Believe it or not, two years later, Pinot Noir is still riding high on the popularity horse after being thrust into the limelight by the movie "Sideways." Plus, studies have shown that thin-skinned grapes, e.g. Pinot Noir, are even better for your heart than other varietals. The result has been a lot of people out shopping for Pinot Noir … but they don't always like what they find.
In addition to being the most heart-healthy, Pinot Noir is also the most expensive wine, across the board. If you're a Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or whatever-other-kind-of-grape fan, you can pretty much rest assured that you can find it in big or small format bottles for a low price. However, Pinot Noir by the same producer will often cost several dollars more than the others, at minimum. Sure, there are quite a few low-priced Pinot Noirs out there, but low-priced Pinot Noirs tend to be low quality.
Allow me to move the star players to the front of the room. One low-cost, high-quality producer you should definitely check out is Cart-lidge & Browne. This little winery gets the coveted "nod" from wine critic Robert Parker, who is notorious for not liking anything other than French Burgundies. The Pinot Noir retails for around $10 a bottle, which, if you've been out looking for Pinots lately, you know is quite a good deal. The fruit in this wine is quite fresh and lively, and it only displays a little bit of earthiness, so those who shy away from the Frenchy stuff will really dig this one. Oh, and don't stop at the Pinot Noir from Cartlidge & Browne: all of their wines are great (and cheap).
Castle Rock is another tasty bargain. This newcomer makes Pinot Noir from several different parts of California. The Sonoma Coast Pinot sells for about $12 a bottle, and is hard to beat. This one is great for the novice Pinot Noir drinker because it has minimal tannin and earthiness, and it really shows more fruit than anything, especially red cherry and strawberry fruit. Be on the lookout for Castle Rock's Reserve Pinot which comes around every now and then. It's Old World-style Pinot at its cheapest (around $15).
Another one that's relatively new to our market is Hayman & Hill, whose Pinot Noir can be acquired for around $13. From Edna Valley, this wine is silky smooth, with rich vanilla, spicy cinnamon and cherry fruit. This is definitely more of a New World-style wine, so Francophiles may or may not love this one … until they try it, of course.
Though it may not be the best bargain in town, one of the newest tasty treats in town is A to Z Pinot Noir, which goes for about $18. The little sister winery to the fantastic and pricey Francis Tannahill Winery, this gem has really shone on the Pinot stage. It's from Oregon, where Pinot Noir thrives in the cooler climate. The fruit on this one is ever-so-ripe and juicy, but it still has some earthiness and spice for the wine snob in all of us.
If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: You don't have to spend a lot of money to get high quality wines. If these wines don't prove that, I don't know what will.