Pinot lovers rejoice


The strong growing conditions for Pinot Noir in 2012 and 2013 resulted in two wonderful vintages. The growing season in 2013 was a little dryer, surprise I know with a drought ongoing in CA, that produced richer wines. The 2013 will have a little more character, but the 2012 are strong and should not be overlooked.

pinot noir 2013 cal harvestPinot Noir is grown up down the California coast. The dry and warm weather allowed the growers to control the leaf growth early in the growing season. This allowed for better grape management. Yield control was an issue as it took the heavy yields longer to ripen exposing the vintage to weather issues. Those issues did not develop.

Pinot Noir growing regions:

From South to North

  • Santa Barbara – this area rated from mid to high 80s for both years
  • Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey) – This area rated in the low 90s for both years
  • Carneros – rated in the high 80s for both years
  • Sonoma – rated in the low 90s for both years
  • Anderson Valley – in the high 80s for both years.

Talk about consistency by area. As readers of my blog know I favor good stuff cheap. Good stuff cheap usually comes from large producers who hit it just right in a given year. While large producers make Pinot Noir they tend not to be large productions. Most producers of Pinot are smaller and the case lots are smaller creating a challenge in finding good stuff cheap.

Close attention to price / rating ratio is paramount in any of my blogs.  Pinot Noir’s generally are more expensive and made in small lots.  My blog focuses on larger case offerings hopefully making them easier to find.  You will find many wonderful Pinot Noir’s not listed here because of the small production.  Enjoy!!

Wines to Consider

Wines are listed by rating – prices tend to follow


VML Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Limited Release rated 92 @ $35

Bold, rich and effusively fruity, this packs in a dense core of juicy blackberry, black cherry, mineral and graphite flavors before ending with a broad display of chewy tannins. The finish sails on. Drink now through 2022. 3,400 cases made. –JL Region: Sonoma

Lafond Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills SRH rated 91 @ $27

Combines delicacy with finesse, featuring a subtle mix of candied apple, strawberry, blueberry and wilted rose notes, with fine-grained, earth-laced tannins that linger. Drink now through 2023. 2,873 cases made. –JL Region: South Coast

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve rated 90 @ $18

This is deceptively complex, firm, ripe and well-structured, with plum, raspberry and blackberry flavors that are intense and pure, gliding along. Drink now through 2021. 2,600 cases made. –JL Region: Sonoma

Cherry Pie Pinot Noir Sonoma-Monterey-Santa Barbara Counties Cherry Tart rated 90 @ $25

Rich and approachable, driven by layers of blackberry, wild berry, cherry and plum flavors. Well-proportioned, this maintains a fruity profile amid firm tannins. Drink now through 2022. 14,000 cases made.

Handley Pinot Noir Mendocino County rated 90 @ $25

Well-structured, with the core of wild berry offering texture, depth and persistence. Presents a minerally mix of firm tannins and acidity. Drink now through 2020. 2,159 cases made. –JL Region: Mendocino/Lake

Pali Wine Co. Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Huntington Rated 90 @$23

Notably floral and spicy, with firm tannins amid the dark berry, mocha, roasted herb and fresh-turned earth flavors. This is complex, dense and persistent, gaining depth and length. Drink now through 2022. 9,218 cases made. –JL Region: South Coast

La Follette Pinot Noir North Coast rated 88 @ $20

Well-crafted, with vibrant raspberry, wild berry, plum and rose petal scents, firming midpalate, where the fine-grained tannins offer a mix of gravel and dried spice. Ends with a long, gripping finish. Drink now through 2023. 6,300 cases made. –JL

Luli Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands rated 88 @ $20

Intense, tannic and well-made, with dense, extracted dark berry fruit, showing touches of cranberry and raspberry. Drink now through 2022. 5,300 cases made.

Meiomi Pinot Noir Monterey-Santa Barbara-Sonoma Counties rated 88 @$22

Bold, ripe and vibrant, with expressive huckleberry, boysenberry and blueberry, this is as unbridled as you might expect for a 2012, but deliciously complex. Drink now through 2020. 168,000 cases made.

