California Pinot Noir – Yes, you can find value there!

Tried the latest vintage of the Mirassou Pinot Noir last night — the 2008 — and was once again impressed! While not as complex as the 2007 (which won a bunch of wine awards), this is still a luscious wine to drink, with classic California Pinot Noir flavours of superripe red cherries and toasty oak.  And for under $14 (and $10 in the US) it is quite a value.

A lot of wine dweebs like me have a love/hate relationship with California Pinot. On the one hand, the fact that the warmer climate means — on average — riper wines, means you avoid the one of the big problems with Burgundy (which is that green, stemmy flavour from grapes that just didn’t get enough sunshine). On the other side of the equation, though, that same ripeness can sometimes make the fruit turn jammy or even candy-like, meaning not a lot of complexity and even a touch of sweetness in the finish. And the prices…well, while that is a bit of a saw-off with Burgundy…jthere are certainly more $100+ wines in Burgundy (that I will never get to taste!!!), but also too many California Pinots in the $50 + range that are not worth the money.

As with anything in wine, the answer is to understand the style you like and be selective in the wines you buy. There are relatively inexpensive values out there — like the Mirassou — although not many (I can’t actually think of another one off the top of my head). But you can get some very complex wines, ones that are very “Burgundian” for a fraction of the cost of their French cousins. And given that price/value differential, they can be considered values as well for those will to pay the price.



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