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Rare Finds: Values In California Pinot Noir

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jan 12, 2009 5:58pm ET

Pinot Noir lovers have a hard time believing there are any great values to be found in California with this varietal, and who could blame them?

There are some folks who won’t drink anything but Pinot unless there’s nothing else to drink. Call them patriotic to the grape or simply stubborn, but they’re among us and can be a vocal lot at that.

But from time to time (OK, so sometimes it’s a long interlude), we find a few gems that qualify as good deals on Pinot.

The 2007 Siduri Sonoma County (90, $20) shows how one winemaker (Adam Lee) can pull from many sources in Sonoma and use the leftovers for a classy, elegant cuvée.

Greg Norman’s 2007 Santa Barbara Pinot ($15) is incredible not so much because it’s a spectacular wine (it is very good, with clean, ripe Pinot flavors) but because of its volume: 56,000 cases.

The 2006 Lyeth Sonoma County Heritage Reserve ($19, 4,700 cases) is another new release to check out, as it has lots of personality, depth and complexity.

And leave it up to Bogle to enter the fray with a 2006 Russian River Pinot with 30,000 cases and a $13 price tag. This is the value producer's second bottling from this heartland of Pinot (I didn’t taste the 2005), and it’s refreshingly delicate and spicy, if a bit woody (tastes like American oak). But the wine has enough varietal character and personality for me to gladly endorse it.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 12, 2009 7:24pm ET
I've always been amazed at how much value Bogle puts into the bottle, for a number of varietals. On an unrelated note James, I've been getting offerings from waiting lists I've sat on for years, like Colgin and Shafer Hillside Select. Perhaps you could do a blog and see how many other folks are suddenly being offered wines from these highly-exclusive (and now very overpriced) vintners. Just a thought!
Matthew Weiler
Los Angeles, CA —  January 12, 2009 8:53pm ET
Second the nomination for Bogle wines, generally. Haven't tried their pinot yet, but will. One thing I found is that there is tremendous variation with vintages, such that what is very good one year is meh (at best) the next year. Kim Crawford makes a good pinot for around $15, and Mondavi's Carneros bottling is sometimes very good (have some of the 2007, but haven't yet tried). Ponzi and Torii Mor have bottlings that good buys, too, but are more like $25-30.
John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  January 12, 2009 9:33pm ET
Especially with the current economic conditions it is nice to know you can still get a decent bottle of California Pinot for under 20 bucks.Not to take away from the current blog as well but just like you Troy it looks like I'll get my first crack at Colgin from being on their waiting list since 2004. It would be an interesting blog!
Dennis D Bishop
Shelby Twp., MI, USA —  January 13, 2009 11:25am ET
Thanks for the great information. Finding CA value is great for the industry!
Eugene Kim
Houston, TX —  January 13, 2009 10:45pm ET
Troy: I too have found that the economic demise for some has been my good fortune for mailing lists. Obviously the economy has caused people to shy away from some of the pricey mailing lists, but their loss has been my gain. This year alone, I have been extended invitations from Colgin, Harlan, and Hourglass. Frankly, I've waited too long to let the opportunities pass by.
Jesse Calderon
January 14, 2009 1:29am ET
I've have also recently been accepted to several waiting lists. I agree with Troy that it would be an interesting topic for a post. Unlike Eugene, I'm not sure I am going to purchase, but I am curious how widespread this is.

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