In seeking gastronomic relief from the high-alcohol fruit bombs attacking our palates from all over the world, we often turn to something more friendly with food – Pinot Noir.

Wines from this fine red wine grape can be enjoyed in so many ways: sipping with appetizers, breads and cheeses; fine cuts of beef; with lighter entrees, including veal, pork, ham and turkey; and with salmon, ahi and other fish dishes. For more fun, have comparative tastings with wines from different regions of the world to perhaps enjoy some geographic character – senses of place, as the winemakers call it, or terroir, the all-encompassing French term.

It doesn’t always happen with lower-cost wines, but we are finding an increasing number of value wines with some regional styles from California, Oregon and New Zealand, including recent discoveries from emerging cool climate areas in California’s Central Coast. We will cover wines from Burgundy in another posting, given that the Cote d’Or has a head start of many centuries over the New World in creating distinctive wines that “are proud of their identity,” as covered in Terroir and the Winegrower, edited by Jacky Rigaux, University of Burgundy, and published in 2006.

The following notes are from wines tasted the past four months and include New World wines ranging in price from $14 to $90, starting with recent releases, in order of price, with some older wines tasted from the cellar to track their aging potential (fortunately, no post-mortems!). The wines were purchased from local merchants, grocery stores, wholesale warehouse outlets and online flash sale sites. Prices may vary in your area.

  • $14 Oregon Pinot Noir on sale 2015 Angela Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton. Mid-ruby; red cherry, anise and new oak nose; mid-body to soft; balanced; softening tannins and acids; some style; short soft finish. Food or appetizer wine. 15-15.5 UC Davis scale, 88-89 other scales.
  • Six Degrees 2016 California Pinot Noir $14. Mid-brick; light Pinot Noir nose; red cherries; light-mid body; balanced; decent PN fruit and flavor; soft fruity finish; easy sipping California Pinot. w/pork. 15/88.
  • $14 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2017 Stateland Cellars Reserve. Bright mid-ruby; varietal nose; light stemminess; black cherries, plums; mid-body; balanced; soft tannins for the age; decent structure; fruitier style California Pinot; good fruity finish. w/salmon (yes, with fish). 15/88.
  • $15 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2017 Martin Ray. Light-mid brick; cherry, red fruit, stemmy nose; mid-body; balanced; good fruit; round; softening acids; long semi-hot (13.8 alc.) finish. 16/90.
  • $16 Oregon Pinot Noir 2017 Adelsheim Willamette Valley. Light-mid ruby; light cherry, slate, floral nose; soft-mid body; balanced; decent Pinot fruit; some style; opens with air. w/appetizers, cheeses. 15.5/89.
  • Central Otago NZ Pinot Noir 2017 Innocent Bystander $17. Mid-garnet, pink edges; red fruit, Pinot nose; sharp wood, plum; mid-body; balanced; soft acids, decent tannins; good fruit and flavor; semi-lush cherry/wood finish. w/pork. 16/90.

    Innocent Bystander

  • Santa Barbara Calif. Pinot Noir 2017 Au Bon Climat $18. Light red brick; red fruit, stemmy, cherry nose; light-mid body; balanced; decent tannins, acids; long subtle fruity finish, some Pinot style. w/salmon (yes). 16/90.
  • 2018 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County $22. Light-mid ruby; red cherry, wood, old roses nose; mid-body; balanced; decent Pinot flavor; long semi-hot (14.5 alc.) finish. with pork dishes, lighter sauces. 15.5/89.
  • Central Otago NZ Pinot Noir ’15 Loveblock $23. Mid-brick; earthy, stemmy Pinot nose; hints of wood; mid-body; balanced; red berry and cherry flavors; tight acids and tannins; bigger style; needs time. w/pork, veal. 15.5/89.
  • Central Coast, Calif., 2018 Eden Rift Pinot Noir Valliant ($25 winery sample). Mid-ruby, pink edges; smoky, red cherry, pomegranate, black tea nose; hints of oak; mid-body; balanced acids/tannins; good Pinot Noir flavors; long semi-tight, semi-hot (14.2 alc.) finish. w/pork. 16/90.

    Eden Rift Winery

  • Sonoma Coast 2014 Rogstad Pinot Noir Walala Vineyard $28. Mid-ruby; stemmy, red fruit, cherry and wood nose; mid-body; balanced; starting to soften; long round semi-hot finish; some style. w/flank steak. 16.5/91.
  • Calif. Pinot Noir 2018 CrossBarn (Paul Hobbs) Sonoma Coast ($37 winery sample). Mid-garnet; light red cherry nose; stemmy (open top tank fermentation), rose petal nose; mid-body; balanced; moderate tannins, acids; still tight; long, fruity Pinot finish. w/veal, beef dishes with subtle sauces. 15.5-16/89-90.
  • Santa Rita Hills, Calif. 2017 Melville Pinot Noir Estate ($38 winery sample). Light-mid ruby; red fruit, cherries, raspberries and stemmy nose (40% whole cluster fermentation); mid-body; balanced; good acids; long raspberry, fruity finish; slightly hot (13.9 alc.). w/lamb. 16-16.5/90-91.
  • Cienega Valley, California, Pinot Noir 2017 Eden Rift ($42 winery sample). Mid-brick; red fruit, Pinot, cherry nose; hint of oak; mid-body; balanced; good acids; some style; long semi-tight finish; needs time. 16/90.
  • Cienega Valley, Calif. 2018 Eden Rift Pinot Noir Estate ($48 winery sample). Sharp mid-ruby; red and black fruit, ripe grape (14.2 alc.), raspberry nose; hints of wood; mid-body; balanced; soft tannins/acids; good varietal fruit; long semi-lush finish. w/pork, lighter meat dishes. 16-16.5/90-91.
  • Santa Lucia Highlands California Pinot Noir improving with age 2014 Wrath Pinot Noir Boekenoogen Vineyard ($49 in 2017). Sharp light-mid ruby; berries, red fruit, French oak, light stemmy nose; mid-body; balanced; nice style; long red fruit finish; Volnay-like. w/tri-tip. 17/92.
  • 2005 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurène (375ml bottle, $35 in 2012 at the winery). Mid-brick. amber edges; earthy, stemmy Pinot nose; hints of oak, smoke; mid-body; balanced; decent acids; softening tannins; good Pinot fruit on the palate; hints of wood on the finish. 16-16.5/90-91.
  • Older Oregon Pinot Noir 2009 Beaux Freres The Upper Terraces, Ribbon Ridge ($90 in 2012). Light brick, amber edges; berry, wood, strawberry nose; light stemminess; mid-body, balanced; good Pinot fruit; soft finish; showing its age. w/ham, veal, turkey. 16.5/91.