In my ongoing hunt for Pinot Noir bargains, I stopped at the Trader Joe's wine shop in Manhattan's Union Square neighborhood one Friday evening to see what they had in stock. To get to the Pinots, I had to elbow my way back-and-forth through a line of customers that wrapped around the store, getting densest just where the California section began, but the effort was worth it. Among my finds was the MacMurray Ranch Central Coast 2007—from an excellent vintage for California Pinot Noir—for only $13, though it typically sells for more.
MacMurray Ranch is part of the Gallo fine-wine portfolio, and although the property is located in Sonoma County, the brand also makes Pinot Noirs from the Central Coast. This wine is a blend of grapes from different vineyards, prime among them the Olson Ranch, a young vineyard in the cool-climate Santa Lucia Highlands, where plenty of sunshine at elevation balances out the ocean fog and breezes. (Starting with the 2008 vintage, MacMurray Ranch is also making an all Santa Lucia Highlands bottling.) Olson Ranch is farmed sustainably and certified under the new Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) program; for example, the vineyard blocks were designed with wildlife corridors to allow deer to pass through and water troughs are left throughout the property for deer and birds.
I opened the wine after work in an informal tasting with my WineSpectator.com colleagues, along with a couple other Pinots from different regions. Full of ripe berry, black cherry and plum fruit, with a woodsy top note, it was full-bodied but well-balanced, with a fresh finish and supple tannins. It held its own in popularity against Pinots from Burgundy, Oregon and northern California, and my co-workers were even more impressed when they found out the price. 89 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Central Coast 2007 (89, $20).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Pinot Noirs.