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Great Pinot Noir under $20 -- Is there such a thing?

My palate says pinot noir is b a a c k in style. My pocketbook says fine, but only under $20.

I put a shout out to my pinot friends who are hooked on Russian River, Sta Lucia Highlands, Cote d Or, Cote du Bueane -- and they tell me don't bother with pinots under $35.

To this I say: B.S.

While I haven't spent a lot of time looking at pinot noir over the past few years, I am certain that there are great values to be found in the $14-20 range.

To prove the point, I recently found:
-Willowbrook (Mendo and Sonoma Coast)
-Alcina (Sonoma Coast)
-A to Z (Oregon)

So I'd like to pose the question to y'all on Chowhound to hear what you have to say...yes or no, pinot under $20 is worth exploring. And bonus points for sharing some names you really like in that price range.

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  1. Maybe not "great", but damn drinkable and food friendly...

    Row 11

    agree about the A to Z from OR

    1 Reply
    1. re: PolarBear

      Should have included Au Bon Climat, just slighty over your mark might be able to find Witness Tree.

      Edit to add: Found Tolossa on sale the other day for @ $16.

    2. Lots of great 08 Oregon Pinot Noir's for under $20, you might want to source some at places like Avalon or Oregon Pinot Noir Club

      08 Broadley is great
      NV Acme Winery (2nd label Thomas), I bought for $16.25
      A to Z 08, I didn't care for the 07 as much
      Sharecroppers 08

      08 was a better Vintage than 07, lots of 07 juice out there though, hold out for the 08's though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: duck833

        thanks for the tips on the Oregon 08. I have not tried any of them but hear from the 'pinot ho's' that it is the better one.

      2. Pali 'Alphabets' Willamette Valley $19

        I've also found the A to Z to be a good PN as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Midlife

          the best one i have tasted was the 06 stangeland Willamette.

          I would agree the 08s from Oregon will be good

        2. Mark West pinot generally doesn't taste like pinot but the 2007 is nice, especially for $12.

          5 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko

            I feel the same way -- Mark West Pinot is just a mild, unintense wine. Will never buy it again because it has no personality.

            That said, it's a perfect wine to serve at a large party for the red fans who think zin and cab are too intense.

            1. re: SteveTimko

              I like Mark West and it's $8.97 at Total Wine....but I LOVE D'Autrefois (France) Pinot Noir that's $9.99.

              1. re: Val

                Recently tasted 2007 Latour Valmoissine Pinot Noir...DEFINITELY lovely! Around $11.00.

                1. re: Val

                  +1 D'Autrefois. It's our house red. The 1.75's are even a better value.

                  1. re: Jimonthebeach

                    Minor point of order, Your Honor. 1.75L is the size that replaced the 1/2-gallon bottle of spirits, and that size is *only* used for spirits. Indeed, it's illegal to use that size for wine.

                    Magnums of wine are equivalent to two "regular" sized bottles. A regular bottle equals 750ml (75cl), and so a magnum is 1.5L, 250ml (25cl) less than you indicated. Any size larger than a magnum *must* be in whole liters (3.0L, 4.0L, 5.0L, 6.0L, etc.)

              2. 07 Mark West Pinot (I forget which bottling) is...decent. Easy to enjoy now and straight forward. It falls apart quickly after a couple of hours though, which is usually a non-issue for at-home dinner quaffing. There might be some batch variation though.

                Some of Siduri's appellation bottles are good at $20 (2008 Sonoma County).

                2 Replies
                1. re: Cary

                  Mark West seems to be one of those tougher calls in that it is a great value (just saw a deal here at $12.98 for their '06 Russian River) but tends to disappoint people with a more educated palate. I think you hit the issue.......... it can be rather 'thin' and short. Certainly worth a try at anything close to that price though. Then again, 'educated palate' is a very relative thing. If someone finds it to their taste it is certainly a keeper.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    Mark West generally surprises me on the upside. I've only had a few of the various varietal bottlings but it's generally worth at least the $8-10 purchase price. Finding a drinkable pinot at $10 is pretty tough...

                2. stalkingwine.com, "great" is such a subjective concept. We live in the heart of Oregon's pinot noir country, and we know great pinots noirs, but they go for well over $20, I'm afraid. But we DRINK "good" pinot noir all the time, and its is well under $10. Mainly, it is Trapiche -- NOT the "Oak Cask" Trapiche -- pinot noir from Mendoza (Argentina). (The Oak Cask is over-engineered, and the grape gets lost; fortunately, the Oak Cask to avoid is the more expensive of the two Trapiche pinots noirs.) Now, I am not going to tell you that a Trapiche Mendoza pinot noir is going to beat a Willakenzie single-vineyard pinot noir for depth or complexity. But, taken on its own terms, compared to an abstract standard, the Trapiche pinot noir really holds its own, and you will pay less than $10 for a bottle to see for yourself, so your investment will be nil if you do not agree.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Politeness

                    Would you have any info on the availability of Trapiche PN in California? DO you buy yours locally or online? I checked Wine-Searcher and all the retailers seem to be in the East. I'd love to give it atry if I could find in Orange County, CA. Anybody????

