A Good Deal on a California Pinot

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Central Coast 2007
Dana Nigro
Posted: June 29, 2010

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.

Member comments   5 comment(s)

Stephen Kahn Law Offc — Los Angeles, Cal USA —  June 30, 2010 1:54am ET

So out of curiosity what were those other Pinots you tasted while tasting the MacMurray Ranch? I enjoyed this article,but I do want to know more about what wines it was compared with side to side. Is that fair?


Dana Nigro — New York, NY —  June 30, 2010 1:51pm ET

I might write in more detail about the other wines, so I don't want to give too much away! But we tasted them against a village Burgundy from the 2006 vintage ($26), an Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage ($25) and another California Pinot Noir from the Carneros appellation ($35 SRP, I paid $25), also from the excellent 2007 vintage.

All were very different in character, showing the many sides of Pinot, the expression of the region and the vintage character. But in terms of quality, they were all very close. However, the group thought that the MacMurray was a great value, considering the suggested retail price was $5 to $10 lower than the others, and I found it for even less at the store.


Stephen Kahn Law Offc — Los Angeles, Cal USA —  June 30, 2010 7:33pm ET

Thank you for your response. I have had the MacMurray several times but not for about 6 weeks or so. I am now going to revisit it. I do agree its a wonderful wine for the money. I have had several village wines from the 06 vintage from Nicolas Potel, which were also ready to drink but cost me in the $30 -$40 range. I do think those wines will age a bit and I find them more complex at this stage. I enjoyed your article and look for you to reveal more. Regards, Stephen


Dana Nigro — New York, NY —  June 30, 2010 7:44pm ET

Thanks, Stephen. I haven't tried any '06s from Nicolas Potel yet, though I was tempted by the Savigny-les-Beaune bottlings I recently saw at a store, but I'll have to do so now. $30 to $40 is quite reasonable for that level of quality from Burgundy.


Stephen Kahn Law Offc — Los Angeles, Cal USA —  July 2, 2010 12:20am ET

I suggest you try them. A wine store near me had some for great prices and I must say the Volney, the Nuit St. george, and even the Haut Cotes de Nuit were we all wines that I am not going back to for 8 to 12 months. That being said I revisted the MacMurray ranch and its as tasty as you have described. Tomorrow an 07 Elk Cove. Stephen


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