Pali Wine Co. Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Riviera rated 88 @ $21

This is very complete, balanced and focused, exhibiting pure, ripe plum, blueberry, strawberry and subtle spice notes, supported by fine tannins that have a touch of loamy earthiness. Tails off a bit on the finish. Drink now through 2020. 8,005 cases made. –JL region: Sonoma

Sebastiani Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast rated 88 @ $19

Marked by flavors of bay leaf, dried herb, black tea, wild berry and baking spices, this is well-focused, clean and elegant, ending with firm, fine-grained tannins. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.

Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County rated 88 @ $22

A solid effort, firm and structured, with a tight, snappy core of red and dark berry flavors, showing lively acidity and firm tannins. Drink now. 4,123 cases made.

Bonterra Pinot Noir Mendocino County rated 88 @ $16

Offers a complex, restrained mix of flavors, centered on blueberry and blackberry notes, with floral accents balancing the crisp, ripe tannins. Drink now through 2020. 5,300 cases made.

Bridlewood Pinot Noir Monterey County rated 87 @ $18

Intense, with rich, vibrant blackberry and wild berry fruit, offering firm, fine-grained tannins and a dash of licorice. Fresh and snappy. Drink now through 2020. 37,000 cases made.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County rated 87 @$13

Marked by firm red plum and raspberry flavors of moderate intensity and depth, this holds focus, ending a bit clipped. Drink now through 2020. 28,780 cases made.

Bogle Pinot Noir California rated 86 @ $12

a robust style, with depth and density. Shows tiers of dark berry framed by chewy tannins and cedary oak, with a rustic aftertaste. Drink now. 200,000 cases made

Castle Rock Pinot Noir California California Cuvée rated 86 @ $11

Presents a flavor profile of savory dried berry, crushed rock, rhubarb and wild strawberry that’s intriguing but also quite tannic. Drink now through 2019. 80,000 cases made.


Belle Glos Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Las Alturas rated 93@ $44

Spares no expense, with lavish smoky, black licorice–scented oak framing a rich core of dark berry, anise, boysenberry and savory herb notes. Full-blown and expressive through the persistent and mouthcoating finish. Drink now through 2024. 4,344 cases made.

Meiomi Pinot Noir Monterey-Sonoma-Santa Barbara Counties rated 92 @$22

Rich yet medium-weight, offering an exciting interplay of berry, oak, earth and spice notes, with subtle edges to the blueberry, raspberry, mocha and fresh-turned earth flavors. Ends with an aftertaste of melted black licorice. Drink now through 2020. 317,592 cases made

Amici Pinot Noir Sonoma County Olema rated 91 @$20

This red offers a lively, refreshing and complex mix of snappy wild berry and raspberry flavors that are firm and vibrant, ending long, clean and complex. Drink now through 2020. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 6,000 cases made.

J Vin Gris Russian River Valley rated 89 @$20

Sleek and succulent, with a light pink color, floral strawberry aromas and zesty watermelon and spice flavors. Drink now. 5,000 cases made

Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir California Vintner’s Reserve rated @$20

Well done, with a rich core of berry, plum, spice and light oak, building depth and dimension. Tapers off on the finish. Drink now through 2018. 50,000 cases made.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Mendocino County rated 88 @$13

A refreshing, clean and vibrant effort, centered on crisp, structured dark berry, spice and light oak notes. Drink now through 2019. 88,815 cases made.

Layer Cake Pinot Noir Central Coast rated 88 @$15

Fresh and vibrant, with dense berry, toasty oak, dried herb and loamy forest floor notes. Very complete and full through the finish. Drink now. 22,000 cases made.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Monterey County rated 87 @$13

Showing off tasty plum, cherry, wilted rose and spice nuances, this is fleshy midpalate, ending with an edge of dry cedar and gravel. Drink now. 12,920 cases made

Cherry Pie Pinot Noir Monterey-Sonoma-Santa Barbara Counties Cherry Tart rate@ $20

Intense and concentrated, with dark berry, earth, graphite and cedar pushing in several directions. Fans out and gains tannic muscle on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 18,000 cases made.

Bogle Pinot Noir California rated 86 @ $ 11

A gutsy, full-bodied style, with plenty of gravel and earth accents to the dark berry flavors. The tannins are firm and gripping. Drink now for the muscular pose. Drink now. 250,000 cases made.

all reviews from WineSpectator

By | 2017-03-06T12:04:50-04:00 September 9th, 2015|wine|0 Comments

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