                    1. re: Midlife

                      Wildman & Sons imports them it seems, so ask any of your local retailers to get you a case.

                      1. re: Cary

                        Do you happen to know which SoCal distributor or broker they go through here? I tried to use Wildman's online e-mail "where to buy" function to ask for retailers here, but it came back as undeliverable.

                        I'll try Ralph's market (per politeness' suggestion) and can call Wildman next week if I'm still looking. A drinkable PN under $10 is worth some work.

                        Actually, though I haven't tried it in a few years, Rex Goliath used to have a relatively decent PN at around $7 (before they were bought by Constellation). Then, again, my PN palate has progressed a lot in those years, so that could be problematic.

                      2. re: Midlife

                        Midlife, we purchase Trapiche pinot noir here in Oregon at Fred Meyer which, IIRC, bought Von's a few years ago, before it, in turn was purchased by Kroger. So if you have a Von's or Kroger (under whatever name) grocery in your area, you should be able to find it. Trader Joe's carries Trapiche, also, but we have seen only the more expensive and inferior Oak Cask pinot noir there.

                        1. re: Politeness

                          Kroger owns Ralph's here, so I'll check. Thanks.

                          I believe it's Safeway that owns Von's.

                      3. re: Politeness

                        Just wanted to report back that I found Trapiche PN at a Total Wine & More store in Tustin, CA. I did one of those 'parking lot taste tests' and went back to buy the few additional bottles they had. Expectations for Pinot at $6.49 are not high but this seems to be well worth that price and comparable with others I've had at up to twice the price. Thanks for the tip.

                      4. No.

                        Palateable? Maaaaaybe. Great? No. Good? Congratulations on finding Alcina under $20. But short of finding good deals -- I once found a 2005 Tollot-Beau Chorey les Beune for under $20 -- no.

                          1. re: Cary

                            Hi from Portland.
                            Eola Hills OR 2007, found at Trader Joe's for $14. Definiately "great" for the price!

                          2. I tend to operate at a similar price point and have a hard time with pinot... greatness is tricky, but for what it's worth, I think MacMurray Ranch is a good value and it's pretty easy to find.

                            1. Has anyone tried any of the pinots sold under the CastleRock label? Any opinions/feedback?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: DavidT

                                It looks like CastleRock is offering pinots from about 10 different regions, including both the Willamette and Columbia Valleys.

                                1. re: DavidT

                                  I've tried the Mendocino, bought at TJ's. Very pleasant, lightish bodied, low tannins. Not in the fruit-bomb classification. They were out the last time I looked, at my local branch, but maybe more is coming in.

                                2. My palate says PN never went out of style. Dollar Bills Only from Patricia Green in Oregon 2008 at $17 is Patty's second label. A to Z as a second label has always been a good drinker. We got spoiled by the 2005 and 2006, though. 2007 is $18. The 2008 will be better; more fruit from a much warmer year. Harvest 2007 was wet, cold and short. Those 2007 wines will show themselves in a few more years and have nice forest floor and spices; more Burgundian in style. 2008s are more immediately approachable and 2009s when they come out will be gangbusters. Buy futures! Put some 2007 back; buy the 2008s to drink now. Stoller JV also a good buy. My favorite 'second' is Tony Soter's North Valley (sourced grapes over which Soter has a great control). Can't be beat for the price. Don't expect the big fruit, big alcohol of the 2006s from any of these years (especially 2007), but 2008 will get closer with it's very long hang time that year. 2009 going to be a tremendous combo of fruit and classic pinot noir qualities. Harvest 2009 started in late September and early October, didn't go as long as 2008 before the rains, but plenty long enough.

                                  1. There are good PNs for $20 or less, but I don't think there are any "great" ones. Great wines begin in the vineyard, and PN grapes are difficult to grow, and to make great wines, need to be pruned back to keep yield low. That means that the price of great PN grapes is prohibitive for the most part to make great wines.

                                    That said, I've bought 2007 PNs from Pali recently on allocation for $19 a bottle, and they are very good. So I guess that gives lie to my argument, however, normally Pali PNs sell for much more. (At least they did last year.)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dinwiddie

                                      I am still kicking myself for not getting in on that offer. I just totally spaced and forgot. UGH! Also haven't ordered any Loring yet. Just trying to cut back! =( Great rec on the Pali though! -mJ

                                    2. Try ERATH at $19. Very good. Not great. But very good.

                                      1. "Cloudline" (Oregon) is another one to try. Very good for that price range too.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: chocolate

                                          Cloudline IS good. It's made by Domaine Drouhin, the Oregon sister operation to the French property of the same family - Maison Joseph Drouhin.

