There is so much value built into the wine market today that with careful picking you could pass a few months drinking a different high quality, inexpensive wine every night and never get bored. In the midst of a value wine streak of my own, I found it worthwhile pausing on the Castle Rock 2007 California Cuvee Pinot Noir ($10-$13).
The under $20 category represents a plethora of satisfying wine, especially with the much anticipated and exciting 2007 Southern Rhones hitting the market and the good flow of Spanish, French Southwest, and South American imports. With summer unfolding and entertaining kicking up a notch, having excellent wine to pour by the guiltless bucket load is a good plan. For me, spring always represents a time to reinforce the cellar with a few cases of summer time ammunition. My guideline for restocking is to seek out wines that provide as much delight served in a crystal decanter and appropriate glassware as they do in stemless vessels around the firepit under the moon with friends.
More often than not I rely on wines produced outside the US to fill this role since US producers are failing to appropriately serve this market segment. But, Castle Rock is an exception as a venerable producer of values and especially Pinot Noir. I don’t recall ever getting as much enjoyment form a sub $30 Pinot as I do from Castle Rock wines, and they have become known for inexpensive wines that are true to their varietal character.
The winery plans to sell over 10% more wine this year (400,000+ case program) than last when so many are experiencing declining sales. Castle Rock explains their low price point/high quality strategy the following way:
“Castle Rock is committed to a business practice of keeping overhead costs to a minimum. This means that the company does not employ a large staff of employees, has no elaborate facilities or real estate, and operates with a very modest promotional budget. As a result, funds are channeled to where they can do the most good, into the quality of the wine.”
The 2007 California Cuvee Pinot Noir is a serious and fun wine. As with all their Pinots, this bottling has 20% Syrah in the final blend, offering some interesting subtle components to the wine. We loved the sweet candied cherry nose, and the white pepper in the background (from Syrah?). The medium weight wine’s silky fruit had the right amount of acidity and substantial structure for surprisingly excellent balance. The wine has an especially satisfying long finish for a value wine, and is Pinot true to character with a very subtle twist. I loved the wine, and will drink it with pork and chicken and shellfish and just about anything that is not screaming for the heaviest and densest of red summer wines.
Castle Rock makes several Pinots from the central coast, through Mendocino County, and north. The California Connoisseur’s Guide provided an early tip this month in advance of their Pinot Report that Castle Rock 2007 Sonoma County Pinot and the Castle Rock 2007 Mendocino County Pinot are once again wines to seek out, so I imagine that the whole portfolio is a safe bet in 2007 one more time. Enjoy and share your experiences if you are moved to try some!