Wallet-friendliness and quality, for too long with Pinot Noir, went together like artichokes and Cabernet…which is to say, not at all. Like that tongue-searing pairing (seriously, don’t do it, ever, or only if you’re at a dinner that seems to be going south before you even order appetizers, and your date mentions that he or she really misses the halcyon days when Rick Perry was still in the hunt for the presidency, in which case, go right ahead and do it, if for no other reason than to torment them a bit), reasonably priced Pinot Noir used to fall into one of two categories—the overly fruity, and the acidic-like-a-battery. Forget about finding the grape’s most alluring attributes, its whiff of roses, its undertow of earthy funk, its interweaving of masculine and feminine characteristics all carried on a frame tense with energy and depth.
All of that has changed. And while there are certainly still some pretty lousy Pinot Noirs out there, the market also is studded with fairly priced bottlings that are every bit as exciting as their more expensive counterparts. One of my favorites is Ponzi Vineyards, whose current releases, reviewed below, are excellent examples of beautifully crafted Pinot Noirs that are tied to the land from which they come, delicious now yet with the potential to age for years, and priced far below the level they could be (especially the Tavola bottling). Snap them up the next time you see them.
Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley
Aromas of cherry cola and caramel, a hint of forest floor, and vanilla-tinged notes of milk chocolate lead to a palate lithe and lively and sweetly fruited, with peppercorn and a hint of spearmint cutting through the red cherry, raspberry, and chocolate flavors, all finishing with a hint of rose water and tea. The SRP is $27, which seems incredible for Willamette Valley Pinot of this caliber.
Ponzi Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Spiced cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate mingle with hints of cola and a distinctive note of clove-dominated mulling spice. On the palate, this is spicy and beautifully buttressed with acid and fine-grained tannins that carry along flavors of root beer, cherry, and a hint rose petals on the finish. Delicious now, this will also age brilliantly.