I started writing this post to discuss one Pinot Noir from California, but then I realized that I have tried a few different 2008 Pinot Noir’s that have given me reason to compare. Since they are all in the same price range, it is interesting to see such differences in terroir, and style. First, my story about the Blackstone Winery…
I have fond memories of the Blackstone winery, because it was the first place I had a chance to visit on my short visit to the California wineries. Most of the wines are simple, usually single varietals, and inexpensive, making it the perfect first stop for me to find some great value. It was more of a novelty for my traveling buddy, and now fiance, since she happens to work for the Blackstone Group, a NYC based investement firm. She thought it would be cute to get some souvenirs for her co-workers from there. As we went through the $5 tasting (great deal to start!) we tried a few of Blackstone’s well known wines, like the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, but we also had the pleasure of trying their Malvasia which is only made in the finest vintages and in small quanities. It was so good we decided to take 2 bottles home with us!
Since I started this blog after those wines were long consumed, I can’t really give you a great description of them, so I decided to revisit one of them. I always thought the Merlot was a great wine at the price, so I figured I’d give the Pinot Noir a try, since it is a much more difficult grape to work with…
So how was the 2008 Blackstone Pinot Noir, out of a bottle bought in New Jersey? Bright spicy cherries and vanilla aromas. On the palate it was medium bodied and had very similar cherry and raspberry flavor with a healthy amount of oak integrated, and a peppery sweet spice finish. I think for $10 this is a decent bottle of wine for someone who likes a Pinot Noir with food. The slightly higher acid gives this wine the power to handle some hearty sauces, I enjoyed it with a Costco Rotisserie chicken.
The Le Grand Pinot Noir 2008 was one of my “Vin Vlog” tests during the “Sister’s Show”, and I don’t think I gave it the most accurate description, but I did enjoy the wine. If you love Pinot Noir, and want a good expression of it at a low price, I recommend this French Pinot. The Le Grand had an interesting “Black Sheep” on the label and I recently saw it on sale for $11 (I suppose it retails a bit higher). It had some pretty intense aromas of cherry and cedar, but was a little lighter bodied and more balanced than the Blackstone.
The Gnarley Head Pinot Noir 2008 from California maybe be the best of the three.. Just sampled the Gnarly Pinot Noir. Very nice. Not complex, just nice Pinot fruit, well balanced and light bodied. I am always concerned with these inexpensive PInots, you never know if they are going to taste like Pinot Noir. This one does. It’s a great all around red for chicken, turkey, salmon, or just casual tasting with some lighter style cheeses. I can easily recommend it at $12 retail.
I also had the opportunity to taste a Sanford Pinot Noir 2007 in my WSET class, which was quite a bit different from these, but for the price, tough to compare in terms of value. This wine was medium bodied with well balanced acidity, red cherries, oak, and a hefty spice that seemed to indicate the rather high alcohol content(14.5%). This wine was much more complex and superior than the value $10-$12 wines, but at $40, one would hope so. $40 is a pretty standard price for higher quality California Pinot Noir (it almost seems to be a minimum!) but I can’t say that I would spend that for what you get. Some people love California Pinot Noir, if you do, this one was very good, but I would much rather put that $40 toward a Burgundy Pinot Noir any day.