Pinot Noir – The Utility Wine

We call Pinot Noir the utility wine because it is the perfect fit for a meal that has a variety of foods and courses. That’s why so many wine and foodie folks recommend Pinot Noir for the Thanksgiving Dinner.  Pinot is lighter in style than Cabernet, Syrah or Zinfandel. It also has more red fruit flavors and spice than the other wines. Maybe you have your wine selected for Thanksgiving, but with so much entertaining going on in the Holiday season, it is good to have a nice supply of Pinot Noir on hand. I recommended the Kirkland Russian River Pinot a couple of weeks ago, and now we have two more that I think top this wine and for roughly the same price.

Ocean View Pinot Noir 2013 – Trader Joe’s $14.99

This is one of those wines made exclusively for Trader Joe’s, and when this vintage is gone there is no gaurantee that another vintage will be on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. This Pinot Noir is from a vineyard near Avila Beach in the San Louis Obispo area. Thus, the name of the wine, Ocean View. The vineyard is owned by Mike Sinor and his Cheri La Vallee-Sinor. They make wines under the Sinor-LaVallee label. Mike is also the head winemaker for Ancient Peaks winery in Santa Margarita. I spoke with Mike on the phone, and he told me that this was a huge yield for this vineyard. With the extra Pinot Noir juice, Mike made and bottled this wine for  Trader Joe’s.  The first notable characteristic is the aroma, very strong and full out of the glass, without any breathing time. It pops with strawberry. Good flavors in the mouth, light to medium bodied. I like the spicy finish to this wine. I asked Mike what a comparable price would be for a similar Pinot Noir and without hesitation he replied, “Around $35.”  Of course this is the winemaker speaking, but it is a great value in my opinion. 89 Points.

Ocean View Pinot

Made exclusively for Trader Joe’s

Sparrow Hawk Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 – Costco $12.99

I purchased this one at the Redwood City Costco. The list price is $15.99, but an instant rebate of $3 is given at the checkout stand. The price of the Sparrow Hawk Reserve Pinot is $35 on the online shop. I definitely think this is worthy of a $25 price tag. The Sparrow Hawk Pinot has grapes from both the Russian River Valley in Sonoma and the cool-climate area of the Santa Barbara wine region. The winemaker is Megan McGrath, formerly Assistant Winemaker at Flowers. Flowers is one of the premiere makers of Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast. Good aroma, not as strong as the Ocean View, but in total I think a tad better than the Ocean View, especially at $12.99. I like the aftertaste and finish on this wine much more. Again, this wine is perfect for Thanksgiving and similar meals where one has the dilemma of what to serve with a meal. 90 Points

sparrow hawk pinot noir

Sparrow Hawk Reserve 2012 Pinot Noir, 63% from Santa Barbara, 37% from Russian River Valley

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  1. The Costco Sparrow Hawk is now $15.99. There is no longer a $3 rebate at the checkout counter.

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