                                          1. re: Midlife

                                            Here are a couple of hugely discounted wines (~50% off) from K&L. Anybody try these? I am unfamiliar with these 2 small producers:



                                        2. A-Z is OK. Erath is OK. MacMurray Ranch is decent. You really won't find a great bottle of pinot for under 20 bucks, though, and there are good economic reasons for that. The grapes are just too expensive, for one thing. We're talking $3000-$6000 per ton for pinot grapes, which works out to about ~60 cases. When you figure bottles, labels and cardboard add up to another 20-30 bucks a case, you're leaving very little room for profit at 20 bucks a bottle. Go for the French stuff. It's what pinot is all about. You'll pay 50 bucks or so. It will be worth it.

                                          1. Estancia Pinot Noir, not great but consistently drinkable IMO. About $15, but a local winery said last week they don't carry it anymore because they raised the price. (Maybe he meant he forgot to order it?)

                                            1. OK, a "zombie thread," brought back to life, and it is not even close to Halloween, yet.

                                              First, there is wine. Then, there is good wine. Next, there is fine wine, and last, there is GREAT wine.

                                              There ARE no GREAT PN's, under US$ 20. Period.

                                              There might be a very few "good wines" at that price-point, but with PN's, not THAT many.

                                              As for "great wines," I will state that it is highly unlikely that there are any PN's, at that price point, or even 4x that.

                                              As for "GREAT wines," not even close.

                                              Those are wines, that leather-bound books are written about, and NO > US $ 20 Pn will be in that group.

                                              Sorry, but you are jousting at windmills. No such wine exists.


                                              PS - So much for the zombie.

                                              1. I recently purchased a case of the 2007 Keller Estate La Cruz, and the wine is a heck of a QPR, quite tasty, and not the typical cherry juice. It already has sous bois notes which tells me that it is developing nicely. Good acidity.

                                                $12 for a 1/2 bottle, so a bit over your price point, but nevertheless...

                                                1. Ran the search for 99 West and nothing popped up on point but this thread was close enough. Just had the 2010 99 West, a sub $20 from McMinnville. Not a Shea or a Penner Ash but mighty fine at the price point, more to my liking than my other sub $20 faves like Firesteed and Acrobat and Wine by Joe.

                                                  1. Being a lover of Pinot Noirs who has Grand Cru taste but a $20 pocketbook, my take on this question is no. Good Pinots can be found sub $20. Great? No.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      After 10 years of pouring for people in a 'moderate to better' wine world I really believe that some people's 'good' can be other people's 'great', though Pinot Noir is more of a challenge than most. Do you have some <$20s you would suggest?

                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        Under or close to 20 I have enjoyed mainly Oregon PN like the 99 West I mentioned above, Erath, Chehalem, and Wine by Joe.

                                                        1. re: tim irvine

                                                          Which Chehalem Pinot Noir(s) is under $20?

                                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                                            I said "close to..."
                                                            I had one for about 22 here in Austin. Don't recall the details other than a 2010. Of course I only bought one bottle and could not find more.

                                                        2. re: Midlife

                                                          Well, IMHO, ***GREAT*** Pinot Noir *under* $20 is impossible, but these are under $20 and quite good . . .
                                                          Argyle 2012
                                                          Kali Hart (Talbott) 2012
                                                          Moshin 2012

                                                          Odds are greatly improved, however, by saying "under $30," but that's a different discussion . . .


                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                            I am a member of the Moshin Pinot Noir only wine Club,
                                                            and most of their pinots after discount are still in the low $30s, but I did see their Russian River Valley pinot
                                                            at Costco in Santa Rosa last November at around $20.

                                                            Another well made pinot which used to be very nicely
                                                            priced was the McHenry pinot, but I have not been able to
                                                            find it for a while.

                                                            1. re: bclevy

                                                              Wine Exchange in Orange County, CA has Moshin for $20. (Rick Moshin and I used to share a house in Scotts Valley, way back when).

                                                              Sadly, (Dean) Dean McHenry -- he the former Chancellor (aka Dean) of UC Santa Cruz) passed away some time ago, but his son, UC Davis Professor (of Anthropology) Henry McHenry and his wife Linda (who actually studied viticulture at UC Davis) have long made the actual wine. They are still around and kicking, and will have an open house in November as a part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers' Association "Passport Weekend."

                                                              See http://www.mchenryvineyard.com

                                                              See also http://scmwa.com

                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                I heard they had some bret problems when they went back to the Santa Cruz fruit from Carneros. Do you know anything about that?

