Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mutiny on the Bounty - The Pinot Noir Edition

This summer it became generally decided in the house that Pinot Noir was the thing to drink, no matter the weather or the occasion, and it would be drunk no matter who (me) didn't care for the varietal. My opposition and my wallet had blocked a large amount of the Pinot purchasing, but when I left for Denver, it was a mutinous scene. I suppose that it makes sense, as we were in Oregon, smack dab in the Willamette Valley, and hence in the center of the Pinot Noir world. And against my preconcieved notions about the grape (I'll just say it: jammy, unbalanced, etc.), five bottles of Pinot Noir later, and I'm happy to announce that I'm a Pinot Noir convert.

I think that the epiphany moment, and I know it doesn't fit the cheap motif of this blog, occurred when I had a $32 2009 Bethel Heights Estate Grown Pinot Noir. It was a summer weight Pinot Noir, thereby unconvincing me of the jammy and overdone notes I'd tasted in some of previous wines. The Bethel Heights Pinot Noir, grown near Salem, Oregon, was and will probably remain, my favorite Pinot Noir. It was so perfectly balanced, with a hint of cherries and plum on the nose that drew lightly along my tongue. It finished with perfect smoothness, the taste of raspberries and soft tannins.
Excited by this Pinot Noir, I both searched for and stumbled upon some great, cheap Pinot Noirs. Though it's a commonly held belief in Oregon that buying a Pinot under $20 is a great travesty, I beg to differ. I actually think that it's one of the wines that isn't terrible at a cheap price. Without heavy tannins like a Cabernet, there is little risk of uncomfortable sharpness to the wine, and without a tendency toward sweetness (like some Merlots), the wine doesn't ever verge into being sickly sweet. Because I have tried so many and I have also misplaced my tasting notebook in the move from Oregon to Washington, I will briefly go over some of the more affordable glasses I had. If you're not in the mood for shelling out $30+ for a bottle of wine, then read on. If you are... you've got my recommendation already.
2009 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir (California)- I had this wine on two occasions and on one, I absolutely loved it. On the second, I thought that it lacked some balance and some of the finesse of other Pinot Noirs I'd tried. Ben, however, loves this one. I think this Pinot might be the heaviest Pinot Noir I tried, thick with berries and spice throughout the glass. If you're looking for a cheap table wine and you like Pinot Noir, this is a good deal. You can find it for $8-$10.

2009 Eola Hills Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) - Not only does this bottle look rather snazzy, the wine inside is excellent. This is certainly my favorite Pinot Noir of the cheap list. It's a bit more expensive than the rest, but with the extra few dollars comes a great flavor and balance. Notes of cherry and berries with soft tannins on the finish. This wine captured the best elements of a Pinot Noir. $15-$20.

2009 Lindeman's Bin 99 Pinot Noir (Australia) - For the price, $6.99-7.99, this wine was a great deal. It was light and drinkable, with soft fruit and spice notes complimenting each other, this Pinot Noir wasn't overwhelming. Ben felt it was a bit minerally for him, but I enjoyed it better than the Mondavi when I first tried them side to side. For $6.99, though, it's hard to regret the purchase.
2009 Castle Rock Pinot Noir (Bottled in California, sourced in the Columbia Valley) - Though the bouquet was sweet and jammy, the wine definitely was not. Notes of cherry and currant, followed by a smooth finish with subtle tannins. A full-bodied Pinot Noir that was an entirely drinkable, food wine. It lacked the balance of a more expensive bottle, as the front end was light and the back end heavy. A great deal! On sale for $7.99 though listed at $11.99.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the awesome world of pinot noir! I LOVE the Bethel Heights Estate, glad to see you featuring it on your blog. For around $20, there are some dynamite Oregon pinots worth seeking out. I'd look for Johan and Adelsheim's bottlings, as well as Evesham Wood. If you're going beyond Oregon, check out Parducci's $10 pinot and Stoneleigh's similarly-inexpensive offering, especially the 2009. :-)