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Pinot Noir GrapesI can’t say I’ve ever considered myself one to be frustrated with a grape. Until now. Over the past few weeks I have experienced the same combination of obsession and confusion the rest of the world seems to have with pinot noir.

I set out on a journey to explore this alluring and mysterious grape by scrutinizing my past tasting notes and, of course, tasting a lot of wines in the process. Pinot noir is an incredibly finicky grape that demands ideal growing conditions and is rarely open to any coaxing in the winery. Simply said, it is one tough grape to get right.

As for the splurges over $50 I’ve tasted, frustration was virtually non-existent save for the fact that most of the wines are made in minuscule quantities. Honestly, there was not a bad one in the bunch. And it makes perfect sense if we keep in mind that these are the wines that earned pinot noir its cult status from producers in France, California and Oregon. Not only were there no complaints, but with each taste it became clearer as to why we obsess over this grape. Its simply sublime at its best.

It was the value category that gave me more than a few rough days of tasting. Bottle after bottle in the under $15 range proved to be hit or miss. The blame may not be the grape but the crazed popularity of a few years ago that resulted in plantings anywhere and everywhere, leaving us to wade through a river of not so great wines made from this finicky grape.

The bottom line is that if you wish to experience the greatness of pinot noir, be advised that this grapes best values are rarely bargain priced.


  • 2009 Mark West Central Coast Pinot Noir, California (about $13 retail)


  • 2008 Siduri Santa Lucia Pinot Noir, California (about $43 retail)