Once again the Vintage Wine Tasters discover yet another amazing wine bargain. This time, a Pinot Noir wine for $17 from a wine-growing area in California unknown to almost any wine expert or critic. The Vintage Wine Tasters met on this past Wednesday and tasted six highly-touted bargain Pinot Noir wines. We wanted to see if we could find a delicious Pinot Noir for under $25. Any Pinot Noir wine lover knows what a difficult task this is as prices have soared ever since the “Sideways”movie glorified Pinot Noir and knocked poor Merlot for a loop.
Our host Jim was in charge of the wine tasting and for the past two months, he has been reading the wine magazines and searching the shelves for value Pinot Noir wines. The six wines selected were:
2005 Keller Estate, Sonoma Coast, purchased at Costco for $18.50
2007 Cambria, Santa Maria Valley, purchased at Costco for $19.00
2007 Calera, Central Coast, purchased at Beverages & More for $23
2007 Grayson Cellars, California, purchased at Beverages & More for $15
2007 Alpen Cellars, Trinity County, purchased at K&L Wines for $17
2007 Brooks, Willamette Valley, purchased at K&L Wines for $19.
We found only two of the six wines to our liking. Our top choice was the ”˜07 Alpen Cellars, followed closely by the Calera. The Vintage Wine Tasters judged these two wines to be equal to or better than many Pinot Noir wines costing $25 or more.
What a surprise when we unveiled the brown bags and found our top choice to be from Trinity County. This is the first time any of us had heard of grapes growing in Trinity County. The County is way up in northern California where Bigfoot hangs out and where beer-drinking fishermen and hunters like to venture. The exact area is called the Trinity Lakes region. The elevation is high and that means cool evening and morning temperatures for much of the summer season. Could this be the next big growing area for Pinot Noir? Perhaps, but I found out there are about seven wineries in Trinity County and ten different growers. I spoke with Keith Groves, the winemaker at Alpen Cellars. Keith produces about 5000 cases of wine annually of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gerwuztraminer from 22 vineyard acres. Ken has been making wine here for 24 years and selling it mostly to visitors and local restaurants and wine shops. Ken recently hired a broker who has brought the attention of the Alpen wines to the San Francisco Bay Area. Until now the Chardonnay has been their flagship wine, but the rush may be on to buy the Alpen Pinot Noir wine now that the Vintage Wine Tasters have selected it as the best bargain Pinot Noir wine under $25.
Our next tasting will be in two months and we will be savoring Syrah wines from around the world that cost no more than $20 a bottle. Yes, we do accept samples, but remember that this is a blind wine tasting.
Given all the excitement over Pinot Noir in the past few years (“Sideways”) I think now is the time to buy up excellent Merlot at a discounted price. I too was quite surprised to read that the expertly trained palette of the Vintage Wine Tasters chose a Trinity County Pinot as their top pick. Just goes to show you how well the varietal thrives in the golden state. If James Laube’s recent article in Wine Spectator on 2007 Pinot’s is any indication we should all be buying up 2007 California Pinot’s. Looking forward to your Syrah picks.