winery. The winery claims its wine would cost 3X as much if priced and sold in the traditional way. The 2015 alit Pinot Noir is sold only online in 3-packs with 3-day air shipping anywhere in the U.S. included at A Rosé and Brut Champagne are also offered.

For the 2015 alit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, grapes were sourced from dry-farmed vines grown in volcanic soils. The wine was fermented with wild yeasts with 100% whole cluster, with no additives and aged 12 months in French oak barrels. The vintage is not displayed on the wine’s labels.

The breakdown of production costs per bottle: (1) all-natural farming and fruit - $5.66, (2) Alit’s winegrowing and winemaking team of five - $2.14, (3) winery and equipment - $3.31, (4) French oak barrels - $1.11, and (5) recyclable packaging - $2.88. Total cost - $15.10. Gross profit (45%) - $12.35. Final cost $27.45 plus S&H.

The packaging is very impressive with three bottles wrapped in paper in their own embossed box. Each bottle is rather heavy and closed with wax. I don’t have technical information.

2015 Alit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., $27.45. Inaugural release from an organically farmed vineyard planted in volcanic soil. Wild yeast and whole cluster fermentation. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of red cherry and dried herbs. Black cherry and raspberry flavors are embellished with flower and herbal notes. Lightly fruited and forward drinking, with fine-grain tannins that create textural interest but stick out a bit at this young age. More enjoyable when tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 90

A few other value priced Oregon Pinot Noirs from Ransom Wines & Spirits are reviewed here. Ransom has been producing small lots of Oregon wines since the 1999 vintage. Vintner Tad Seestedt is the one-man operation behind the label. The name, Ransom, was chosen to reflect the debt incurred to start the business. The wines are in retail distribution.

2015 Jigsaw Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.50, 4,149 cases, $19.99, screwcap. Produced and bottled by Ransom Wine Company, Sheridan, OR.. Grapes sourced from seven vineyards, primarily in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Harvest Brix 23.2º. Grapes 100% de-stemmed, into 1.5-ton open-top and large close-top fermenters. Average cold soak 4 days, inoculated and wild yeast fermentation for seven days with hand punchdowns. Aged 11 months, filtered and bottled. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very little aromatic interest, with only subtle notes of fertile earth, candy corn, vanilla and floridity. Slightly confected mid weight black cherry and cranberry flavors framed by noticeable tannins, finishing somewhat astringent. Score: 86

2014 Machine Breaker We The People Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.65, 1,829 cases, $29.99, screwcap. Produced and bottled by Machine Breaker, Sheridan, OR., a side project of Tad Seestedt, the mastermind of Ransom Wines and Spirits. Sourced from ungrafted vines on their own roots that were dry farmed. Six different vineyard sources, multiple clones. 100% de-stemmed into 1.5-ton fermenters. 2 to 4-day cold soak, inoculated and wild yeast fermentation, hand punchdowns, aged 11 to 18 months in 2-year-old French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, underbrush and nutty oak lead off. Light to mid weight in style, with a flavorful fruit core of cherry and raspberry with a thread of dry herbs in the background. Nicely balanced, with modest tannins and a short finish. Score: 89

2013 Ransom Selection Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

12.6% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.62, 1,200 cases, $27.99. Produced and bottled by Ransom Wine Company, Sheridan, OR.. Low yields, own-rooted and nonirrigated mature vines, all free run juice. Sourced from four vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills. Harvest Brix 22.4º. 100% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, inoculated and wild yeast fermentation for average of 7 days with hand punchdowns. Aged 12 to 16 months in two-year-old French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose offers primarily stemmy, woody, and vegetal aromas with only a hint of cherry fruit. Light to mid weight flavors of red and purple berries with what can be described only as a grape popsicle taste. Also earthy and woody. The tannins are tame, the texture is appealing silky and there is some persistence on the finish. I just could not embrace the flavor of this wine. Score: 87

One more wine to consider and recommended.

2016 Broadley Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $20. Sourced from several vineyards along with added estate fruit and vinified as a forward drinking, value priced wine. I tasted this wine with winemaker Morgan Broadley while visiting the Willamette Valley in late July 2017. 100% destemmed fruit. Wild yeast fermentation and aged 10 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Giving aromas of dark cherry and rose petal. Light to mid weight cherry and red berry fruit core with seamless oak backup, easy going tannins, and a juicy finish. Lively, fresh and open. Ideal for summer drinking. Score: 89

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