Value Pinot Noir
More than any other grape, it can seem impossible to find a great value Pinot Noir. It is a very fickle grape to grow - it only thrives in specific climates and soils, and is very thin-skinned, making it prone to disease and rot. Growing high-quality Pinot Noir grapes can very quickly become very expensive, resulting of course in expensive bottles of wine!
We have waded through an ocean of inexpensive Pinot Noirs - most ho-hum and uninspiring, but some flat-out bad - to find what we think are the four best bang for your buck Pinot Noirs for this winter. They all have scores of at least 90 points, and they are all available for under $30 per bottle.
Anthill Farms Anderson Valley 2018 - Anderson Valley, California
First up we have the Anderson Valley bottling from Anthill Farms, one of our favorite pinot producers in California. Most of their tiny production is sold to their wine club members, with small allocations reaching restaurants here on the east coast. Back around the holidays, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a few cases of three different cuvees from these guys - this Anderson Valley is a fantastic follow-up to that trio!
This is a medium-bodied pinot with a texture that is positively silky. Lush black and red currant flavors are balanced by more savory notes of anise, tree bark, leather, and potpourri. It’s easy to see why restaurants love these wines; this is incredibly food-friendly, ready to pair with a wide range of dishes. This is so delicious now, but the winemaker suggests it can improve over the coming eight years or so.
93 Points Wine Advocate - 8/20
Colene Clemens Dopp Creek Estate 2018 - Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Colene Clemens planted their first vines in 2006, the same year that the Chehalem Mountains region was officially recognized as its own AVA, separate from the larger Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area. Focusing on sustainable practices, they follow organic principles when possible and hand-harvest all their fruit to ensure only the highest quality berries make it into their wines. This Dopp Creek bottling is proof that these relative newcomers are on the right track!
As soon as you pull the cork aromas of ripe fruit and savory herbs come barreling forward. Delicate floral notes and some spice add interest to a nose that can definitely be described as rich, but when you take a sip elegance takes over on the palate. There is a minerality on the palate, which alongside fine-grained tannins provide a dry and almost refreshing finish. This paired beautifully with a simply done top-round roast but would be just as happy sharing a table with just about anything, from duck breast to tacos.
94 Points Wine Spectator - 1/21
Domaine Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues 2018 - Loire Valley, France
Paul-Henry Pelle continues his family’s wine-making traditions as the fourth-generation winemaker at this practicing organic Loire Valley domaine. They only grow Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and their bottlings provide some of the best quality for the price that you can get anywhere in the world, and certainly in France. Menetou-Salon is the oft-overlooked neighbor to the more popular Sancerre, and the wines are often a fraction of the price.
This pinot, sourced from 30+-year-old vines, really does have it all. It’s succulent and juicy while being balanced by firm tannins and bright acidity. It’s delicious after being open for an hour or so, but when I revisited an open bottle on the third day it was positively singing, suggesting a promising future in the cellar for this ultimate value Pinot Noir.
93 Points Wine Enthusiast - 12/20
Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir 2018 - Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand wine is so much more than Sauvignon Blanc! The combination of warm, sunny days and cool nights make certain vineyard sites in the small country ideal for the farming of the noble Pinot Noir vines. Allan Scott was one of the first to recognize the potential here, planting his first vineyards in 1973 and establishing his namesake winery in 1990. He and his wife Catherine remain actively involved with all aspects of production, and their children are all part of the team as well.
Pinot Noir from New Zealand reminds me of the lyrical quote often attributed to Galileo: “Wine is sunlight held together by water.” This little beauty is no exception. After some time to open up, bright notes of strawberry and cherry come bounding out, braced by subtle undertones of earth and herb. The palate is silky, almost ethereal, with a subtlety one rarely finds in pinot at this price point. Attractively priced and positively delicious, this is an ideal “Wednesday wine”.
90 Points Wine Enthusiast - 12/19
-Anthill Farms Anderson Valley 2018, California. 93WA
Regular $34.99, Sale $29.99
-Colene Clemens Dopp Creek 2018, Oregon. 94WS
Regular $34.99, Sale $29.99
-Domaine Pelle Menetou-Salon Morogues 2018, France. 93WE
Regular $29.99, Sale $21.99
-Allan Scott Malborough 2018, New Zealand. 90WE
Regular $15.99, Sale $13.99