Great Value Pinot Noir

Searching for value where value is often hard to find.


I took a bit of flack last week for some offhand comments in my prelude to tasting notes for value priced Sauvignon Blanc. I made the grave mistake of saying that finding value priced Pinot Noir that exhibits varietal character is a challenge, and more than one merry reader took me to task for saying so. So what do I do? I trudge down to the cellar and pick out a case of value priced Pinot Noir to taste, that’s what I do. After all I have to back up my words.
Now to begin with, this is a case of comparing apple to oranges, but even more to the point while the Sauvignon Blancs I reviewed ranged in price from $9 to $14 this set of Pinot Noir starts at $12 and climb to $16, which to my mind probably corresponds well to the price point I focused on for Sauvignon Blanc values. If anything these wines, within the world of Pinot Noir at least, represent even greater values.

As you will see it’s an eclectic group from around the globe and as is often the case these days we get some surprising results when we pit international combatants against one another. Yes, there were wines that came out rather decisively on top, but lets pause for a moment to think about what that means in this case. As with the Sauvies I was not looking for terroir with these wines, rather I was looking for the best expression of varietal character among these wines. That is not to say that these wines don’t possess terroir, it’s just to say that that is not what I was looking for.
What I was hoping to find in these wines were bright red berry fruits supported by juicy acidity and supple tannins. I was looking for wines that had enough meat on their bones so that they didn’t come off as simple, lean or overly tart.  A little complexity was appreciated, though I have to admit that I prefer a bit of herbaceousness to the sweet spice of clumsily used wood. Not surprisingly I found a few wines that overachieved here but there were plenty of duds as well. Predictably it is more difficult to find delicious value priced Pinot Noir than Sauvignon Blanc, but the savvy shopper can find some gems in the marketplace today.  The Hahn, Primarius, Murphy-Goode, and Windy Bay Pinots were real standouts in this tasting. With two coming from Oregon and the other two coming from California they offer a variety of styles that should appeal to a broad range of Pinohiles out there.

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Top Value Pinot Noir Tasted /2013

Hahn Winery Pinot Noir California (2011)
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Primarius Winery Pinot Noir (2011)
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Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (2011)
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Windy Bay Pinot Noir (2011)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: vermouth22
    127597 47

    What about some of that awesome Rhine-ish Spätburgunder? Some great deals there. Maybe a feature on those if you haven't done one yet.

    Sep 05, 2013 at 4:15 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    I haven't seen many under $20 but i will investigate. They can be very compelling wines.

    Sep 05, 2013 at 4:36 PM

  • Here are 2 that i'm alittle surprised did not make your list. Mac Murry Ranch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009 + Chateau st Jean Pinot Noir California 2010. Both anywhere from 14.00 - 17.00 range.

    Sep 05, 2013 at 7:18 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    I've had some good bottles of the MacMurray in the past, but I think it's become just a little too generic as they became part of a bigger concern. Karah, formerly Windy Hill, makes some good stuff for the price from a big hill that I think qualifies as Petaluma Wind Gap, and it goes for a mere $16 if you can find it. I think what we will see when the 2012s start releasing is lots of shiners and one offs that are great values, but no one can rely on those in years to come. Still, there's so much great juice from 2012 that high end wineries will sell it off in bulk. I've already talked to a couple places that will have to do that to make room for the 2013s.

    Sep 06, 2013 at 12:18 PM

  • When you drink wine on a budget, you have to work at it to be able to drink good wine consistently. With Pinot Noir, I have best results in CA, particularly Monterey. Even though the Hahn is a CA wine, I suspect they include quite a bit of their Monterey fruit in it. I really like that wine for that price point. A little bit of trial and error and other gems from CA can be found for $17 or less. It really is worth the effort, and fun, to do your homework. Hey Greg, any American Teroldogo you can point to?

    Sep 06, 2013 at 12:20 PM

  • Snooth User: bmw1175
    115889 175

    A-Z 2009 Pinot Noir is a great alternative to the wines listed here

    Sep 09, 2013 at 5:44 PM

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