Top Pinot Noir Picks

Be ready for the holidays with these fantastic Pinot Noir suggestions




Pinot Noir $30-$40


2009 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection 14.3% $37

Intensely perfumed and a bit unusual on the nose with a fresh leather base and gentle, sweet floral perfumes over a core of slightly meaty, black cherry/blackberry fruit. There's a hint of smoke and some underlying oak nuances but they are very well integrated. This has fantastic depth of flavor with flavors that mimic the nose: rich dark berry fruits, black cherry skins, a hint of herb and some slightly creamy, lightly toasted and nutty almond ice cream, nutty oak notes in a rather aromatic package. There's an exotic pomegranate edge to the fruit in the mouth and violet pastilles on the back end. The finish shows more wood and wood spice and the fruit shades a bit redder but this is long and deep. Already delicious, there is notable potential for this to improve. Elegant, complex and complete. 93pts  

2009 Lange Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Reserve 13.6% $32    

A hint of nutty smokiness greets the nose followed by a handful of dirty, freshly dug herbs. This smells powerful and savory with a slightly roasted base note of strawberries with a hint of pomegranate seed and orange pith. This enters the mouth with deceptive focus and then slowly unfurls across the palate with vibrant layers of mineral, wild blueberry, wild strawberry and slightly minty dried herb flavors. There's perfectly integrated acidity along with a base of slightly angular tannins that work as the perfect counterpoint to the sweet impression of fruit this delivers on the palate. On the back end, the wine regains focus, bringing back the herbal elements, bay leaf and sage from the nose. The finish whipsaws back to a remarkably focused presentation with taut red berry fruit that shows a refreshing hint of astringency and austere, mineral-laden length. 92pts

2010 Sonoma-Loeb Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 14.9% $35

Tight, almost rosebud-like notes greet the nose along with hints of melon, roasting coffee beans and briary wood, all over some lightly jammy raspberry fruit. This is very intense in the mouth with saturating flavors of cherry, carob, nutty oak and macerated herbs. There's a real energy to this, but it's full of New World style. Plenty of oak and wood tannins are balanced by decent acidity, intense wild raspberry and creamy, vanilla-laced black cherry fruit. The finish is long and powerful with tannins and some stickiness contributing to the length, ending with some spicy, almost beefy notes. This is a powerhouse of a wine. Love it or hate it, it does what it does quite well. 92pts

2009 Trione Pinot Noir River Road Ranch Russian River Valley Ca 14.2% $35

Tight and subdued on the nose with hints of leather, pork fat, hoisin and sandy soil that are replaced by more familiar raspberry, vanilla and cola with hickory nut oak and floral top notes. Still very complex and intriguing. Very smooth on entry with good structural elements underpinning the juicy tart cherry and strawberry fruit. Air brings out some leathery nuances and a good bit of spice as well. Violets, green anise seed and something vaguely citric add detail to the palate. This tightens up on the back end to turn a touch tannic and hard on the long, cranberry/raspberry finish that shows a nicely integrated veneer of fresh oak. This is a lot of wine but it's very well balanced and long. Fruit driven for sure but there's plenty of detail as well. 92pts

2009 Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Noir Edna Valley 13.5% $30

Very pretty on the nose with a fine blend of herbal notes, a veneer of coffee oak and fine wild red berry fruit. Air brings out more of the oak, which gets a touch heavy handed. A fine balance of acidity and slightly woody tannins lends this a bit of tension in the mouth, with very pretty herb-inflected red cherry and raspberry fruit on the palate. The wood is a touch more obvious than I would prefer, obscuring some of the detail of the fruit, but this fruit is so lively, fresh and aromatic in the mouth that I don't mind it too much. This shows very precise and fresh herbal nuances in the mouth as the fruit gains more of a cranberry tone to it. A little chocolate and cream pop on the back end. The tangy, tart fruit returns on the moderately long finish, though you can sense the oak under the fruit. A very happy wine. 91pts

2010 Cornerstone Oregon Pinot Noir Stepping Stone Willamette Valley OR 13.5% $30

Fragrant on the nose with gently spicy and milky notes of wood popping over hints of black raspberry and red cherry fruit that shows a touch of a camphor, minty edge. Bright and a bit spiky on entry, this shows some lovely ripe fruit tannins in the mouth along with firm if well integrated acidity. The fruit is fresh and deep though it shows admirable restraint in the mouth, picking up nuanced earth, oak and herbal notes across the palate. The finish shows a bit more wood as the tannins shift to the back of the palate and this picks up a hint of licorice to go along with the tart red cherry and raspberry fruit. Subtle and elegant, this is a rather refined Pinot in need of the right cuisine to show its best. I'm thinking veal and morels in cream sauce. 91pts

2009 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley OR 14.2% $30

Candied and a bit toasty on the nose with hints of root beer and beetroot along with vanilla over a base of lightly peachy, candied bitter cherry fruit. This is light and tense on the palate with very transparent flavors of bitter cherry fruit over dried herbs, chalky soil tones, a touch of rust and stones and a bit of beetroot. Almost beefy on the mid-palate, this remains taut and underpinned by stiff little tannins. There's a strong savory, dried herb, dried mushroomy overlay to the flavors here which lends this a Burgundian quality. This finishes with snap, focus and good length to boot. Not going to be a crowd pleaser but this is really well put together if this is your style. 90pts


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  • Snooth User: NorthwestWinestoYou
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    421082 68

    Your link for the $40-$50 range is going to the article on Top Value Pinots.

    Nov 21, 2012 at 1:14 PM


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