A bargain pinot that doesn’t suck.

by Justin D'Olier on November 17, 2010 | (2) Comments |

Sideways — the quirky, endearing wine flick — intended to use grape varietals as a metaphor for personality types, contrasting the crowd-pleasing merlot against the nuanced pinot noir. Yet, somehow, Sideways turned into a movie about why merlot sucks and pinot noir rocks, due in large part to Miles’s now infamous merlot rant.

Following the release of the film, merlot sales plummeted and pinot noir sales soared. This posed a problem for pinot fans, since pinots were expensive to begin with. Pinot noir is a low-yield grape, which is the vaguely snobbish way of saying that the grapes produce little juice. Compounding this problem, pinot noir is sensitive to weather conditions, making it difficult and expensive to produce. It was hard to find a bargain pinot before Sideways and borderline impossible to find one after the film’s release. A “cheap” pinot meant a $15 bottle. Not egregious, but definitely outside the budget for the cash strapped parent of a two year-old. So, when I saw the 2008 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir on sale at CostCo for $8.99, my heart skipped a beat.

2008 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir is fairly simple by pinot standards. If forced to describe it as a Beatles song (I’m haven’t the foggiest clue why one would be forced to do this, but just in case…), I would say it is Strawberry Fields Forever.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

2008 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot Noir

Can you tell that my two year-old picked out my bracelet?

This wine is all strawberries, all the time. The nose has a bit of the definitive pinot funk and a strong ripe strawberry quality. Strawberry flavors also dominate the mid-palatte, with high acidity, low tannis, and a touch of oak (“Neutral French Oak”, says Tori, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do). The strawberry flavor isn’t sweet, jammy, or extracted; It simply provides a nice ripe fruit contrast to the acidity and pinot funk. The finish is (I bet you’ll never guess…) almost all strawberry as well, but if you close your eyes and imagine, you can pick up a hint of grape juice (think Welches) and some light floral notes (lavendar or violet). It is a simple wine, but a delicious and easy drinking wine that would go down well with or without food.

Bottomline: 2008 Castle Rock Monterey Pinot is a simple, crowd-pleasing pinot noir with ripe strawberry flavor and high acidity. It won’t satisfy the “Miles”s of the world and won’t make you give up Burgandy any time soon but, at $8.99, it’s a great way to avoid merlot without breaking the bank.

[A brief aside: Typically, I shy away from buying wine at Costco and recommend that others do the same. They offer great prices, but do not always take good care of their bottles. One of my friends in the industry saw a case of DOCG wine sitting outside Costco in direct sunlight in 93 degree heat. (To put this in perspective for non-wine geeks, that’s like seeing a shipment of filet mignon in the public urinal outside a Safeway.) That said, as the cash strapped parent of a two year-old, I understand the delicate balance between the moral high ground and economic reality. With that in mind, I endorse taking advantage of the great deals on lower-end bottles at Costco, but strongly advise going to a specialty wine store for purchases of quality juice. Spend a little more for the peace of mind that your wine was handled with the sweet, sweet tender love it deserves.]

2 responses to “A bargain pinot that doesn’t suck.”

  1. Hayes says:

    Note – ironically, the final wine in “sideways”, best and saved for last, was the almighty chateau petrus. 100% merlot, and always one of the best and finest among Bordeaux.