Looking for the best Pinot Noirs under $25? Pinot Noir can be expensive but you'll increase your chances of a great bottle at a small price if you do some research.
About Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is the high-maintenance grape that demands fawning attention and unmitigated devotion. A winemaker can pull out all stops to make the best possible wine but then, for no apparent reason, the Pinot Noir will behave unpredictably. The result can be an expensive bottle of disappointment or one delivering hedonistic delirium. Because of the high degree of care and kid-glove handling, combined with low vineyard yields, good Pinot Noir leans towards the expensive. This makes it difficult to find silky and bewitching ones for less than $15. If you can increase your budget upwards to $25, however, the Pinot world opens up with opportunities.
Best Pinot Noirs under $25
Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and around the world can all be found at a great price.
Californians have learned that Pinot Noir is not Cabernet Sauvignon and have adjusted to growing and making wine with it. Pinot Noir generally requires cooler climates, and regions getting Pacific maritime air have proven the best for California Pinot Noir. The best California Pinot Noirs come from Sonoma County, Carneros, Mendocino County, and the Central Coast regions that include Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties. The best appellations to look for are Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, Carneros, Anderson Valley, Pinnacles, and Santa Lucia Highlands.The following are some reliable choices that can be counted on in your search for Pinot happiness in a bottle:
- Acacia Winery: Pinot Noir Carneros, 2007. Acacia is a Carneros winery that has consistently produced stellar Pinot Noir since they began in 1979. The Acacia Winery was one of the earliest to experiment with the varietal in this region just north of San Pablo Bay. The winery's Pinot Noirs are noted for their typical Carneros' style of silky textures, spicy berry flavors, tight structure, and earthy characters.
- Au Bon Climat Winery: Pinot Noir, Le Bon Climat, Santa Barbara, 2009. Jim Clendenen is the maverick winemaker and his wines win accolades. Besides Au Bon Climat's own, Clendenen sources grapes from some of the best vineyards to make a unique, balanced Pinot Noir that shows black cherries, earthy musk, spice, oak.
- Byron Wines: Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, 2009. Byron is another Santa Maria Valley winery. Their Pinot Noir wines are complex and dark cherry, showing finesse and silkiness. The current winemaker, Jonathan Nagy, was handed the reins from the winery's pioneer, Ken Brown, and continues making wines in the Burgundian style.
- Calera Wine Company: Pinot Noir Central Coast, 2009. Calera's winery is on top of the San Andreas Fault in the Mt. Harlan AVA. This is up in the Gavilan Mountains, south of Hollister and east of Salinas. Calera knows something no one else knows, since there are no other wineries around them. The Central Coast version of their Pinots is a launching point for their higher priced versions but this is a good place to start. Supple, earthy, with good berry and plum fruit, and balanced structure.
- Handley Cellars: Pinot Noir Mendocino County. A good ambassador for Anderson Valley Pinots, this wine contains juicy cherry fruit with spices, floral hints, and toasted oak.
- La Crema Winery: Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. La Crema is a Russian River Valley winery that makes handcrafted wines in an artisan way. Their style shows heavier oak than many other Pinot producers but nevertheless, is an excellent example of Pinots from this region. The Sonoma Coast version is laden with cherries and plums with rustic leather, tar, and sedated tannins.
- MacMurray Ranch: Pinot Noir, Central Coast. Fred MacMurray often pops up in classic late-night movies, was the Absent-minded Professor for awhile for Disney, and was the quintessential father on television in the 1950s-1960s. He also had a getaway from Hollywood with his ranch up in Sonoma County. Today, Fred's daughter, Kate MacMurray, lives on the ranch and aids MacMurray Ranch in making some excellent and affordable Pinot Noir. The Central Coast Pinot Noir is a delicious example of the region at a good price.
- Navarro Vineyards: Pinot Noir Mendocino, 2009.These Pinot grapes are from Anderson Valley, grown on family-owned vineyards and the wine produced is a family-owned winery. Navarro is not often found in stores but you can order direct. The wine has a nice aroma of cherries, lavender, and woodsy cedar finishes with a bright tautness.
- Heron Wines: 2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County. This winery uses organic or sustainably grown vineyards when they can. The Sonoma County Pinot is spicy and full-bodied, with hints of plum, cola, and tobacco.
- Lucky Star: Pinot Noir, 2008. There are hints of raspberries and cherries in this complex yet balanced wine.
Oregon's Pinot Noir
Oregon Pinots, on the other hand, tilt toward a French Burgundy in character. A good Oregon Pinot may give one the impression of the Côte-d'Or rather than Willamette Valley. Other noteworthy Oregon AVA's are Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, and Walla Walla Valley. The best Pinot Noirs in Oregon generally come from the North and South Willamette Valley and Yamhill County. However, don't discount Umpqua Valley or Rogue Valley wines.
- Argyle Winery: Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Argyle makes eclectic and euphoric Oregon Pinots that are bright with dark cherry-berry flavors, and smoke. The wines are very consistent.
- Anne Amie Vineyards: Cuvee A Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. Besides the very good Pinots, Anne Amie has a great label.
- King Estate Wine: Pinot Noir, Oregon Signature. King Estate is located to the east of Eugene in Central Oregon. Their Pinots lean more towards red berry fruit with spices and balanced structure.
- Ponzi Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Tavola. Ponzi is located in Dundee in Willamette Valley and is a family-run winery. The Tavola is a blend of grapes from several vineyards in the valley. Ponzi wines follow the typical Oregon profile with this bright with cherry and dark berry fruit, spices, soft tannins, and some earthiness.
- Rex Hill Vineyards: Pinot Noir, Oregon. Rex Hill is in the Northern Willamette Valley close to Portland.
Pinot Noir Around the World
French Burgundies tend to be quite expensive and difficult to find in the United States. Pinot Noir is gaining regard in New Zealand, but there's a dearth of it to be found and it can be pricey. In fact, Pinot Noir is gaining ground in other wine-growing countries of the New World as winemakers learn to deal with this grape. There are a few good Pinots from around the world for $25 or less, however:
- Wakefield of Clare Valley Australia: Adelaide Hills, 2010. This is a spicy, slightly minty wine with red currant and cherry flavors. It's a very complex wine.
- Undone Pinot Noir: Germany, 2008. This is a medium bodied wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry, and cherry, but it isn't exclusively fruity; there's a spiciness to it, too.
- Friederich Becker: Pfalz, Germany, 2007. This wine is a combination of dark red berries, oak, and a bit of citrus. According to Prince of Pinot, this one is even better the next day, after the bottle has been opened and re-corked.
Enjoy Pinot Noir
Once you find a choice bottle of Pinot Noir, enjoy it on its own, or pair it with strong, richly flavored dishes. Pinor Noirs pair well with creamy pasta dishes or strongly seasoned beef and pork meals. A good Pinot Noir is truly a treasure.