Best 2009 California Pinot Noirs Under $30

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In my prior post about Wine Spectator's 2009 California Pinot Noir ratings I mentioned I'd be talking more about the best values under $30. I'll get into that in today's post, but before going further I'd like to encourage you to subscribe to Wine Spectator.

I truly enjoyed reading through this Pinot Noir issue in particular. There's something unmatchable about taking a break from staring at the computer monitor and thumbing through glossy pages while enjoying a glass of wine. The issues arrive with higher frequency this time of year, covering the most interesting categories for the upcoming holiday buying season, so it's a great time to subscribe.

You can even use airline miles (here's how) and once you have a print subscription you can get an online subscription for 50% off. I constantly refer to their ratings database. Not just for the scores but for production levels, prices, and historical rating trends for a given winery.

But the thing I like best about the magazine is how it turns me on to new producers.

If we look at the top rated 2009 California Pinot Noirs they've rated so far, cap the price at $30, and sort based on the WWP QPR (what's that?) we find a select group of wines:

Price Rating WWP QPR
 Loring Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $29 93 2.07
 Loring Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands $29 93 2.07
 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands $29 92 1.64
 Chasseur Pinot Noir Sonoma County $30 92 1.59
 Alta Maria Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley $28 91 1.35
 Siduri Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $29 91 1.30
 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast $29 91 1.30
 Laguna Ridge Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast $20 89 1.19
 Sarapo Pinot Noir Carneros-Sonoma County Donato $20 89 1.19

I touched on Loring and Siduri in my prior post. I consider them to be cornerstones of value in California Pinot Noir and once we get past them we see a few names that might not be as familiar.

First - Chasseur. Their $30, 92 point 2009 Sonoma County Pinot Noir is one to seek out. I've tried two bottles of the wine and each time I've been impressed (91-92 points). The CellarTracker median for this wine is currently 90.5. They produced 562 cases of the 2009 Sonoma County and distribute to the east coast so there is still an opportunity to buy this wine at retail. I bought mine at Grapes the Wine Co in White Plains, NY (review of the store here - I think he still has some). Consult Wine-Searcher for retailers with availability near you.
The next producer is new to me - Alta Maria. They've got a tasting room in Los Olivos and although they've submitted wines to Spectator for review previously none have been rated 90 or better. Spectator rated their 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 91 points and The Wine Advocate's Antonio Galloni rated it 92 points so there's multiple critics praising this vintage for them. The CellarTracker median is currently 89.5 and with 1,660 cases produced we see some availability across the country at retail with prices as low as $22.94. Might be a good mailing list to get on as well.

Strangely, it's hard to get excited about 89 point rated wines (c'mon, admit it - it is). But given the $20 price point of the last two wines on the list they're worth discussing:

Laguna Ridge is a second label from Lynmar who produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from (mostly) the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. Lynmar's Pinots range in price between $40 and $120 and Spectator rated their 2009s between 88 and 94 points. 492 cases of the 2009 Laguna Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir were produced. No CellarTracker ratings yet. Scarce availability at retail so far.

Sarapo resells small lots of wine from artisan wineries. It's run by Eric Kent's winemakers and deals mostly in the grape varieties Eric Kent is known for: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. The 89 point 2009 Sarapo Pinot Noir Carneros-Sonoma County Donato can be found at retail for $19.99 and eligible for mixed case discounts which would bring it down to $16.99 or so. One to consider on the more affordable end of the spectrum. There's even some availability in Massachusetts.


While there are a few new names to discover here, we haven't seen any mindbending QPRs revealed - at least not yet. It's been mostly a "get what you pay for" vintage as notable for the highly regarded producers who were snubbed (more on that another time perhaps) as it was for the reliable producers who delivered great wines in a great vintage.

That doesn't mean it's a bad vintage to buy from - far from it. It just means that for the most part we'll have to pay $25 and up to get an outstanding bottle of California Pinot Noir.

But that doesn't mean there's not a few gems out there Spectator didn't rate. Or that we just don't agree on. Check back later this week and I'll share my tasting notes for the 25+ 2009 California Pinot Noirs I've tried so far. I think there'll be some gems in there worth discovering.

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Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite affordable California Pinot Noir producers?


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