                                                                1. re: SteveTimko

                                                                  Brett doesn't come from the fruit, but from the oak (usually). I know the original vineyard was infected with Pierce's disease, and died. But it was replanted in the late 1990s, and I haven't heard of anything re: Brett . . . that said, it *has* been a while since I've had their wines. I have not tasted any of their 2010s or 2011s.

                                                                  Think I might have to go to that Open House . . .

                                                                2. re: zin1953

                                                                  Would you recommend the Moshin PN @ $20? I'm relatively close to Wine Ex.

                                                                  1. re: JAB

                                                                    Let me start by saying (as I did above), we were housemates back in the "Santa Cruz Days" . . . (I think 4-5 of us were sharing the house, but Rick is the only one I remember!)

                                                                    I like Rick. I like his wines. I have *not* had the 2012 @ Winex, but were I in the neighborhood and could grab a bottle for $20, I certainly would try it!

                                                        3. Costco has a good Pinot Noir Kirkland brand from Carneros (similar to Buena Vista) at about $9.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Modz9636

                                                            but the OP is looking for "Great" -- whatever that is. I still contend it doesn't exist for under $20.

                                                          2. So the general consensus is that there are "good" PNs for $20, but no "great" ones. Of course, as Midlife noted, what is one person's good is another's great. Once you have experienced some of the truly great Pinor Noirs that are available, your definition of good tends to move up also.

                                                            Of course, one's personal tastes has a lot to do with it also. I love PN, and drink it often. However, I also tend to buy fairly expensive (at least moderately so) wines that are not made in quantity and which are highly allocated. My wife loves Kosta-Browne Pinot Noirs, so I purchase my entire allocation every year. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of the wines that Eric Sussman makes at Radio-Coteau, especially the Savoy, and some of the ones made by Adam Lee at Siduri, so I tend to max out those allocations too. On the other hand, I tend to buy a good bit of Oregon wines from Le Cadeau. All of these are very good wines, and some of them are even great. Are they equal to the best from DRC or Roumier in Burgundy, of course not, but in their own right they are great expressions of California (and Oregon) PNs and some of them are great in anybody's book (and they cost a whole lot less).

                                                            9 Replies
                                                            1. re: dinwiddie

                                                              <Are they equal to the best from DRC...?>

                                                              That's not something many of us are likely to ever find out. Sadly.

                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                It is not like I drink them on a regular basis either. Sadly.

                                                              2. re: dinwiddie

                                                                And how many of those are $20 (or less)?

                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  Not a one. But that only proves the point. I don't know of any <$20 PNs that I would buy, not because I am a snob, but because I buy a lot of the more expensive PNs because they satisfy my wife's and my tastes and limit my less expensive purchases to other wines (notably some Spanish and Italian wines.)

                                                                  1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                    Well, it didn't prove *my* point, but the fact that I agree with you wasn't the point, either. I just didn't see the turn signal showing we were taking this into a discussion of Pinots that were OVER $20 . . .

                                                                    That said, and just to further elaborate where I am in agreement with you, is that I *rarely*buy a Pinot Noir with a suggested retail of $20 or less (sale and/or close-out prices notwithstanding). However, I would in fact prefer to purchase a/c Bourgogne than Kosta-Browne, as -- unlike your wife -- I (generally) do *not* like their wines, regardless of price. ;^) And while I agree on the idea of one's dollar going farther with Spanish, and some Italian, wines, I still find any number of excellent values coming from "la belle France."

                                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                                      I don't disagree. There are many, many value wines from France. My tastes just tend to be more in tune with Italian and Spanish wines these days.

                                                                      As to PNs, I am not as huge a fan of Kosta Browne as my wife, I like them, but prefer PNs from a little further north in CA like the Anderson Valley. But K-B is one of those producers that you either love, or not. My wife and her friends love them, so they stay on the buy list. (There is a reason I have managed to stay married for almost 30 years and counting.)

                                                                      1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                        I much prefer K-B's Sonoma Coast PN to their RRV. I don't have much experience with their single vineyard PNs, but I'm guessing Sonoma Coast is more like Anderson Valley.

                                                                        1. re: Midlife

                                                                          You are correct. The Sonoma Coast PN is more like an Anderson Valley PN than the RRV is. I also tend to prefer Syrah from the Sonoma Coast as well.

                                                                        2. re: dinwiddie

                                                                          >>> (There is a reason I have managed to stay married for almost 30 years and counting.) <<<

                                                                          True Dat! ;^)

                                                                2. Around here (NYC borough) I have found MacMurray Pinot very nice. They have a Central Coast pinot at c. $13, but a much better Russian River Valley pinot at C. $18, which is still under your $20 threshold. That one is pretty darn nice.

                                                                  1. I've had good luck with inexpensive French Pinot's grown outside of Burgundy.