Ever since the movie Sideways hit the big screen, Pinot Noir has become THE wine to drink… and with good reason. It can be expressive in so many different ways depending on where it is grown and how it is crafted. However, when buying the inexpensive bottles of Pinot you run the risk of getting a tart, dirty and fruity wine… not fun! Below are some easy tips to make sure you grab a Pinot that is of good value and quality.
First off, stay away from the inexpensive brand names… like Glen Ellen or Woodbridge for example. I don’t want to knock Woodbridge too hard, as some of their wines like the Pinot Grigio and Merlot are totally drinkable. But as far as Pinot Noir goes there is a bit of a skill to making it, and is tough to do when it is that mass produced.
The least expensive Pinot I have found that has all the pleasurable qualities one looks for is from Pepperwood Grove. It will run $6-9 and is great for an everyday wine. The grapes are from the Central Coast of Cali, so it is a bit light but has all the cherry, plum and spice that a good Pinot should have. Apollo Creek also makes a nice, light Pinot for under $8. This one is from Greece (yes Greece) and as skeptical as I was when I purchased it on a family member’s recommendation; I could not have been more pleasantly surprised!
Once you get to the $10-15 range, you start to have a little more selection. A couple of my favorites are from Castle Rock (either the Monterey County or Sonoma Coast offering) and Aquinas from Napa Valley. Both are very soft, fruit forward and have a beautiful finish. However if you find any Pinot from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley (both in Sonoma), Napa Valley or Carneros (both in Napa) you really can’t go wrong.
The two latest hot spots for Pinot are in Oregon and New Zealand. In Oregon, the Williamette Valley produces high quality Pinot. Cloudline is a solid value option, but will still run $15-20. Argyle and Erath’s Pinots are also worth a purchase and will run around $20 or so. If you are willing to move up the Pinot food chain, go for the Domaine Serene Pinots… some of the best you can find for $50-60.
In New Zealand, Marlborough and Central Otago have been putting out quality Pinots for years now. They are generally very clean, delicate and have a subtle earthy quality that balances well with the typical cherry fruit flavors. They run about $15-30 (some higher for the single vineyard wines) with St. Clair, Kim Crawford and Mt. Difficulty being a few of my favorites.
But if you really want to try Pinot Noir in it’s purest form, then you are going to need to do two things…. Dig deep into the bank account and get your hands on some Burgundy wines. These French gems made strictly from the Pinot Noir grape are arguably the best wines in the world. While the most expensive ones can run in the thousands (not a misprint), there is a way to sample the essence of the region without having to take out a second mortgage on the house.
Joseph Drouhin, Laboure Roi and Louis Jadot put out a handful of reasonably priced Burgundies. The most affordable ones will have the Bourgogne region on the label. Even though they may not be classified as Burgundies, they carry the same characteristics to a degree and will run less than $20 for the most part.
If you are looking for a special occasion Pinot Noir, there are so many to choose from that it would just be too long to list here. But feel free to comment on this blog post anytime you are looking for a recommendation and I would be happy to be of service…. Cheers!