The Hunt for $20 Pinot Noir

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Twenty dollars. What a tough price point for Pinot. I don't know if it is directly related to the movie "Sideways" but Pinot Noir seems to be the most expensive varietal these days. As in- what is the minimum price you need to pay to get a varietally correct bottle?

Pinot Noir, for me, is characterized by strawberries, spice, and barnyard (ahem- "earthiness") on the nose, a medium body, and a silky smooth finish. What I see in the sub-$20 price points (and especially sub-$10 where I prefer to troll) is that the Pinot Noir just doesn't smell or taste like Pinot. It seems like more of a bland Cotes du Rhone/Syrah knockoff that doesn't bring any of the things I'm looking for in a Pinot Noir.

I just received an E-mailer today from the Hingham Wine Merchant (my most trusted local wine shop) on this exact subject. Their pick was #2 on my list, offered at a very compelling price. Pay them a visit if you're in the Boston area for sure.

Here are 3 affordable examples I've tasted in the last year that I can recommend (with my ratings beside them):

3. 2006 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir 88 Points WWP

This one really surprised me. I can't say that I'd necessarily seek it out again, but man- with its non-descript bottle it really snuck up on me. If this were bottled in a big 4 pount bottle with a big 'ol punt and a heavy bond label, I bet it could fool a *lot* of people. Give it a whirl.

2. 2005 Buena Vista Pinot Noir Carneros 89 Points WWP

This wine looks like supermarket wine, and I bet you can find it in your supermarket quite easily. High production and average looking in the bottle, but *really* really good. I've had 2 or 3 bottles of this and every time I've been impressed. Can definitely be had for less than $20. Highly recommended.

1. 2006 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 90 Points WWP

Okay, I'm stretching a bit to call this one $20, but I did find it for like $21 at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store when it was on sale and they list it for $23.99. What differentiates this one over the other two is its density. A mouthful of wine while still being elegant and varietally correct. Absolutely awesome, which leads me to believe that Oregon (by a nose) is the place to be for Pinot (value a consideration of course- that's how we roll here at WWP!).

Question of the Day: What is your favorite $20 Pinot Noir?


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