Top Pinot Noir Picks

Be ready for the holidays with these fantastic Pinot Noir suggestions




Pinot Noir $40-$50


2009 Ghost Hill Cellars Pinot Noir Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton OR 13.5% $42

Light and fresh on the nose with fresh wood base notes and gently sweet aromas of blackberry, huckleberry and candied wild cherry. With air, more perfumey oak emerges here but it's still quite subtle. This enters the mouth with decisive, bright and cutting acidity to the fore followed by a lovely and intense mouthful of dried herbs, orange rind, sour cherry and cranberry fruit. The tannins here have a bit of a raw feel to them and need some food or a year or two in the cellar to help them resolve a bit, but this is so fresh and unfettered in the mouth that it is already a pleasure to drink. The finish is dry, minerally and reminiscent of old wood spread with wild raspberry jam that pops on the finale. 93pts

2009 Alysian Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyard Rock Hill Russian River Valley 13.9% $45

Very clear, lightly nutty and smoky wild cherry and raspberry fruit on the nose with emerging floral and wood spice tones. Super well balanced in the mouth with tart fruit flavors that mask some of the acidity. There are ripe tannins underpinning everything and wonderfully framed wild cherry and raspberry fruit that shows hints of orange oil and vanilla on the back end. This finishes with great intensity of flavor and length. Orange oil shows up again to top strawberry fruit with slow to emerge, almost nutty nuances. Maybe a touch of toasted almond from the oak but otherwise the wood plays very much of a supporting role here. 93pts

2010 Twomey Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 13.6% $45    

Intense and a bit meaty on the nose with a fruity and slightly jammy blend of vanilla,  strawberry cream and black cherry cola aromas, wrapped with notes of alderwood and candied violets. Zesty with bright acidity and a really well integrated, smooth texture in the mouth. This is light- to medium-bodied because of the brightness of the acidity, even though the fruit is explosively rich and perhaps a touch sticky on the palate. Red plums and candied cherry come together on the palate along with hints of vanilla and cranberry/rhubarb compote. This finishes with just as much energy and brightness as it displays on the palate and just enough tannin to keep it grounded and focused through the finish. This is damn fun to drink and delicious. 93pts

2009 Joseph Jewell Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley 13.8% $42

Lots of oak, cut plum and black raspberry fruit greet the nose with accents of hazelnuts and cocoa adding complexity. A touch soft on entry, this packs in plenty of fresh and intense flavor. The oak imprint promised by the nose never really develops and instead the fruit, with its cut plums, fine herb notes and slightly leathery, dried spice aspects, pretty much fills the mouth. On the mid-palate, there are flashes of black cherry and black raspberry wrapped in vanilla and dusted with a hint of allspice. The finish is a bit of a let down. It is clean and fresh with late arriving hints of wood tannin and spice accenting the plummy fruit, but it is a touch short. Scratch that, 30 minutes later and the finish is already much longer. Smooth, balanced and bright, this should prove to be quite popular. 92pts

2010 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 14.5% $40

Herby and leafy on the nose though with powerful base notes of dry soil, lightly toasted oak and meaty, spicy black fruit. Almost silken in the mouth, this is an iron fist in a velvet glove, though it is a dainty fist. This has wonderful depth and tension to it, very well balanced and wrapped with a deep yet fresh layer of cherry and ripe herb fruit. Everything is in balance and in proportion, at least if you don't mind a little extra dry extract in your Pinot. Still there is no heaviness here, just a hint of alcohol. This finishes with the same drive and purity it shows on the palate. This is delicious and refined. 92pts    

2009 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Deux Verres Reserve Willamette Valley 13.9% $40

This is lovely on the nose with a slightly roasted sweetness to otherwise fresh and bright red fruit. Shows a touch of plum in its profile along with engaging mineral, old wood and lightly smoky roasted herb accents and just a hint of a vanilla top note. This is seamless in the mouth with juicy acidity and polished tannins forming an invisible framework for the lightly burnished cherry and strawberry fruit. Slow to emerge hints of woodsy spice, faint floral tones and a touch of meatiness all come together to build excellent depth of flavor for a wine that doesn't feel massive but is mouth-filling and supple. The fruit lifts on the finish leaving a gauze of clear raspberry fruit through which you can make out suggestions of old wood, faint herbs, soil tones and a hint of spice. This is seductive. 92pts

2010 Dobbes Family Estate Pinot Noir Skipper's Cuvee Rogue Valley OR 14.1% $43

Mineral earth and a light underlayment of oak support a tart, cherry pie filling style of fruit with minty and blueberry top notes. This is pretty big in the mouth but remains fairly lightweight. I think the modestly high alcohol adds to the impression of richness here, but the intensity of the flavors are undeniable. While the nose shows quite subtle wood spice, it's more obvious in the mouth, coming together with gentle hints of herb, coffee and mineral to create real complexity. The dark berry fruits take on shadings of blueberries and watermelon. The finish shows more tension with fine-grained, dusty tannins and sapid acidity accenting a bit of espresso foam over astringent red fruits. This is intense and fairly elegant though for my palate, it shows a bit too much oak. 92pts

2010 Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton 13% $43

Herbal and medicinal on the nose with sweetly nuanced, tight wild berry fruits and hints of juniper and sage. Round and soft in the mouth, but not from a lack of acidity. This just has a languid if juicy style that allows the subtly complex notes of dried herbs, candied cherry fruit, earth, old wood and almost floral fennel spice to drift across the palate before they hit the backstop of that acidity. The finish is much more lively, offering fine cut and lovely little nubby, sweet tannins for some textural diversity. There's a touch of bitterness and a hint of red apple peel on the moderately long finish that add some lovely detail here. This has soul. 92pts


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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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