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A Tale of Two Pinots

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Always on the hunt for a nice bottle of Pinot for under $20, I recently picked up two that were not only under $20- they were each $12.99.  What I'm looking for at this price point is a simple, luscious, enjoyable bottle of red wine.  If the Pinot Noir is from California, I look for strawberries and spice on the nose, silky tannins and a smooth finish.  That's it.  Simple.

The enjoyment provided by these two wines, obtained for exactly the same price couldn't have been more different.  Want the good news first or the bad news?  Let's start with the good news.

First up is the 2007 Annabella Pinot Noir.  This wine comes from Michael Pozzan, whose name I've seen more prominently displayed on other labels like their Pozzan Zinfandel which was prominently featured in our Holiday wine write-up.  It's not entirely clear to me whether this Pinot Noir is made from Carneros grapes -or- purchased from a winery in Carneros as finished wine -or- something in between.

Either way- it's freaking delicious.  It totally delivers on what I look for in California Pinot Noir with aromas of strawberries, spice and as an added bonus vanilla.  On the palate it satisfies with rich flavors and a silky smooth finish.  Fantastic.  Mind-bogglingly good at $12.99.  I've had $30+ wines that couldn't hold a candle to this one.

My mother-in-law turned me onto this wine.  This isn't the first time she's wowed me with her wine acumen.  A while back we did a blind tasting of 3 California Cabernets from Turnbull, Mondavi, and Charles Shaw.  Her rating agreed exactly with Wine Spectator on the Turnbull and the Shaw and she was only 3 points different on the Mondavi.  Incredible.

My rating: 90/100: Outstanding

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The Annabella (not to be confused with the similarly scripty but red-labeled "Angeline") was purchased at Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, MA for $12.99.  Also available at the Wine Cellar of Stoneham  (and Danvers) for $11.99.  An incredible value.

A wine I purchased the same day was the 2007 MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir.  Excited to open this wine I frequently see by the glass for around $10 at restuarants, I was disappointed to find the first bottle was corked.  Following my own advice that you should always return corked wines I trotted over to Costco the next day.  I told them it was corked and I wanted to exchange it for another bottle.  They examined the cork and not knowing what to look for, exchanged the bottle and sent me on my way.

The replacement bottle wasn't corked, but it wasn't much better.  It was so utterly disappointing with it's limited aromatics and fake-fruit flavors.  It was somehow sweet and bitter on the palate at the same time with off notes I couldn't get past.  It was amazing trying these two wines, obtained for the same exact price, side by side.  The difference in enjoyability of these wines, for me, was incredible. 

My rating: 70/100: Below Average

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See this wine on Cellar Tracker

Purchased at Costco Waltham, MA for $12.99.

Conclusion: Tasting wines like this side-by-side remind me that it's worth it to take the time to look around and find wines with a high quality-to-price ratio.  If wine is just one of many things that you're interested in and you don't want to take the time to hunt around too much have a look at the value wines I've mentioned in the past couple of years.

I'd love it if you subscribed to the site to keep in touch with future updates.  There are many values on the horizon for sure.

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: Have you tried either of these wines? If so, what did you think? If not, what are some of your favorite $10-$15 Pinot Noirs?

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