Over the past several years, much of that acreage has begun to come on line, greatly increasing the quantity of Pinot Noir on the market -- just as demand began to waver. So, that means there’s lots of affordable Pinot Noir in the market. The question remains: is it any good?
I tasted a nice line-up of value-priced Pinot Noir and the answer to that question surprised me. Yes, there is pretty good Pinot at affordable prices! Read on to see some of my favorites.
2008 Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Goldie's Vineyard, Russian River Valley 14.5%
Gentle nose with smoky, grapevine notes, dried bay leaves, mint, and some soil tones. Bright and fresh in the mouth yet quite fruity, with lots of fresh raspberry fruit and modest suggestions of vanilla, herbs, and woodsy spice. This is really nice little glass of Pinot, balanced and complex with all the sweet fruit a Pinot should have, backed up by a slightly stiff structure. The finish shows really nice length and subtle complexity, with a hint of sweetness on the finale, but more than enough acidity to keep this balanced. 88pts
2008 Valley of the Moon Carneros Pinot Noir 13.5%
A bit bittersweet on the nose with a really earthy underlay, some burnt toast, and dried strawberry fruit with some lemony, herbal top notes. This is a big Pinot. It’s got significant weight and power behind the core of black raspberry/black cherry fruit in the mouth. The acid helps lighten the load a bit on the back end, but this is surprisingly intense. The fruit is dark and fairly spicy with some well-concealed vanilla and fine forest floor tones vying for attention. The finish is a bit coarse and chunky, but pretty long. This wine makes no pretense of refinement and elegance, but if you’re looking for a fun, no-holds-barred kind of Pinot this might be for you. 88pts
2008 Feudo Arancio Pinot Noir, Sicily, Italy 13.5%
Gentle notes of tobacco, rose, mineral and peppery spice help frame the subtle fruit aromas here. On entry this is rather full and really bright, with a significant acid spine. The fruit really pops in the mouth with clove; rich, earthy wild cherries; and hints of darker, black currant fruits. There’s a touch of chocolate across the mid-palate that adds complexity to the lightly spicy cherry finish. Mouthwatering and bright, yet rich and round, this knits together many components of more expensive Pinots in a nice approachable package that has much more backbone than one typically finds in Pinot at this price. Yes, it’s probably a bit extracted, but it’s also pretty good. 88pts
2008 Mezzacorona Pinot Noir Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy 13%
A bit of rose petal and crushed rock greets the nose, joined by mint herbs, a touch of pepper bacon, and nice raspberry candy and perfumed pomegranate fruit. This is a bit of a lean style, certainly acid-driven, but with lovely depth of flavor. There are nice nuanced notes of mineral, herb and earth framing the raspberry fruit and a light vanilla top note adding some detail. Really shows some nice tension in the mouth and on the moderately long, refreshing finish, where the small-scaled tannins make themselves apparent. A very nice, pure expression of Pinot Noir. 87pts
2008 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir, Oregon 13.9%
This smells a bit woody at first, though it gains more earthy depth with air and a dark cherry fruitiness adds complexity and sweetness to the nose. In the mouth this is a touch blocky up front, though the overall weight is nice in the light to medium-bodied range. Herb-framed flavors of cherry and plum skin on the palate lead to a moderately long finish with wood spice tones and slightly under-ripe fruit note battling for the upper hand. The tannins have a bit of an edge to them on the finale, adding a nice touch of mouthgrab. A solid offering. 87pts