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Mar 17, 2013 12:07 PM

Pinot Noir recs

I can contribute very little to this board, but I have a question. In the last few years I have enjoyed some Pinot Noirs very much. I don't know the proper language to describe what I like, but I'd say it's similar to what I love about some Bourbon's "smooth." Acting on the assumption that you get what you pay for has not been very successful. A couple of years ago I had a bottle of Rex Goliath that was great. It's inexpensive and I thought I had found a treasure. When I tried the 2012 vintage I was disappointed and so randomly purchased a couple of bottles based on the sophisticated criteria of cool looking labels. I think there was a decent though forgettable $20.00 one but the $30.00 one was not to my liking. I'd like to try a few in modest to moderate price catagory, but if someone has a favorite I'd appreciate your advice.

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  1. Pinot Noir viintages coming out of Oregon or California can be highly variable. It is not the easiest grape to grow or vinify so when you find one you really like, consider stocking up and cellaring a years worth. One of our inexpensive Ca standbys has been La Crema Reserve version whenyou can find it while a pretty reliable, more complex but pricier Oregon version has been the Beaux Freres bottlings. If you want a version of Pinot that has the occasional ability to hit it out of the ballpark with astronomical pricing, French burgundies from tiny plots of ancient vineyards like Romanee St. Vivant or Echezeau or their Conte vineyards can be epiphanies in great vintage years but blindingly expensive. Good luck

    2 Replies
    1. re: ThanksVille


      I do remember splitting a bottle of La Crema with a friend over some snacks and that I liked it. I also recall a glass of Wild Horse that I liked and also Estancia. I really wish I'd taken some notes. I came to love red wine late in life. Who knew? I didn't realize, as zin pointed out, that Pinots were so variable. I struggle to explain what exactly I have found personally pleasing. If it were food I'd say the mouth feel..."thicker" is clumsy but maybe "velvety" rather than "thin," "dark cherry" rather than "strawberry" not tasting of oak. I guess "puckery," "thin," and "pasture-like" are things I don't like. Is there a red wine adjective like "buttery" which I appreciate in Chardonnay? I don't remember ever loving a light colored red though that's probably unrelated to taste. Vanilla makes me happy...and plummy too. Also, in my mind is something I'd call "bovine" or "horsey" (leathery?) that was something pleasant. If "sweet" is what jumps out, I don't care for it. One Pinot I really liked (again, no notes so I don't know which wine I was drinking) made me think they had passed a warm spice like clove or cardamom and a peppercorn through it.

      I guess I need to do some research and learn how to describe it better.

      Thank you both for your time and gracious responses. I'll have to take advantage of the dozens of wine tasting opportunities here in Ca and actually record my impressions.

      Edited to add: I'm new to CH and have not read the wine threads at all. I see there are LOTS of them and ought to have explored more before starting a new discussion. Thank you for taking my naive question seriously. I'm going to splurge and try Romanee St. Vivant for my birthday. :-)

      1. re: ItalianNana

        Pinot Noir, especially when it's vinted in the Burgundian style, is going to be sheer. That is to say that although it is red, you can see through it pretty well. Pinot is just not a "strong" grape the way Cab sauv and Zinfandel are, so the wines are not opaque.

        There are lots of wonderful Burgundies that are big splurges, altho not as big as Romanee St. Vivant! Nuits St. George, Chambolle Musigny, Savigny-Les Beaunes, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, etc.......

    2. Just as every Bourbon is *not* smooth, and some use wheat in the mash bill rather than rye, not every Pinot Noir will be in just one style. Add to that the natural variation that exists between vintages, and you have a wide variety of offerings in the marketplace.

      Pinot Noir is a very versatile grape that is produced in a wide variety of styles. Aside from the Rex Goliath, it would be helpful to know some specific Pinot Noir wines that you've liked in the past, so our suggestions are more to your liking.

      1. If you live in a state to which wine can be shipped,
        you might consider the McHenry Santa Cruz pinot at K&L
        wines for about $25. Wine making is more like a hobby
        for Henry McHenry who is also a UC Davis prof.
        In my opinion, this is a great wine for the price
        (most comparable CA or OR pinots would go for

        1 Reply
        1. re: bclevy

          Here are a few, moderate to cheaply priced. I'm sure you will get tons of other ideas:

          Coppola (Director's Cut, or the one w/ the silver label)
          MacMurray Ranch
          Mark West
          3 Degrees
          Carmel Road
          A to Z
          Bethel Heights
          Au Bon Climat
          Frei Brothers
          Castle Rock

        2. The two guys who started Rex Goliath sold it a few years back to a major winery group (Constellation?) but sold only the name, not the grape source. They make wine now under the name Cycles Gladiator. I don't think it's as good as it was when it was Rex Goliath.
          An inexpensive wine that actually tastes like pinot noir is bottled by Mark West, but I haven't had it in a couple of years. It's usually around $12 to $15 a bottle.
          If you want to say what city you shop in I can make some specific recommendations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: SteveTimko

            Modesto, Pleasanton. or San Rafael. And thank you so much for the I formation

            1. re: ItalianNana

              Okay, you're close enough to K&L in Redwood City, I'll make recommendations from there. K&L is my favorite wine store. None of these are more than $25. I'd say the last three are probably the three best.

              2009 Laboure Roi Bourgogne Rouge"Maximum" -- One More Tree The Gallo of Burgundy, but often reliable
              2011 Bishop's Peak San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir The second label for Talley, the No. 1 winemaker in my cellar
              2011 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir Haven't tried it but at this price I would give it a try
              2010 Pali Wine Company "Riviera" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Good reputation
              2011 Kalinda Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
              2010 Vincent Girardin Bourgogne Pinot Noir "Cuvée St. Vincent" Girardin can be hit and miss and typifies why I find Burgundy so frustrating. He's usually better with whites. I had heard he was abandoning reds. I'd suggest buying a bottle to see if you like it.
              2010 NoCo Chalone Pinot Noir From a well-known vineyard
              2010 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir Tremendous value but even the cheap ABC wines need cellar time. So maybe this wouldn't be the wine for you.
              2009 Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir I like Paraiso's winemaker
              2010 Talbott "Logan" Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Never had this, but it's from a fairly well known vineyard
              2011 Brooks Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I visited this winery and it has an excellent line up.
              2011 Evening Land Vineyards "Blue Label" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I've had this in another vintage and it is an excellent wine. This is a label by a Hollywood producer who bought the Seven Springs Vineyard and kicked out Mark Vlossak and his St. Innocent Winery. He got some bad press for that but he's making good wine.
              2009 Evesham Wood Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir Excellent producer

          2. With the disclaimer that I ain't no expert, I have recently enjoyed Gothic Nevermore, Argyle, Erath, and Benton Lane from the Willamette Valley, all in the low 20s in Austin. A price notch down, I have enjoyed the generic Oregon from Firesteed at about 14 as well as the generic Erath but liked Cloudline better. One of the better ones I have had of late as a gift was the '08 Caw. I also really like Chehalem. In that price range from Caliornia, I agree on McMurray. Also, for a very drinkable red that says PN but is not distinctively so, I like Parducci.