It’s rare when you find good quality Pinot Noir without shelling out some serious cash. It’s true that there are a few gems out there marked “California,” but you never know what you’re getting. And if you find a good one, year to year consistency isn’t a promise. Appellations exist for a reason, and Carneros is one of the best for Pinot Noir.
Speaking of appellations, Pinot Noir is a perfect example for why they exist. In America, appellations are called AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). These are politically designated areas for growing wine. Something in the soil or climate must stand out in an area for it to become its own AVA. Sonoma and Napa Valley are a couple that you are probably familiar with.
It gets complicated because there can be AVAs inside other AVAs. Carneros is actually nestled inside both Napa and Sonoma and is one of the few places in California where you can grow really good Pinot Noir. This is because Pinot is a very finicky grape. (It’s actually known as the “heartbreak grape”). It needs a cool climate and is very susceptible to disease, insects, and just about anything else that can plague a vine. Therefore, it is often very frustrating and expensive to grow. (Watch the movie Sideways if you want a more ”intimate” description of Pinot Noir).
So when you read “Carneros” on a wine label, you know those grapes are in good hands. ”California” appellation grapes can come from anywhere in California, which is why they are so much cheaper and generally lack the quality of the better, more specific, growing areas.
Moral of the story: when label shopping, pay attention to the fine print.
Tasting Notes: This Pinot is bigger than most. Touch of earth and cinnamon on the nose. Medium to full body with big fruit. Black cherry, raspberry. Soft tannins. Vanilla on the finish. So much fun to drink and definitely a crowd pleaser.