Mission Impossible: $8 Wedding Pinot Noir

Friday, June 20, 2014

A WWP reader asks...

Hi there Robert,

I found you while browsing lists of inexpensive, yet great wines locally, and your top 8 list at Trader Joe's came up. I'm getting married here in California (northern) in August and we're looking to buy a couple of cases of good Pinot Noir at about $7-8 if that's even possible. Thought I'd give you a shout and see if that exists at any of the small to large stores like TJ's, Safeway, and the like. Hopefully not the stuff that will peel the paint! 

Thanks man.

Thanks for reaching out!

Like you sensed ("if that's even possible") it is tough to find good Pinot Noir south of $20. It's almost impossible to find even an enjoyable one for less than $10.

I do think California Pinot Noir is a nice pick for a summer wedding in California. It's versatile from a pairing perspective and lighter in weight than Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you find a good one, Pinot Noir can be effortlessly full of delicious flavor.

What you'll tend to find for around $10 at Trader Joe's is brands like Mark West, Castle Rock, and Trader Joe's private label wines. Occasionally these wines are enjoyable and some even show desirable Pinot Noir markings like aromas of fresh perfectly-ripened strawberries, supporting brambly notes, and orange oil aromatics. But they lack a certain personalized touch that I'd consider desirable for a wedding wine.

I was thinking back to the last really enjoyable, varietally correct California I had that was in the $10 neighborhood and one that immediately came to mind was the 2012 Ramsay North Coast California Pinot Noir. You can find it for less than $12 on the east coast.

Ramsay is a second label for Kent Rasmussen Winery. A second label typically means it's made by the same people that produce more expensive/prestigious wine but sold under a less expensive label. Kent Rasmussen Pinot Noir historically sold for around $35 whereas the Ramsay sells for $12. Second label wines aren't always as good as their more famous siblings (the grape sources vary, the oak regiment varies etc) but they can potentially be a source of good value.

Here are my notes on the 2012:

2012 Ramsay North Coast Pinot Noir

Inviting nose of ripe black cherries, strawberries, and supporting brambly notes. Smooth on the palate and very easy to drink. If there's a fault, it's a lack of depth and a somewhat short finish. But overall it's varietally correct and an amazingly strong effort in the $12 range. 13.5% alcohol. The perfect weeknight Pinot. Amazing value here.

89/100 WWP: Very Good

The best way to find a specific wine like this is through Wine-Searcher. It allows you to see which retailers have a specific wine for sale for shipment to specific states:

Here is a deep link to search for this wine for shipment to California

Ironically it looks like the best pricing for this wine is from retailers in New York and New Jersey. I'd be careful about shipping wine across the country since temperatures are creeping up and that can destroy wine in transit. I think they might have this at Total Wine locations in California so you may want to check there or at other local wine stores.

I think it's worth stretching from $7 to $12 per bottle to get a little bit nicer wine for your special day.
My best to you and your bride!

Hope this helps!

Question of the Day: What wine would you recommend for this situation?


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