The Russian River Valley in Sonoma County is an ideal area for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River provides a channel for the cool Pacific Ocean fog to move inland from the coast, creating ideal growing conditions for this finicky grape. Good quality pinots from this area are robust, fruit-forward, and more full-bodied than their Oregon counterparts.
Because Pinot Noir is such a hard to grow grape, and because the Russian River Valley is prime real estate for winemakers alike, it’s hard to find a good Pinot Noir from this area for under $20. However, I have found one in the 2014 Kenwood Vineyards offering.
The wine has a subtle nose of strawberries and dusty Earth. The wine is smooth and easy on the palate, offering dried cherries and charry oak from twelve months of French oak aging. Subtle hints of vanilla and nutmeg are complemented by a balancing acidity. The finish is smooth and unpretentious.
While only 75% of the grapes in a wine from California labeled “Pinot Noir” must be Pinot Noir, this wine is 99% Pinot Noir. 1% Syrah was blended in to “enhance complexity & finish.” It is fairly typical for California Pinot Noir producers to add Syrah & Petite Syrah to their wines in order to boost color and add structure to the wines, especially those in the $15 and under price range.
Why? Because as I mentioned before, Pinot Noir is an expensive grape to grow, and it produces lower yields than most other grapes. By adding other varietals to the wines, essentially stretching out the juice, the producer can lower the consumer cost while increasing quality.
Wine Spectator gives this wine a fairly poor rating of 85 points and says that “the fruit is hard to find.” I disagree somewhat, although the fruit did not jump out at me like it has in other Pinots I’ve had. Wine Enthusiast was a little more generous with their score of 90 points. I am accounting for the $13.99 price in my score, and I give this wine 89 points and a Good Value designation.
NOTE: we’ve now seen this wine pop up in a few stores now for only $8.99, which is a super bargain. Let us all know if you see if near you and what the price is.
Purchased in: Buford, GA
ABV: 13.5 %
CostcoWineBlog.com rating: 89 Points
Costco Item #: 198223