HOME > Chowhound > Wine >

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

stalkingwine.com Nov 2, 2009 11:47 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. PolarBear RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 2, 2009 03:04 PM

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

    Row 11

    agree about the A to Z from OR

    1 Reply
    1. re: PolarBear
      PolarBear RE: PolarBear Nov 2, 2009 04:08 PM

      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. d
      duck833 RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 2, 2009 03:27 PM

      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
        stalkingwine.com RE: duck833 Nov 2, 2009 09:28 PM

        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. Midlife RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 2, 2009 03:57 PM

        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
          redmeatfan RE: Midlife Nov 2, 2009 07:55 PM

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

          I would agree the 08s from Oregon will be good

        2. SteveTimko RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 3, 2009 06:18 AM

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko
            stalkingwine.com RE: SteveTimko Nov 3, 2009 10:02 AM

            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
              Val RE: SteveTimko Nov 3, 2009 11:24 AM

              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
                Val RE: Val Nov 24, 2009 05:31 PM

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

            2. c
              Cary RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 12, 2009 11:27 AM

              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
                Midlife RE: Cary Nov 12, 2009 11:52 AM

                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
                  Cary RE: Midlife Nov 12, 2009 11:58 AM

                  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. Politeness RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 12, 2009 06:57 PM

                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
                  Midlife RE: Politeness Nov 13, 2009 09:20 AM

                  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
                    Cary RE: Midlife Nov 13, 2009 09:37 AM

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

                    1. re: Cary
                      Midlife RE: Cary Nov 14, 2009 09:25 AM

                      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
                      Politeness RE: Midlife Nov 14, 2009 04:42 AM

                      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
                        Midlife RE: Politeness Nov 14, 2009 09:20 AM

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

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

                    3. re: Politeness
                      Midlife RE: Politeness Nov 19, 2009 02:10 PM

                      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. w
                      whiner RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 13, 2009 05:26 AM


                      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. c
                        Cary RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 13, 2009 10:32 AM


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Cary
                          Leonardo RE: Cary Nov 13, 2009 06:42 PM

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

                        2. c
                          Cate RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 15, 2009 01:00 PM

                          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. d
                            DavidT RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 16, 2009 04:17 PM

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

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: DavidT
                              DavidT RE: DavidT Nov 16, 2009 04:31 PM

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

                              1. re: DavidT
                                Akitist RE: DavidT Nov 29, 2009 02:15 PM

                                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. g
                                greenll RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 18, 2009 09:40 AM

                                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. d
                                  dinwiddie RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 18, 2009 11:46 AM

                                  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
                                    njfoodies RE: dinwiddie Nov 19, 2009 04:22 AM

                                    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. m
                                    msandes RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 20, 2009 11:11 AM

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

                                    1. c
                                      chocolate RE: stalkingwine.com Nov 28, 2009 04:24 AM

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

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: chocolate
                                        Midlife RE: chocolate Nov 28, 2009 01:51 PM

                                        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
                                          baron45 RE: Midlife Jan 21, 2010 11:40 AM

                                          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. s
                                        seiun RE: stalkingwine.com Apr 14, 2012 08:16 PM

                                        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. DonShirer RE: stalkingwine.com Apr 15, 2012 06:27 PM

                                          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. Bill Hunt RE: stalkingwine.com Apr 15, 2012 09:04 PM

                                            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. 4
                                              4wino RE: stalkingwine.com Apr 17, 2012 07:07 PM

                                              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...

                                              Show Hidden Posts