Does spending the extra $5 necessarily yield a better wine than a $20 or $15 bottle of Pinot? The answer is no, not really, but it certainly does increase your chances. Unlike the tastings I did of those lower price points, every wine in the lineup today was well made and enjoyable, some more than others.
For $25, you can feel pretty comfortable that you’ll be able to find a wine that suits your palate., whether it is New World, Old world, or somewhere in between.
That doesn’t mean you will be blown away. Instead, you might just be slowly seduced by some of these wines. The best of all, the 2009 Thomas Fogarty, is clearly in a class by itself among these wines!
2009 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mtns. CA 14.1% $25
A little dark and musky, with great liquory black cherry fruit, a hint of cola and some well-integrated wood spice are presented with surprising freshness on the nose. This is taut and sinewy, almost muscular in the mouth. The tension here is very attractive. While this is a big wine, its bright, clear black raspberry and cherry fruit is well restrained by the fine tannins and supporting acids. There’s some wood spice on the back end that adds a really nice sweetening top note to the fruit, which takes a medicinal turn. That might be off putting to some, but the fruit comes back with excellent clarity and length on the long, slightly chewy yet fresh finish. This can stand some age. There is a little heat here, but there’s so much going on, including some lovely developing inner mouth perfumes, that I can handle the heat. 92pts
2009 Dobbes Grand Assemblage Pinot Noir Willamette Valley OR 13.5% $24
Wintergreen, quinine and eucalyptus top the red fruit of the nose. This is rather broad in the mouth, though clear and bright, with a slightly flannelly feel to the fine, fresh fruit tones. There’s something slightly exotic about the fruit here, a little papaya/guava action going on. Raspberry fruit adds depth, offering up a super sweet/mineral tension. This is still youthful, but is a very complete wine. The herbal notes of the nose come out on the back end, adding more depth and freshness to the earthy wild cherry finish. Damn this is good. 91pts
2009 Babcock Rita’s Earth Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills CA 13.6% $23
This smells lovely, with balanced, soft notes of sage, soil, sour cherry, dried grapefruit rind and floral aromas. Round on entry with a fine combination of brightness, from acid and flavor, and round suppleness. This is absolutely wonderful in the mouth. It is round and playful, yet silky and transparent, with precise flavors of small red berried fruit accented with clear mineral and pollen spice notes. There’s even an edge of dried herb or grass that adds complexity to the moderately long, fruit and soil toned finish. 91pts
2009 Duck Pond Pinot Noir Willamette Valley OR 13.5% $22
This is earthy and a bit wild on the nose, with a musky animal spice note. Lots of floral and medicinal herb notes add complexity over an astringent base of lingonberry and raspberry fruit. Soft and seductive on entry with a seamless feel. There’s plenty of red cherry fruit accented with a low streak of vanilla and some incipient wood and herb spice notes that try to bust out on the back end. The finish gains some nice mineral spice and has a warm cherry pie filling sweetness and spice that extends through the citrus/raspberry finale. Lovely wine. Almost seems simple, but has the potential to be a complete, if small scaled wine. 90pts
2009 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco CA 14% $28
This shows some toasted oak character on the nose, but there are nice carob, clay earth and eucalyptus tones accenting the sour raspberry fruit. This is very focused in the mouth. It is seamless with fine supporting acidity and superbly managed tannins lending volume without detracting from the mouthfeel. Smooth as silk with nice milk chocolate accented bitter cherry fruits on the palate. The flavors are a touch light, if nicely balanced and pure, with the oak and some medicinal cola notes popping on the moderately long finish. Does show some heat. 89pts
2008 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir Russian River Valley CA 14.9% $25
Full on spicy, with a rich, black cherry, black raspberry, cola and spicy oak nose. Richly sweet and smooth, this is why people love California Pinot. The fruit is pretty big and bold, but fresh and fruity with a spiced black cherry core. The acidity adds nice support and the tannins are rich if a little fuzzy, not breaking through the fruit but breaking up the smoothness of the fruit. Finishes with some cola and root beer notes. This is bold and rich, really doing a fine job of what California Pinot Noir is all about. It does lack some complexity and nuance. 89pts