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New-Found Value in Pinot Noir

Alan Meadows has been quoted as saying, “In 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.”

One cannot argue with Meadows’ statement, but sometimes you are not seeking to drink an epiphany. There are times when you are looking for a Pinot Noir you can buy in quantity that is easy on the wallet, have on hand to drink with impunity in a casual setting, and not feel obligated to critique the wine or its price. Similarly, if you are a foodie, you love to partake in a gourmet meal on occasion, but there are instances hen an In-N-Out burger will do just fine.

I’m always on the lookout for a solid Pinot Noir that is reasonably priced and easy to find in the marketplace. I found a few recently that fill the bill.

The Pinot Noir wines at Trader Joe’s are always a gamble but a flyer that sometimes pays off. That is because the wines are obtained from many different sources and producers, some of which are known for bulk wines and producing wines destined for grocery market shelves. I would recommend avoiding all Trader Joe’s label Pinot Noir wines priced under $12 and only try those with a reserve series designation.

2019 Trader Joe’s Lot #79 Platinum Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir

White and silver label, 14.25%, $14.99. Artificial cork. Label says “Vinted and bottled by Carneros Cellars, Napa, CA.” a producer I cannot locate. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry and spicy oak. Mid-weight flavors of red cherry, strawberry and a shadow of oak. Decent, with silky tannins and a short finish. Leans too much on oak for my taste. Score: 89

2020 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot #106 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.7% alc. $12.99. Black label, real cork. A featured wine in Trader Joe’s Fall Fearless Flyer. Label says, “Produced by Bozzano & Co., Morgan Hill, CA. This company specializes in grape and bulk wine sourcing and sales. Wherever they sourced this wine is a mystery, but it is damn good. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of strawberry, cherry and sandalwood leap from the glass. Light in weight and elegant, but with engaging flavors that echo the nose. Gossamer tannins make for very easy drinking, the texture is refined and silky, and there is an appealing cherry-fueled finish. This is not a bombastic wine, but is tres Pinot. Score: 91

2019 Sean Minor Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $16.49 at retailers such as Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA. Vinted and bottled by Sean Minor, American Canyon, Napa, CA. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Easy to like, with aromas and flavors of black cherry and spicy oak. Very open and giving in a mid-weight style, picking up flavor intensity over time in the glass. More fruit and structure than the Trader Joe’s Sta. Rita Hills bottling and some may find that more appealing. Sean Minor is a reliable value-priced wine producer. Score: 91

2019 Ken Wright Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., $28 (SRP is $43 but many grocery markets carry this wine for around $28), plastic cork. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Several nuances on the nose including aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, earth, barn door and rose petal. Surprisingly robust and fruit-forward in a mid-weight plus style. Purple berry fruits stand out and there is a slight incursion of oak in the background. Creamy in texture, with some, but not extended, finish. A solid daily drinker for those looking for a lower alcohol example. Score: 90

2019 Martin Ray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $14.99 (Costco), screw cap. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of raspberry, baked cherry and purple grape fade in the glass over time. Middleweight flavors of black cherry and raspberry with a hint of oak. A little shallow on the mid-palate and finish but the wine’s bright acidity offers some redemption. Seems to me like a de-classified wine. Score: 89

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