Pinot noir, one of the best wine grapes in the world, can also be one of the most frustrating. Great winemakers have been brought to their knees trying to master it. When planted in the right spot and tended carefully thereafter, it’s been responsible for some of the world’s finest wines. Thus, when many wine-lovers think of pinot noir at its best, they naturally look towards Burgundy. However, there are plenty of New World wineries that are doing a very respectable job with the grape.
Not everyone is successful, though. For every great producer out there, someone else is making horrible wines that say “Pinot Noir” on the label but look and taste like anything but. Here are 10 pinot noirs from California, Oregon, and Chile, at a variety of prices, all of them true to this great grape — and also delicious.
Viña Falernia Pinot Noir Reserva 2013 ($14)
The fruit for this pinot noir was manually harvested in Chile’s Elqui Valley. For years, Chile has been a country to look for when you want bang for your buck. Pinot noir is their latest frontier. This entry-level example offers tons of value for the price. A mélange of red and black fruit aromas leads the way. The palate is stuffed with strawberry and cherry flavors to spare, along with plenty of spice. Tiny bits of toast and pomegranate round out the solid finish. The wine has plenty of typicity and offers reasonable complexity. At less than $15, this is a steal.
Viña Koyle Costa Pinot Noir 2014 ($35)
This coastal Chilean pinot comes from a vineyard about five miles from the ocean. Aging took place in a 50/50 split of Burgundy barrels and concrete eggs. Viña Koyle has been pushing the quality envelope in Chile for all 10 years of their existence. This is their third vintage of pinot noir, and it’s moved forward each year. Black raspberry, leather, and a bit of tangerine peel are all present on the nose. Hints of tar and savory herbs are there on the palate alongside oodles of dark-leaning fruit. Bay leaf, black tea, and sour black cherry elements are all part of the long, mouth-watering finish. The mouth-feel here is superb. This is easily one of the best pinots coming out of Chile. If the same wine were from a region currently more famous for the grape, it would sell for twice the price.
Anaba Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 ($36)
Fruit sourced at five distinct Sonoma Coast vineyards is blended by Anaba to create this cuvée. Aging took place over 11 months in 35 percent new French oak. Red fruit aromas are tinged with bits of black fruit. Cherry, red plum, and bits of raspberry are all at play on the even-keeled and richly layered palate. A ton of spices are on display, as well as chicory, some cocoa, and continued red fruit flavors on the persistent, throat-tingling finish.
Trione Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($39)
The fruit is from Trione’s 115-acre River Road ranch vineyard in Russian River Valley. Aging was accomplished over 12 months in 40 percent new French oak. Black cherry and bay leaf aromas lead things off. The palate is filled with red and black fruit flavors intermingling with spices. Red earth, chicory, and continuing fruits are all evident on the above-average finish. Firm, zippy acid keeps it all in check. Each year, the Trione wines, which have been good since inception, are improving. The 2013 pinot is further proof of this upward trend.
Adelsheim Chehalem Mountains “Breaking Ground” Pinot Noir 2014 ($45)
With a 45-year history, Adelsheim is one of the forefathers of wine production in Willamette Valley. Breaking Ground represents a brand new offering for them. All of the fruit came from the Chehalem Mountains, 88 percent from Adelsheim's own vineyards and the rest from long-term growing partners. All the vineyards sourced are LIVE certified. Aging took place over 10 months in 27 percent new French oak. Mushroom, earth, and dark fruit aromas burst from the nose. The somewhat meaty palate is well balanced with a core of dark-leaning fruit flavors that have good heft but never stray over the top. Spices, sweet red and black fruits, and a cornucopia of minerals are present on the impressively long finish.
MacRostie Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($54)
The well-known Dutton family, which has a long history of grape-growing in Sonoma County, farms the single vineyard the fruit came from. Aging took place over 12 months in 25 percent new French oak. Soft spice aromas waft from the nose here alongside fresh red raspberry. Rhubarb, cherry, and cranberry flavors are evident on the palate. Minerals, black tea, and wisps of sage appear on the finish. It’s all topped off by a sprinkle of sweet dark chocolate.
Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014 ($65)
This label is a partnership between longtime record company executive Jay Boberg and Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo of the esteemed Domaine Méo-Camuzet. This release represents their debut vintage. The fruit was sourced across nearly every AVA in the Willamette Valley. Aging took place over 15 months in 33 percent new French oak. There's a mix of black fruit, bramble, and savory herbs on the nose. Black cherry, bay leaf, earth, and a bounty of spices are all present on the palate. Chicory, hints of black olive, and tea are all part of the finish. Firm acid and round tannins provide lovely structure. This is both a classic example of a Willamette Valley pinot noir and a terrific debut offering.
Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($65)
All the fruit for this wine came from its namesake vineyard in Carneros. Having had a relationship with this vineyard for years, Patz & Hall has access to specific blocks. The deep and heady nose is led by plum, spice, and a touch of toasty oak. Black raspberry and black cherry flavors are intertwined with a bevy of spices throughout the densely layered palate. Sour black cherry, blackberry, and cocoa are all evident on the firm finish. This wine is delicious now but will benefit from some additional time in the bottle.
Migration Goldrock Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($68)
Migration is a part of the Duckhorn Wine Company that focuses on pinot noir and chardonnay. The fruit for this selection came from the Goldrock Ridge Vineyard in Sonoma Coast. It was aged in French oak for 11 months. Red cherry aromas dominate the nose here. The soft and lush palate is layered with a plethora of red fruits tinged with touches of dried black fruits. Nutmeg, cinnamon, and a dusting of sweet cocoa are all present on the pleasing finish.
Cobb Jack Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($75)
All the fruit in this one came from its namesake vineyard located on the Sonoma Coast. Barrel-aging took place over 20 months in 20 percent new French oak. It’s worth noting that the alcohol here is a very modest 12.8 percent. Raspberry, thyme, and tobacco are all part of a remarkably aromatic nose that is intoxicating in its appeal. Red fruits dominate the incredibly elegant, graceful, and complex palate. Strawberry and red cherry lead the way alongside an array of spices and subtle savory herbs. Black tea and finely ground earth are present on the astounding finish. This insanely delicious and perfectly proportionate pinot noir is an absolute joy to drink right now. That said, it’ll age gracefully for a dozen years.