We always have a few pinot noirs to recommend for Thanksgiving, like these. But the problem with pinot noir is that the really good ones tend to be pricey. And as previously noted (see “Thanksgiving wine tips: more of the same”), you need copious quantities for the multitudes at most Thanksgiving gatherings. And a six-pack or case of many of the better pinot noirs can cost anything from a car payment to a mortgage payment.
The first place to start is with our favorite virtual winery, Castle Rock, which owns neither vineyards nor wine-making facilities, but buys pinot noir grapes (among others) from growers in a wide range of West Coast wine-making regions – Monterey, Mendocino, Carneros, Russian River Valley and others in California along with Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington’s Columbia Valley. Pinot noir accounts for 65 percent of its sales. Named one of the "Top 17 American value brands" last year by Wine & Spirits magazine, Castle Rock makes no fewer than six different pinots available locally and on sale all over town for between $8 and $15. (See slideshow for a sample of what’s available where.)
In some stores you may still find the 2008 vintage, which Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate loved at $13 a bottle, scoring it 87 points and noting, “There are plenty of domestic Pinot Noirs and French red Burgundies priced five to ten times higher that are not as good as this effort from Mark West.” Most should have the 2009 vintage, which he scored a few points lower but still described, along with the 2010 Mark West Chardonnay, as “correct from a varietal perspective [translation: it tastes like other pinots you've had], straightforward, lightweight, fresh, lively, well-made wines that represent good value.”
There are lots of other good pinot noir values in wine shops right now. Most of the pinots in the Chilean wine aisle (see this Cono Sur slideshow) are worth taking a chance on. And if you’re having a massive gathering and need a case or more, you could do much worse than grocery-store brand Concannon. But check out this slideshow for a few more suggestions.
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