Pinot Noir

Your Gift Giving Guide to Great Pinot Noir


Pinot noir has become the great alternative. When you don’t want to give another big red wine as a gift it opens up a world of possibilities. Immediately appreciated by name alone, Pinot seems to have developed a certain cachet as the thinking man’s red wine, though there is little evidence to support that. Perhaps it comes from the history that Pinot has had in Burgundy, where until recently  one really did have to know about the wines if one was going going to find something that fulfilled its promise.

Perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that those out there who advocated for Pinot Noir before its most recent wave of popularity hit have turned out to be ahead of curve, and before this wave hit you very much had to be thinking about Pinot in order to track much of it down.
Whatever the origin of this image, Pinot  Noir has acquired a certain cachet. It’s also acquired a well deserved reputation for easy drinking, fresh red fruits, subtlety and elegance, which explains its wide spread appeal. In short it makes for a fabulous gift, now you just need to know which ones to buy! A quick note on pricing. I give a range of prices for each wines, often times inexplicably wide, but that’s the way things work in this big country with our three tier system’

The Russian River Valley
Since we are talking about buying a wine as a gift we might as well begin in the heart of Pinot country: Sonoma County. Nowhere in Sonoma is Pinot more closely associated with a specific appellation than with the Russian River Valley; it is to Pinot Noir what Napa is to Cabernet. An ideal and a guarantee of sorts. The Russian River has established itself as a center for the production of Pinot Noir based on their relatively large scaled and dark fruited wines. Wines with the familiar berry fruits and notes of cola, and earth, and generally, noticeable oak, that have served to introduce Pinot Noir to a new legion of fans. That is not to say that all Russian River Pinots are bold in the euphemism of the wine writer. Many achieve wonderful freshness, complexity and elegance, and those are the wines I suggest you consider for gift giving this year. 
2011 Balletto Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $20-$22  On The lighter and more delicate side to be sure, this is a tremendous value in Pinot Noir, classically structured with lovely red fruit, rhubarb and earthy nuance. 
2010 Trione Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $35-$37 A wine for the cellar, this is Pinot that is polished and rich, packed with fresh fruit but also with a tight, taut structure and moderate oak influence that should all come together nicely with 2-5 years in the cellar.  
2011 Holdredge Selection Massale Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $40-$50 John Holdredge is producing some of my favorite wines in Sonoma. These are the epitome of RRV Pinot Noirs, with delicacy, power, and depth. they are not easy to track down and in fact while my favorite of his 2011s,, the Mazie Rose, is nowhere to be found, his Selection Massale is still out there if you look hard enough. It’s a big wine by Holdredge standards but one that people should love for its explosion of pure, fresh and complex fruit. 
2011 Patz & Hall Chenoweth Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, USA $45-$60 Patz & Hall is another RRV standard bearer and a producer who has always impressed me as much with their entry level wines as ones further up the price ladder. This Chenoweth Ranch Pinot is not inexpensive but it delivers terrific Pinot fruit in a concentrated yet elegant style. 
2010 Porter Creek Hillside Old Vine Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $65 As far as I can tell this might only be available from the winery but it’s a terrific example of Pinot Noir, nuanced, complex, tense on the palate and gorgeously laden with minerality and precision.. It’s worth the effort of tracking down for your favorite Pinot lover. 

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  • Snooth User: winewebb
    1420588 2

    Some REALLY interesting Pinot Noir coming out of Ontario, Canada too !

    Dec 11, 2013 at 11:40 AM

  • Agreed! It's hard to beat the Clos Jordanne Villages at its price point and their 20 Bench stands up to any competition.

    Dec 11, 2013 at 4:08 PM

  • Snooth User: John Moir
    1121054 1

    My worry is that too many Pinot wines are fruit driven and are far too sweet - almost lolly water. For my money and outside Burgundy, the best Pinot I have ever tasted was an old Balgownie Pinot made by Anderson around 1983. Unfortunately Balgownie have changed hands a few times and the new owner have or intend to rip out the vines at Bendigo and produce Pinot from the lesser standard vines in the Yarra Valley. I must say that the YV wine will match most available.
    In New Zealand I did a study Tour a few years ago and the best was in Otago and the very best was in a small vineyard owned by a retired legal person down the left side of the Lake about 2 km in a double story house. It was at Cromwell. Another top drop was at Pegasis ( spelling??) It is a great treat to be allowed to taste wines in many districts but even better to drink them with great meals.
    I have a passion for Chambolle-Musigny Burgundy and in the white Burgundy Montrachet.

    Dec 11, 2013 at 5:53 PM

  • Snooth User: DM94523
    77883 116

    No actual Burgundies? Check out the 2010 Bouchard Clos du Roi Pinot from Burgundy ($40). From California, I think the JCB (Jean-Charles Boisset) #12 Pinot is a great wine and a great value at only $35. DeLoach also makes a quite quaffable Russian River Pinot for just $24. All these wines are available from Boisset Wine Living. Cheers!

    Dec 11, 2013 at 7:05 PM

  • You should also check out Sojourn Cellars based out of downtown Sonoma. Really lovely single vineyard designate Pinots from Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley. They are on my top 5 list of CA Pinots for sure.

    Dec 11, 2013 at 7:32 PM

  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,860

    Agree with the Stoller recommendation. One of my FAV virtual tastings! For anyone dissing CA Pinot, I suggest you research wineries who are part of the In Pursuit of Balance group.

    Dec 11, 2013 at 10:34 PM

  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,860

    Dec 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM

  • Snooth User: Audrey 11
    1414343 24

    There are some excellent Pinot's in Australia too. The Morington Pennisula and Adelaide Hills have some great Pinots!!

    Dec 12, 2013 at 3:39 AM

  • Gloria Ferrer's Etesian 2008 is marvelous, fruity with some clove on the finish.

    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:05 PM

  • Snooth User: vin0vin0
    Hand of Snooth
    357808 7,237

    On a recent Pinot discovery trip to Oregon one of my favorite finds was Arborbrook Vineyards Pinot Noir Origin 1866 and for $40 this is in line with the other Oregon Pinots in this review.

    Dec 14, 2013 at 9:18 AM

  • Snooth User: JohnCJ
    1423454 30

    I'm a newbie to this site. We had a Pinot from Chile while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta that was very nice. I have been having a difficult time finding it. It came from Chocalan- Grand Reserva Pinot Noir.

    Dec 16, 2013 at 4:11 PM

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