The Wineguider Thanksgiving Pinot Noir Shootout

21 11 2013

Hi!  Today, in anticipation of The Big Dinner next week, we compare five pinot noirs, all of which I purchased at Total Wine:

  • $11:  Castle Rock Monterey County, California, 2010
  • $17:  Cloud Break Reserve, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, 2011
  • $22:  Coelho, Willamette Valley Oregon, 2011
  • $14:  Harbor Front, California Coastal, 2012
  • $18:  Mark West Carneros, Sonoma, California, 2010

Here is how they ranked, based on taste combined with value:

1.  The Clear Winner (Value + Taste):  Castle Rock Monterey 2010 ($11).  Wow!  This unassuming pinot has a perfectly legit pinot taste, on the heavier side of light bodied. It is spicy, earthy, and delicious. Interesting yet easy-drinking and friendly for a pinot noir, Castle Rock is priced surprisingly low.   Many stores in the U.S. are only charging $9.99.  Very impressive.

2.  The Best Tasting (Regardless of Price):  Mark West Carneros 2010 ($18).  Spicier than Castle rock, with more attack and higher interest.  More delicious than Castle Rock, but more expensive.  Has a little  more tartness, and isn’t quite as friendly, but it’s better wine.

3.  Most Interesting, But….  Coelho, Oregon 2011 ($22).  Coming from Oregon, this pinot noir has more earth, more mushroom, more “forest” and a more interesting, unique taste.  However, it is also a bit tart and acidic.  Not friendly, I would call this high-quality pinot noir a risk for Thanksgiving.

4.  Nice Bottle.  Cloud Break, Santa Lucia 2011 ($17).   This one has a heavy bottle, which makes it feel serious.  (Admittedly, this is a lame first comment about any wine.  I blame Cloud Break.)  Very robust for a pinot, Cloud Break is on the light side of medium-bodied.  A nice blend of the typical California cherry-ish with some mild spices and herbs, it is not bad at all.  Still, it’s kind of boring, and I probably would not buy it again.

5.  The Professor and, Mary-Ann….  Harbor Front 2012 ($14).  This one is so light, so see-through, so “almost-not-even-there”, that it simply must come in 5th place.  The taste is fine, but it has some of that generic California/cherry goulash flavor, making it forgettable.  This is nothing at all like the previous vintage of Harbor Front, which was a solid winner.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Wineguider

castlemarkwestcoelhoO'Neill V&D Cloud Break Pinot Noirharbor

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