Pinot Noir is the go-to red wine for my husband and me. It’s what we pull out for most of our meals, when we don’t have something else particular in mind. Since it makes up so much of our wine collection at any given time, it's nice to find the rare Pinot values out there.
Castle Rock has built a reputation for value, buying grapes from growers in many different appellations in California and Washington and making the wines in rented facilities in those regions. Without the overhead of land or buildings, it can keep prices down, and it’s been able to expand rapidly, now producing hundreds of thousands of cases a year, so the wines are easy to find.
We enjoyed the 2007 Mendocino County bottling with a weekday meal of potato leek soup, followed by Provençal grilled pork, mac and cheese and steamed broccolini. The first whiff of the wine brought forth bright red cherry aromas, with a hint of cherry candy and faint floral notes. On the palate, it was all lively, juicy, sweet red and black cherries and tart cherries. It was straightforward, without the complex characteristics expected of great Pinot Noirs, and I'm not going to pretend it was the perfect pairing with everything on our plates, but it made for a very enjoyable meal. 87 points, non-blind.
I picked up this wine last year for about $12, and while the 2007 can still be found on retail shelves, the 2008 is now also out in the market. 2007 was a great vintage for California Pinot Noir; 2008 was much more challenging and the Pinots from that year don’t match Castle Rock’s usual high level of quality.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Castle Rock Pinot Noir Mendocino County 2007 (85, $12).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values in California Pinot Noir.